Studentification.SG: International students, off-campus accommodation, and everyday urbanisms

Recently I have been thinking about how to follow up on my Masters research topic on international students pursuing degree education at ‘global universities’ in Singapore. This piece of research was carried out between 2010 and 2012. The thesis focused on students’ negotiation of multiple temporalities in their transnational sojourns. Through this, I have argued that enduring temporal constructs – namely the capitalist and modernist temporalities – underpin young people’s strivings to become “better” educated persons through the Singaporean education system. Yet the students’ uneasy experiences of hegemonic educational temporalities also provided them with the language to critique those powerful temporal constructs.

There was a different theme, which I did not follow up on, that emerged from international students’ narratives about residential lives and home-making practices. Simply put, the trope of “living in the city”. Many of these students stayed in off-campus accommodation that have emerged through private developers. In Singapore, it is uncommon for local students to stay in off-campus housing, given they have the option to stay with their parents rather than spending on student housing. Therefore, off-campus accommodation in Singapore is chiefly targeted at the international student population. Students who wish to put up at these purpose built accommodation (more colloquially known as student hostels) would have to produce proofs of their international student enrollment and visa status.

A preliminary scan through university’s offices of student housing websites pointed to a range of off-campus living options: purpose-built student housing (solely for students) and the more common mixed-purpose housing (advertised as for international students and workers); housing that manifest as gated development and those low-costing housing options with minimal security; accommodation that incorporate student services such as organizing educational workshops and tuition. Private off-campus accommodation is indeed quite varied. There is also a set of locational criteria and guidelines for student hostel development in Singapore.

Several questions emerge:

  1. How are these off-campus student accommodation implicated in broader urban processes?
  2. Does studentification, and emergence of student housing, in Singapore link to urban gentrification?
  3. How are the students’ practices and presence altering the urban neighbourhoods and spaces?
  4. How are issues around community, diversity, and in/exclusions mediated by the emergence of off-campus student housing?
  5. How do students negotiate their daily urban mobilities?

I hope to continue on this small-scale project to examine more deeply into these questions. Akan datang!


(Top: budget student hostel located in a residential neighbourhood; Bottom: gated mixed-purpose apartment located downtown)


(Student housing converted en-bloc from HDB block in mature estate)