Lodging issue: Priority given to some students last year was on an 'exceptional basis', says NTU, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper
Singapore

Lodging issue: Priority given to some students last year was on an 'exceptional basis', says NTU

As the problem resurfaces this year, students say university is 'not empathetic at all'

A handful of international students at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have been left in the lurch recently after failing to secure on-campus housing for the coming school year due to a shortage of spaces.

The problem seems to be a perennial one. 

Last year, when the same issue surfaced, the university’s management intervened and prioritised hall allocation for international students. 

That, however, was on an “exceptional basis”, an NTU spokesman told TNP.

“Last year, foreign students who are existing or returning hall residents were given priority for hall placement on an exceptional basis due to the difficulty of getting off-campus accommodation amid the pandemic,” said the spokesman.

“This year, with the easing of safe management measures, halls are back to running at maximum capacity. However, demand for on-campus housing remains high, outstripping supply by about 20 per cent.”

NTU’s 23 residential halls will accommodate over 13,600 students this year, operating at full capacity. 

This has left students – both local and international – once again scrambling for a roof over their heads. More than 2,600 undergraduate students were rejected for accommodation this year, the Straits Times reported. 

They were informed of their unsuccessful applications on June 1, with many having to vacate their current rooms by July 15.

NTU was recently alerted to the fact that students with hall placement for the coming year have been listing their rooms for rent in a chat group on messaging app Telegram. 

The Telegram group, which has more than 1,600 members, is a platform for students who have failed to secure on-campus housing to discuss alternative solutions.

While listing hall rooms for rent might have started as a way to help international students, some have listed their allocated rooms for double its original price.

NTU believes that students renting out their allocated rooms are doing so for monetary gain and reminded students that these actions – with or without monetary payment – violate the university’s Student Code of Conduct. 

“Violators will be subject to stern disciplinary action, including eviction and being barred from residential hall stay, as well as possible suspension or expulsion,” NTU said.

“Residents who no longer require on-campus housing should return the hall placement so that it can be offered to the next eligible student.” 

Unconvinced

When asked what NTU’s efforts were in solving the issue of insufficient on-campus housing, the university said: “The University continues to place our students’ well-being as our top priority. We will assist our students in various ways, including those with specific difficulties or needs”.

From Telegram messages seen by TNP, however, students seemed unconvinced, with some saying that the university only reversed its decision last year due to negative media coverage. 

Student Samuel Soh, 22, said: “They are not empathetic at all and will just ignore you if you ask for help”. 

An international student, 20, who declined to be named and has yet to secure on-campus housing, said she submitted a written appeal to the Office of Campus Housing (OCH), citing a medical condition of her back which requires her to stay on campus. 

“I provided NTU with medical certificates and had to pay a big amount to see a local doctor which was not covered under my insurance,” she said. 

“They’ve asked us to move out by July 15 and it’s already July 12. I’ve called several times to ask them to at least reply to my appeal so that if I really (do) need to sign a lease outside I (would) have time to look.”

NTU guarantees hall placements for first- and second- year students. Other students can participate in extracurricular activities to earn hall points, which give them a higher chance of staying on during their later years of study. 

Many agree that NTU should have continued prioritising international students when it comes to housing. 

Third-year Korean student Seoyun Hwang, 21, said: “International students go through a very difficult process to find off-campus housing. More importantly, our parents are worried about our safety outside of campus.”

Despite failing to secure hall accommodation and in desperate need of a room, she is reluctant to rent halls from other students as she is afraid of violating university guidelines. 

First year-student James Tan, 22, believes that first- and second-year students should also continue being prioritised along with international students. 

He said: “We take more classes which are pre-registered compared with upperclassmen who can customise their timetables. So we have class every day while they might only come in two to three times a week.”

Some are also upset that local students are attempting to profit off the desperation of international students.

“People who need rooms could go homeless, and people who don’t need rooms are renting them out instead of returning them to OCH,” one message said.

ntuSTUDENTS