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Singapore’s $300m gift to Yale?

with 10 comments

Update June 12th: Via the Straits Times, NUS and Yale has denied the $300m deal. Unfortunately the article is truncated, so we’ll have to wait till it becomes available elsewhere.

Yesterday, Jim Sleeper of the Huffington Post authored a long post criticising Yale’s partnership with NUS here. The article is very lengthy, and much of it rehashes topics such as human rights and freedom of speech. However, what caught my attention were the following paragraphs:

As Amsterdam was being denied entry into Singapore last month, I was seated at a dinner in Germany next to a very high official of a European university who’d been to Singapore a few times himself. “There’s $300 million for Yale in its deal with NUS,” he confided to me.

“What? How do you know that?” I asked. “Yale claims it’s not getting a dime from Singapore, although Singapore is paying all the costs of constructing and staffing the college itself.”

“Oh, it’s not a direct payment,” my interlocutor explained. “It’s what you call insider trading: Yale will be cut in on prime investments that Singapore controls and restricts through its sovereign wealth fund. These will be only investments, not payments, so there’s some risk. But you’ll [see] Yale’s endowment will swell by several hundred million in consequence of its getting in on these ventures.”

Let’s be clear on one thing. As a premium Ivy League university, Yale and other Ivy Leagues are willing to establish international branch campuses abroad simply because in most cases the host country has generously agreed to reimburse all development and operating expenses of the branch campus at no cost to the foreign university. New York University’s liberal arts campus at Abu Dhabi, for example is effectively reimbursed for all costs incurred by running the campus:

38. Has the creation of this campus diverted financial resources from NYU New York?
No. The government of Abu Dhabi addresses all of the costs associated with the NYU Abu Dhabi campus.

Likewise, a Sept 2010 Yale prospectus states that the Yale-NUS College would reimburse Yale for all expenses incurred including replacement cost of staff seconded to teach in the Yale NUS College. What’s surprising is that on top of this, Jim Sleeper says that Yale will be given or sold some kind of preferential investments currently controlled by either of Singapore’s two SWFs, Temasek Holdings and GIC to the tune of a few hundred million.

While there doesn’t appear to be any independent sources verifying Sleeper’s remarks, should it proves accurate, it’s troubling to Singaporeans that their hard-won reserves and investments would be turned over to the Yale endowment fund just for the purpose of getting them to set up campus. What’s worse is there has been no disclosure or discussion of such an agreement by the Singapore media. Singaporeans have every right to know if their secretive sovereign wealth funds are giving up good, profitable investments to foreign entities. What other things did the Singapore government promise Yale or the other foreign universities such as Imperial (NTU medical school), MIT (SUTD) which Singaporeans are not aware of?

This certainly sounds like a good question the MPs could raise in Parliament.


Written by defennder

June 7, 2012 at 4:43 PM

Posted in Singapore affairs

10 Responses

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  1. The Singapore Government is not corrupt. If nobody knows about the insider trading, no crime has been committed, but Yale will be very stupid to set up a branch here if there was no sweetener for the agreement with NUS.


    June 8, 2012 at 12:26 AM

  2. It seems you miss the point entirely. This isn’t about corruption or “insider trading”. It’s about the Singapore government not being transparent with what it has chosen to give away to Yale and involves the wealth of a nation. Do we know if strategic assets or investments with long growth potential have been given up in return for Yale’s partnership Why can’t they be transparent and disclose the points of agreement? And why should Yale claim that they are not getting a dime from Singapore?


    June 8, 2012 at 12:54 AM

  3. I might be wrong but I suspect that this is not the first time for Yale which has an impressive record of partnering(actually covering) dictators around this earth.It seems to be a tradition now for Yale.


    June 8, 2012 at 8:08 AM

  4. I am inclined to disbelieve this allegation. The source is not credible.


    June 8, 2012 at 12:58 PM

  5. take it with a pinch of salt la, not much difference between coffee shop talk. Anyway, it should be kind of a win win situation, doubt if they really are really spanking yale with the people’s money.

    It will be all about business at the end of the day right? It could be also strategic for the swf’s to let them in on their investments. Unless if we expect corruption and people pocketing money.


    June 8, 2012 at 9:35 PM

  6. Not sure about the Yale figures but Duke received USD$350 million from three ministries of the SG govt – see http://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/fulltext/2008/02000/a_global_partnership_in_medical_education_between.3.aspx


    June 9, 2012 at 12:16 AM

  7. I believe that this is true – it is consistent with the style of NUS and Singapore in general – using money to buy virtually everything, including the international reputation of NUS by ‘buying’ its collaboration with Yale or some other Ivy League University.


    June 12, 2012 at 9:21 PM

  8. Contrary to what the Straits Times’ unreliable reporting about my Huffington Post column suggests, Yale has not managed to point out a single falsehood in what I wrote. Instead, its press office has presented a false account of what I wrote and some false answers to questions I raised. Perhaps your online readers would like to check for themselves by reading what I actually wrote as well my replies to Yale’s spokesman, which can be found among the comments posted below the column.

    There you can see that I did not claim the existence of a preferred investment deal between Yale and Singapore; I reported a high official’s prediction of it — a prediction I consider highly plausible because of long and extensive business relationships between members of the Yale Corporation and Singapore’s government investment funds.


    My report that Charles Ellis, a former member of the Yale Corporation, the husband of Yale’s Secretary Linda Koch Lorimer, and a long-time adviser to Singapore’s Government Investment Corporation, maintains a business office in Singapore is true. Yale’s claim otherwise, reported but not checked by the Straits Times, is itself false:



    May I remind the Straits Times, where this report first appeared, and NewsChannelAsia and other outlets that carried the story uncritically that nothing Yale’s Press Office says should be accepted as true. It should be investigated.The newspaper TODAY presented much more credible reporting of this story by publishing my responses to Yale’s allegations:


    Admin: Fixed the links.

    james sleeper

    June 13, 2012 at 9:33 AM

  9. Hi Sleeper, thanks for your invaluable comments. I’ll be doing an updated post on this issue to incorporate the latest developments and comments such as yours. I realised that another blog has already provided a much more updated picture than I have done so here:


    June 13, 2012 at 12:04 PM

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