International students at NTU will be guaranteed accommodation

SINGAPORE – Any international student of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) who has applied for a place in a hostel will be guaranteed accommodation.

The NTU decision will come as a relief to foreign students who had returned home and relinquished their hostel rooms for the school break.

Last Thursday, in a shock move, NTU initially announced that hall occupancy was to be reduced to facilitate Covid-19 isolation and for other related purposes.

That sent thousands of residents, many of whom were foreign students without a local address, scrambling to find alternative accommodation before the start of the school year next month.

But the school reversed the decision a day later and foreign students who are currently residents were told they could keep their places.

In the latest e-mail to students, the school said foreign students who are existing or returning hall residents would be given priority on an “exceptional basis”, because of the difficulty of getting off-campus accommodation.

More than 130 international students had signed an open letter to the school to appeal for hostel accommodation since Saturday.

One of them, a third-year Computer Science student who only wanted to be known as Louis, said he felt “assured and a sense of safety” with the latest turn of events

Off-campus housing would have cost around $1,000 or nearly three times the price of a hostel in NTU, said the student from China. He will return to Singapore on July 25.

But some students like Art, Design and Media student Meghan Poh, 21, remain on edge because they have not been “guaranteed” hostel places.

The year-two student said: “A lot of local cases are not addressed like those with abusive households. They are panicking and it is a big problem that still exists.”

Miss Poh said 64 students had responded to a survey in which they said they needed accommodation due to problems at home or had no local residence.

In a statement to The Straits Times, an NTU spokesman said there was an “unprecedented increase” in demand for hostel places which has been oversubscribed by 35 per cent. It is understood that this is based on current limited capacity due to Covid-19 measures.

“More students are staying in Singapore as overseas exchange and overseas internships have been suspended due to global travel restrictions. More students are also looking to experience residential living on campus during this time,” said the spokesman.

“We will consider the needs of students who face difficulties, and see how we can help them,” he added.

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The school told students in an e-mail that it was short of more than 1,200 hall places this year, even at full capacity, and advised those in need of accommodation to reach out to relevant staff in their faculties for assistance.

NTU has roughly 14,000 hostel vacancies at full capacity.

Unsuccessful applicants will be refunded their administration fee of $16.05, the Students’ Union announced on Tuesday (July 6).

Meanwhile, NTU said it will be increasing the operating hours of shuttle buses from Novena, Sengkang and Tampines to campus from 7am to 10am during term time, as well as the frequency of shuttle buses between Pioneer MRT and campus during the morning peak hours from 7.30am to 10am from August.

“More than 1,300 students are expected to benefit daily from the upgraded shuttle bus services,” said the spokesman.

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