Thursday, September 18, 2008

SIM Offers Rental Apts For Students' Parents

Source : The Business Times, September 18, 2008

Aim is for foreigners to be closer to their children, so as to help them settle in

WHILE university hostels are typically occupied by students, one tertiary institution here has dedicated units that its students' parents can rent - to experience a dose of campus life with their children.

Mr Lee: Visiting faculty or mature students enrolling in short executive education programmes may use them too

Over at the Singapore Institute of Management's (SIM) new campus in Ulu Pandan, there are four studio apartments that parents of foreign students can stay in, so that they can be close to their children and help them adjust during their first few days in Singapore.

The $150-a-night apartments, which have themes such as Balinese and modern contemporary, are fully furnished with a pantry and balcony area. They are also just a stone's throw away from the six hostel blocks where the students stay.

To date, seven sets of parents have stayed at the apartments since the 4.5-hectare SIM Global Education campus - built on the former army camp for the School of Military Medicine - was opened in July. It is SIM's third campus, after its headquarters in Clementi and another site at Namly Avenue.

According to SIM chief executive Lee Kwok Cheong, there are also plans to allow visiting faculty or mature students enrolling in short executive education programmes to use the studio apartments as well.

'For this old block, we could not turn it into too many student hostels, but we felt it was ideal to turn it into something that parents could use. The feedback has been good so far and it's an alternative to staying in a hotel, which can be more expensive and further away,' Mr Lee told BT in an interview during a tour of the campus.

The air-conditioned student hostels are also a first for SIM, and can house some 428 students. They pay anything from $500 to $900 a month, depending on whether they live alone or with roommates.

Already, 20 per cent of the rooms have been taken up and SIM expects full occupancy by year's end.

One early bird who has moved in, 21-year-old management student Anthony Simon from Indonesia, said: 'I used to rent a place in Lakeside, which took me nearly 45 minutes to get to school. Now, I can get to class in just 10 minutes by bus, and I'm paying less in rent as well.'

The campus, which will be officially launched by Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam this morning, is primarily a residential and recreational one. Facilities include a gymnasium, dance studio, tennis courts, a jogging track and a mini-mart.

All lectures and tutorials will still be conducted at the SIM headquarters, located just four bus stops away.

Mr Lee said that SIM management started scouring for suitable sites last year and eventually decided on the Ulu Pandan one earlier this year. It outsourced the development and operational work to property management firm EM Services, which leases the site from the government.

Mr Lee added that more campus development plans would be unveiled in the next few years as SIM moves ahead to double its existing cohort of 10,000 full-time students by 2013. Currently, about a quarter of this cohort is from overseas.

SIM will continue to actively recruit students from countries in Asia such as China, India and Indonesia, where there is 'much interest in Singapore education', said Mr Lee.

He did admit that there was no plan to open an overseas campus for the time being, with all energies focused on building the brand locally and attracting as many foreign students to the Republic as possible.

'We know that if we go overseas and, for whatever reason, it does not work out, it has a big impact on reputation. That's why I'm a bit cautious about talking about going overseas.

'We have to be sure that it will be successful and that if we do so, we can provide the same quality and also enhance our brand.'

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