Undergrads don't love the idea of dating

Survey finds young people here put grades, job hopes before relationships

FACEBOOK "confession" pages, which allow users to share secrets anonymously, may have helped lovelorn students express their romantic intentions to their objects of affection, but the majority of undergraduates do not want to date, a survey has found.

Some 400 undergraduates aged between 19 and 25 from the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore Management University and SIM University were asked what was most important to them.

And romance was not anywhere on top of their minds.

The survey found that six in 10 respondents are not in a relationship. Of these, seven in 10 have no plans to actively pursue one.

Respondents were split evenly by gender.

Conducted last October by a team of four final-year students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, the survey had 27 questions which students had to answer.

"Finding a lifelong partner" ranked last when they were asked about their immediate concerns. "Socialising" and "keeping fit" rounded out the bottom three.

Instead, "getting good grades", "earning money" and "finding a job" took first, second and third place among their priorities.

"Our results show that young people are caught up in the rat race," said Ms Celine Tan, 23, one of the students behind the survey, who is not dating anyone.

"They are not just concerned about their grades, but also about finding a job before they graduate. This leaves less time for dating and socialising," she added.

Experts attribute this trend to the stress of the local education system.

"Having fought so hard for a place in university, students have a single-minded goal of completing their degree well," said Associate Professor Paulin Straughan, a sociologist from NUS. "Being pragmatically focused, they would not consider romance to be their top priority."

The delay in hooking up could also be attributed to the longer life expectancy of Singaporeans, said Dr Joyce Pang, an assistant professor of psychology from NTU.

"While we still go through the same life stages as our forefathers, each stage is now lengthened due to our longer lifespans," she said.

"The periods of adolescence and exploration are hence pushed back."

From 2000 to 2010, the median age at first marriage in Singapore has increased from 28.7 to 30.0 years for grooms, and from 26.2 to 27.7 years for brides.

The team conducted the survey to back up their final-year project campaign, A World for Two, which aims to encourage undergraduates to start building romantic relationships.

Students The Straits Times spoke to agreed that their studies were their main priority, but still expressed surprise over the survey's findings.

"I thought university is the best time to get into a relationship, because students are emotionally mature and are able to manage their time well," said Ms Tan Yan Ru, 22, a third-year NTU student who is in a relationship.

Said Ms Li Ling, 21, a second-year history student at NUS who is open to dating while still in school: "Even though we have a heavy workload, my friends are quite willing to date. It's just that we have not found the right person."

But others felt that dating should have an element of spontaneity.

"Love happens. You cannot put a target on it and expect that you will find a life partner by the time you graduate," said Mr Mohammed Mizrahi, 22, a first-year history student in NUS who is dating.