Revamped SMU city residences to offer students place to live and learn from August

The three blocks of four-storey apartments along Prinsep Street are former Singapore Improvement Trust blocks and previously housed about 260 SMU students, 90 per cent of whom are foreigners.
The three blocks of four-storey apartments along Prinsep Street are former Singapore Improvement Trust blocks and previously housed about 260 SMU students, 90 per cent of whom are foreigners.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS

SINGAPORE - City accommodations in the Singapore Management University (SMU) will soon go beyond providing a place for students to stay by offering spaces for them to learn too.

From August 2018, undergraduates can stay at the Prinsep Street Residences, which will be the university's test bed for a new residential learning and living concept that it is exploring for the longer term.

The three blocks of four-storey apartments along Prinsep Street are former Singapore Improvement Trust blocks and previously housed about 260 SMU students, 90 per cent of whom were foreigners.

Back then, the accommodations were tailored mainly for staying on campus, without additional facilities or programmes for learning.

But since January, renovation works, which cost about $10 million, have started to convert the 5,000 sq m space into an area for students to live and learn alongside one another..

It will have 23 shared apartments with living rooms and communal spaces for 255 students.

Students living at the residences, which is on long-term lease to SMU until 2032, will be able to make use of areas such as a multi-purpose lounge and work-play lounge for projects, meetings and seminars. For a start, the university hopes to draw students who are interested in entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship and setting up new clubs.

  • Living and learning on other campuses

  • National University of Singapore (NUS) 

    - Students have a few options – five residential colleges, seven halls of residence and two student residences. A total of 11,000 places on campus are offered each year, while the university has about 37,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
    - About half of NUS freshmen get to stay on campus. Each year, about 2,700 freshmen apply to stay in the halls and student residences, while about 1,900 freshmen apply for a place in one of the five residential colleges.
    - The residential colleges – the first of their kind in Singapore when they were set up in 2011 – offer two-year programmes where students take modules in small classes, and live and learn alongside peers and professors. 

    Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
    - NTU opened six residential halls over the last two years, bringing its total to 24 halls now. 
    - The residential halls house 14,200 undergraduates in total, fulfilling more than 90 per cent of current demand to stay on campus. 
    - Some of the halls have made space for a range of learning programmes such as a garage for making and tinkering with prototypes and technology.

    Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) 
    - Currently, nearly 1,000 students – some 70 per cent of the undergraduate population – live on campus. 
    - It is mandatory for all SUTD freshmen to stay in the hostel during their first year, to help build strong bonds of friendship from the time they join the institution. 
    - Typically, about 90 per cent of undergraduates in their second to fourth years of studies who apply to stay on campus are allocated a place. 

With the refurbished residences, which are eight minutes by foot from the SMU campus, the university will do more to measure the learning outcomes of projects by asking students to write reflections.

Students will pay monthly fees of $590 for a twin-sharing room, or $772 for a single room.

They can start applying for places from March, and at least half of the slots will be set aside for Singaporeans. This could go up to 70 per cent, depending on demand.

SMU provost Lily Kong said on Monday (Feb 12) at a briefing: "It's more than a roof above their heads. It's building a community (of students) for the community."

SMU dean of students Paulin Straughan said that it will help to link students with relevant project ideas for the community to voluntary welfare organisations and associations.

"We want to encourage like-minded students to get together and make things happen," she added.

Said Prof Kong: "Very often, learning is not a five-hour, three-hour, two-hour activity... You work until 11pm, midnight, and you go home."

She added that students had over the years expressed desire for campus living.

"It's one thing that SMU hasn't offered to a large extent," she said, because of the high cost of city accommodation.

A staff member from SMU, Ms Lim Wensi, manager of diversity, inclusion and integration at the Office of Dean of Students, will live at the residences and be known as a residential fellow, while SMU's director of Office of Student Life Kenneth Tan will oversee the programmes as Prinsep Fellow.


Prof Straughan said that SMU is  looking out for more residential sites in the long run, if students are interested.

These sites may be further from the main campus, so that living costs can be more affordable, she said.

Residential living and learning has been a part of the student experience for a number of years at other universities here such as the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).


First-year SMU business student Ho Wen Siang said: “When we were applying for university two years ago, I knew of people who preferred to go to NUS or NTU because they offered campus living, unlike SMU.”

The 21-year-old, who said living costs will be a deciding factor for students, is keen to find out more before applying for the new residences. 

“But it’s great that it’s in the heart of the city, you can easily walk anywhere,” he said. 

“I stay in Jurong East, an hour away from campus, so travelling makes up about two hours every day. Instead of travelling,  I could spend more time on fruitful things (by staying on campus).”