Leading article: Eastern venture carries risks

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Warwick's proposed new campus in Singapore is even more ambitious because it would be required to build it itself. The amounts of money required are eye-popping and there is as yet no guarantee that the Singapore government will cough up enough to make it feasible from Warwick's standpoint. Many academics are opposed to overseas expansion, believing that the university should concentrate on becoming as academically distinguished as possible in this country and forget about foreign exploits. The same people point out that Warwick has enough on its plate with its new medical school, and efforts to improve its research standing. They say that expanding into Singapore would meaning spreading itself too thin. Battle lines have been drawn between those who harbour ambitions for Warwick to go out and conquer the world, and those who think the university should concern itself with its own backyard. Crudely, it is being seen as a battle between David Vandelinde, the American vice-chancellor, who is retiring in July 2006, and a group of academics anxious that the Singapore venture might destroy the university. Students who write for The Warwick Boar have reported some of the staff discontent on campus, but otherwise very little information has leaked out.

The vice-chancellor has been doing his utmost to assuage student concerns about human rights in Singapore, and seems to have succeeded to some extent. But reassuring the academics is proving more difficult. The only way their minds will be put to rest is if the Singaporean government coughs up enough money to remove the very big financial risk.