Singapore

Cap on numbers in NTU halls leaves students in the lurch

University to review capacity following student outcry after it sets aside hall rooms for Covid-19 isolation

The e-mail from the university at 2am yesterday stunned her.

She had been unsuccessful in her application for campus accommodation for the upcoming academic year, it said.

Ms Dung Tran, 23, a final-year international student from Vietnam who is living in a residential hall at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), told The New Paper she was "shocked and worried".

It meant she would have to vacate the residential hall she had called home for the past three years.

And she would have to do so by July 15 - or be hit with daily overstay charges.

Ms Tran is one of what is believed to be several thousand students - both local and international - who were unsuccessful in their campus accommodation application for the upcoming academic term, which begins on August 10.

SPOTS

NTU has some 14,000 spots across 24 halls.

"We only have two weeks to find housing, and I am quite dependent on the school's subsidised fees for halls as my parents are overseas and their combined income is less than $3,500," said Ms Tran.

In its e-mail sent to rejected applicants yesterday seen by TNP, NTU explained that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was "a cap on the number of students staying in the halls imposed by the authorities".

It added that fewer rooms were available because of the need to "reserve a certain number for Covid-19 isolation and other related purposes".

The university advised students without local residences to arrange for off-campus housing. A list of options was provided, including student apartments such as Westwood Hostel or local hotels that can be booked through platforms such as Trivago.

A search by TNP revealed that the monthly rental fee for a one-bedroom unit at Westwood Hostel ranges from $1,300 to $1,600. Typical hall rental fees in NTU range between $265 and $605.

A final-year student from Vietnam who was unsuccessful in his application was thankful his friend offered him a place to stay at his flat in Yew Tee.

Said Mr V. Hoang: "Many of us still have tuition loans to pay. I am very blessed to have met that friend, but I know not everyone has such a privilege."

The 23-year-old decided to create a Telegram chat group "NTU Homeless" for students who were unsuccessful in their applications, so they could voice concerns and seek roommates.

The chat group already has more than 6,100 members as of last night.

A Change.org student petition was also circulated in the group chat and has since garnered nearly 4,400 signatures.

A representative of the NTU Student Union (NTUSU) told TNP it is working closely with the university to address the issue.

"Our priority is the international community. We hope that they have a place to stay and understand that it is an extremely stressful period for them - not being able to go home and now having to find accommodation elsewhere," the representative added.

In an e-mail update sent to students yesterday afternoon, NTUSU reassured international students living on campus that they will not be required to move out for now and that the university will be reaching out to them over the next one to two days to address their concerns.

Replying to TNP's queries late last night, a spokesman for NTU said it has had to review the number of hall places offered for the upcoming academic year as part of safe management measures.

STRONG DEMAND

The university also noted that this year has seen "exceptionally strong demand for hall places".

"However, with vaccinations now well under way and a good vaccination rate expected, as well as other safe management measures that we intend to apply, we are currently reviewing the capacity to allow more students to stay on campus," the spokesman added.

"More updates will be provided in the next few days."

COMMUNITY ISSUES