A dressing-down for casual wear in unis

Some say shorts, T-shirts unseemly but others see no link between dress code and learning

Mr Francis Sim, 24, wears a T-shirt and bermudas to his classes at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) regularly.

The final-year student at NTU's School of Computer Science and Engineering, said he dresses down because he lives in a residential hall on campus and his classes are held close by.

While Mr Sim is not too fussed with what he wears to lectures and tutorials, casual attitudes towards dressing like his among tertiary students has ignited debate on whether these students are sloppy in what they wear when attending classes.

A forum letter published in The Straits Times on Thursday criticised university students for attending lectures and tutorials in "slippers, shorts and T-shirts" instead of shoes, trousers and shirts with sleeves.

"This does not seem like an appropriate way to dress," wrote forum writer Pavithran Vidyadharan, who also suggested having a dress code to demonstrate "to the world that we are a disciplined society".

Forum writer Lionel Loi Zhi Rui responded in a letter published yesterday that a dress code does not correlate with being better thinkers or more creative individuals. "Not dictating the types of clothes to be worn keeps the focus on students sharing or gaining knowledge," he wrote.

Some students say that factors such as Singapore's warm weather and the fact that they live in residential halls on campus play a part in their more casual choice of attire when attending classes in their universities. TNP FILE PHOTO

While some universities here do have dress codes, they are guidelines instead of regulations, and are not strictly enforced.

A National University of Singapore (NUS) spokesman said it has guidelines encouraging students to dress appropriately on campus.

"These guidelines are part of the university's code of student conduct, and serve as a reminder to students that by dressing well, they will be able to make a positive impression on others."

The code deems attire such as revealing clothes, or those with offensive designs, inappropriate. Singlets and slippers may also present the school in poor light.

NTU has similar guidelines.

But appropriate attire and footwear are strictly enforced for lessons in laboratories and workshops. For example, students must wear lab coats and covered shoes for lab lessons.

The Singapore Management University (SMU) said it does not enforce a dress code at all.

In treating students as "responsible adults", it expects them to "take pride" in their appearance, a spokesman told The Sunday Times.

Some students said that factors such as Singapore's weather play a part in their more casual choice of attire.

Said Mr Isaac Neo, 23, a third-year student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences: "Our climate is very hot, and sometimes classrooms can be very far apart. So students dress in more comfortable attire such as shorts and slippers. They may also have only one class for the day, hence, they do not feel the need to dress up."

He added, however, that students should still dress better for activities which require a certain degree of decorum, such as during class presentations.

As her school is located between Dhoby Ghaut and City Hall, third-year SMU accountancy student Alysson See, 21, feels that there is "pressure to look good in town" so as not to be judged by others, including her schoolmates.


Institutes of tertiary education are places to acquire knowledge. Students should respect the sanctity of these places and not treat them like foodcourts or hawker centres.



Adhering to a proper dress code shows respect to the institution of higher learning and to the lecturers who, themselves, dress appropriately to impart knowledge to their students. It is also a way to teach students to dress appropriately for the occasion.



"Stern action" to enforce a dress code would be a waste of time and resources... The onus should be on students to recognise what situations call for more formal dress, and the consequences of not doing so.



Having a dress code does not correlate with being a better thinker or being more creative. In fact, most start-ups in Singapore do not adhere to a dress code... Not dictating the types of clothes to be worn keeps the focus on students sharing or gaining knowledge.


Mr Ang Wei Neng, an MP for Jurong GRC and member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said that while dress codes for tertiary students need not be too stringent, the students also have to be respectful.

"They have to give due respect to their lecturers and professors teaching them," he said.

"They don't have to wear gowns and suits and ties, but don't wear bedroom slippers or pyjamas to a lesson either, which I'm sure some students do."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 31, 2017, with the headline 'A dressing-down for casual wear in unis'. Print Edition | Subscribe