Dunearn Road Hostels

Singapore Infopedia


Dunearn Road Hostels (DRH) was opened in 1952 to provide accommodation for overseas undergraduates of the then University of Malaya. Popularly known as DRH, it comprised 31 semi-detached five-room houses at College Green along Dunearn Road.1 After some 29 years, the oldest hostel was renamed Sheares Hall in 1982 when it was relocated to the National University of Singapore (NUS) campus at Kent Ridge.2

Early history
Situated opposite the campus at College Green along Dunearn Road, DRH was originally planned as a temporary hostel for the University of Malaya, as there were plans to move the university to Johor Bahru. Its main purpose was to house overseas undergraduates, as well as to ease the demand for lecture rooms on campus grounds. Due to its transient status, the hostel was designed as 31 double-storey semi-detached houses with no communal facilities, except for three houses where the ground floor served as dining rooms and the upper floor as lounges.3

DRH was officially opened in 1952 with an occupancy of 500 residents from Malaya and Singapore, including 100 female students. When plans to move the university to Johor Bahru were shelved, more hostels were built, including King Edward VII Hall for medical students, as well as Eusoff College and Raffles Hall for female and male students respectively. Faced with stiff competition from these new hostels offering better facilities, the student population at DRH declined by half. Consequently, it was converted to an all-male hostel.

In 1962, the university’s attempt to convert the hostel into staff quarters was stalled as a result of strong protests from its residents and the students’ union. However, the hostel was still partially converted into staff quarters, and the student population dropped to 156.5

Key developments
In 1963, a new hostel crest was created, and the inaugural issue of The Psyche, the hostel’s yearbook, was published. The following year, the hostel was refurbished with donations from Lee Kong Chian, the first chancellor of the newly formed University of Singapore. New amenities included a dining hall, a water cooler, a room for the students’ committee, and lights for the badminton courts. The refurbished DRH was officially opened by then Vice-Chancellor Lim Tay Boh on 12 June 1965.6

In 1968, DRH started accepting female students again. By 1970, the hostel was equipped with proper games facilities, an air-conditioned reading room, and a library. With units being converted back from staff quarters into students’ accommodation, the number of student residents reached 183 in 1972.7

Located in a flood-prone area, DRH served as a relief centre on 11 January 1967 when Bukit Timah and Dunearn roads were submerged in 1.2 m of water.8

In celebration of its 25th anniversary in 1977, the hostel introduced the DRH Silver Jubilee Award with a S$15,000 donation from the Lee Foundation. The scholarship awarded recognised outstanding residents’ contributions to the hostel, and was transferred to the Sheares Hall in 1983.9

With the merger of the University of Singapore and Nanyang University to become the NUS in 1980 and its relocation to Kent Ridge, the DRH was closed down in 1981.10

The new hostel constructed at Kent Ridge was named after Benjamin Henry Sheares, then chancellor of NUS.11 Serving as a link with DRH is Sheares Hall’s motto “Dare to Reach the Highest”, which bears the initials of the former hostel. Another visible reminder of DRH at Sheares Hall is a mural painted by Rais bin Yatim in 1971, which was hung at DRH’s dining hall until its closure.12

DRH/SH Alumni Endowment Fund
In October 2009, a group of DRH and Sheares Hall alumni mooted the idea of establishing the DRH/SH Alumni Endowment Fund to help needy undergraduates staying in Sheares Hall. An initial target of S$250,000 was raised within four weeks through contributions from the alumni of DRH/Sheares Hall. The sum, which received a one-to-one government matching grant, was expected to generate sufficient income to support 10 bursaries annually in perpetuity.13

Reopening of Dunearn Road Hostels in 2010
After DRH closed in 1981, the Singapore Land Authority later leased it out as rental houses to the public.14 In 2009, DRH was leased to the NUS.15

Now known as College Green, the refurbished Dunearn Road Hostels comprised 62 terrace houses with 248 fully equipped rooms. It was reopened on 9 April 2010 by former President S. R. Nathan, who had stayed at DHR from 1952 to 1954 as a social work student.16 College Green provides accommodation to NUS’s international graduate students of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.17

Low Kwee Fah

1. “New Hostels Ready by September,” Singapore Standard, 7 March 1952, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
2. “Nostalgia Was the Order of the Day...,” Straits Times, 28 November 1982, 19. (From NewspaperSG)
3. University of Singapore, Psyche (1978), 12. (Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 P)
4. University of Singapore, Psyche
, 13.
5. University of Singapore, Psyche, 12–13.
6. University of Singapore, Psyche, 12–13.
7. University of Singapore, Psyche, 14–15.
8. University of Singapore, Psyche, 14.
9. University of Singapore, Psyche, 10, 15.
10. Grace Chua, “President Nathan Visits Old Dorm,” Straits Times, 10 April 2010, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “NUS May Name New Hostel after Sheares,” Straits Times, 21 July 1981, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
12. National University of Singapore, Dare to Reach the Highest (Singapore: Sheares Hall, National University of Singapore, 2002), 16. (Call no. RDET 378.19871095957 DAR)
13. “Financial Aid,” National University of Singapore, accessed 20 January 2017.
14. Chua, “President Nathan Visits Old Dorm;” Debbie Yong, “Families Bid Farewell to College Green,” Straits Times, 24 May 2009, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Chua, “President Nathan Visits Old Dorm.”
16. Chua, “President Nathan Visits Old Dorm.”
17. Chua, “President Nathan Visits Old Dorm.”

The information in this article is valid as of October 2023 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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