NUS, NTU spicing up food options for students

The National University of Singapore (NUS) campus.
The National University of Singapore (NUS) campus. PHOTO: ST FILE

Expansion of food fare part of aim to build self-contained campuses

Gone are the days when grabbing a meal on a university campus meant standing in line at a canteen stall, with options limited to basic hawker fare like mee siam, chicken rice or briyani, or in fast-food outlets such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald's.

Dining options at Singapore's older university campuses have expanded widely in recent years, as more students stay put on campus to socialise, study and attend a myriad of activities.

At the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Stephen Riady Centre in University Town, for example, one can find trendy desserts such as durian vanilla Belgian waffles or Korean bingsu, made from shaved ice, at the cheekily named Butter My Buns cafe.

A hop over to Nanyang Technological University (NTU), off Jalan Bahar, yields finds of a bar dishing up Japanese udon noodles, and well-known Chinese restaurant Peach Garden.

And even Singapore Management University (SMU), in the heart of the city, has its own offerings, such as the student-run SMOObar, which hosts music performances and an array of activities like pool, darts and beer pong.

The number of food and beverage outlets at NUS has increased by close to 50 per cent over the last decade, said a spokesman. It will have 66 stalls across all five canteens by the year end, five foodcourts, and 41 restaurants, cafes and kiosks.

 
 

The NUS spokesman said that this expansion caters to its growing student and staff populations, and is "in tandem with NUS' aim to build a modern self-contained campus that is carefully designed to enable students to live, learn, play and dine conveniently without having to travel out of the campus".

NTU, long bogged down by perceptions that it is isolated and offers limited options for leisure, hence the nickname "Pulau NTU", has also undergone a major revamp over the past two years as part of its push to become a "mini city".

The northern part of the NTU complex, also known as the North Spine, now has a supermarket, a salon, banking options, performance spaces as well as popular eateries.

Mr Jimmy Lee, NTU's chief housing and auxiliary services officer, said that over the past four years, the number of F&B outlets on campus has doubled to about 50.

At NUS, some students have become involved in the running of F&B outlets. There are now six food outlets on campus run by students or alumni, an increase from just two in 2012. A spokesman said NUS sees an advantage in supporting students and alumni who would like to test out food concepts on campus because of their familiarity with the environment, and is open to them trying out such concepts despite a lack of experience. However, all such proposals are still evaluated based on merit.

Some students, like third-year NTU electrical engineering undergraduate Ahmad Farid Jumari, 24, have also chosen to work on campus. For the past two years he has been a barista at an NTU Starbucks outlet where he works between 16 and 20 hours a week.

"I have become more knowledgeable about coffee, and I have learnt a lot about the importance of communication skills and learnt how to work with different people from my colleagues, who range from polytechnic students to older workers in their 50s," said Mr Farid.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2017, with the headline 'NUS, NTU spicing up food options for students'. Print Edition | Subscribe