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Reinventing Education And Campus Spaces… At What Cost?

The expansion of residential college living to other residences on campus, to “spark new ideas and collaborations, and enhance experiential learning”. The inclusion of multi-disciplinary modules, the invitation of guest speakers, and the introduction of new co-curricular activities in these colleges. The refurbishment of other facilities within the National University of Singapore (NUS), to enhance the overall learning experience.

Sounds great, right?

Yet, the effectiveness of these grand endeavours can only be evaluated with an understanding of the costs involved. NUS plans to transform the Ridge View Residences into the Ridge View Residential College, but did not elaborate on the hostel fees that residents should expect to pay. Despite the purported availability of bursaries and financial aid programmes for undergraduates, there are perennial concerns over expenses and affordability.

In other words – in more precise terms – how different are these residential colleges, and how different will the new Ridge View Residential College be?

Across the board, for single rooms, students in the residential colleges (situated – for the moment – in the new University Town) can expect to pay about $100 to $600 more per semester than their counterparts in the halls or student residences. In addition, meal plans are compulsory. Whereas students staying in the halls pay $400 per semester for six breakfasts and dinners, those in the residential colleges pay more than twice that amount. For instance, it would cost $2,844 (single room, no air-conditioning) to stay in the Cinnamon or Tembusu residential college, and $2,200 to stay in the halls on campus.

One could argue that this premium is well-justified, given the additional academic and out-of-classroom experiences, as well as the relatively new environments.

But infrastructural advantages will erode over time. What are the unique selling propositions of these residential colleges? At the present moment, the University Scholars Programme at Cinnamon College is a “multidisciplinary, partially residential, academic programme”; Tembusu College provides “an exciting alternative for undergraduate campus living” through seminars and extracurricular activities; and the College of Alice and Peter Tan (which had a brief controversy over its name, here and here) “weaves the themes of active citizenship and community engagement through its curriculum and other aspects of the student experience”.

In other words – in more precise terms – how different are these residential colleges, and how different will the new Ridge View Residential College be? Just the same, tired formula of “small-group multidisciplinary modules”, “regular external speaker series”, and “a wide array of co-curricular activities”? Or is differentiation perceived to be a non-issue by the school?

As the administration mulls the extension of these residential colleges throughout the university, it should consider the implications too. In our eagerness to push these ideals – of enabling campus spaces for residential and experiential teaching-learning – how would the increasing ubiquity of residential colleges impact the status of the history-rich halls? Halls have traditionally been vibrant in sports, arts and cultural activities, and community service, so will the new residential colleges be complementary to the status quo?

Anecdotal sentiments that the school has been focusing disproportionately on these new-fangled arrangements should not go unaddressed. As with most initiatives, the Devil is the details. Until more information has been communicated, a healthy dose of scepticism is probably the most constructive option – for the time being.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.


3 thoughts on “Reinventing Education And Campus Spaces… At What Cost?

  1. One of Princeton’s most distinctive characteristics is its close-knit residential community. On-campus housing is guaranteed for undergraduates for all four years. The University’s six residential colleges are the center of residential life and offer an array of academic and social programs that enhance the undergraduate experience. In fall 2007, with the opening of Whitman College, the University inaugurated an expanded residential college system that provides more housing and dining opportunities for all undergraduates. The new system establishes three four-year colleges and pairs them with three two-year colleges, enabling juniors and seniors to remain linked to a residential college, regardless of whether they live there. Each college has a faculty master, dean, director of studies and director of student life. Academic advising for freshmen and sophomores is centered at the colleges, and juniors and seniors also are encouraged to confer with their college advisers for nondepartmental academic advising throughout their undergraduate careers. Undergraduates also benefit from the guidance of residential college advisers, who are upperclassmen, and resident graduate students. Each architecturally distinctive college is made up of a cluster of dormitories and a range of facilities, including dining halls, common rooms, academic spaces and arts and entertainment resources. The colleges often interact through social events and intramural sports and, as a community, help to define University life. The four-year and two-year college pairings are: Butler-Wilson, Mathey-Rockefeller and Whitman-Forbes. To learn more, visit each residential college website.

    Posted by Stacy Jensen | October 15, 2013, 5:21 am


  1. Pingback: Expanding Universities | guanyinmiao's musings - January 27, 2014

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