SINGAPORE – City accommodations in the Singapore Management University (SMU) will soon go beyond just providing a place for students to stay in 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 are 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 each other.
It will have 23 shared apartments with living rooms and communal spaces for 255 students.
They will pay monthly fees of $590 for a double-bed room, or $770 for a single room.
Students 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.”
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.
SMU dean of students Paulin Straughan said that it will help to link students with relevant project ideas for the community to other 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.
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 through getting students to write reflections.
A staff member from SMU, Ms Lim Wensi, will live alongside students 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 actively 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.