Dunearn Road Hostels


Dunearn Road Hostels, more popularly referred by its initials DRH and which comprised 31 semi-detached five-room houses at College Green along Dunearn Road, opened in 1952 to provide accommodation for overseas undergraduates of the then University of Malaya. After 29 years of existence, the oldest hostel was renamed Sheares Hall in 1982 when it was re-located to the National University of Singapore campus at Kent Ridge.

The genesis of Dunearn Road Hostels was rooted in the founding of the University of Malaya from the merger of King Edward VII College of Medicine and Raffles College in 1949. Planned originally as temporary hostels with the proposed move of the university to Johor Bahru, it was located opposite the campus at College Green along Dunearn Road. Its main purpose was to house overseas undergraduates and to ease the demand of campus grounds for lecture rooms. Due to its transient status, the hostels were designed as 31 double-storey semi-detached houses with no communal facilities. The ground floors of three houses served as dining rooms and the upper floors as lounges.

Early History
It was officially opened in 1952 with occupancy of 500 residents from Malaya and Singapore, including 100 female students. When plans to move the university to Johor Bahru was shelved, more hostels were built- King Edward VII Hall at Singapore General Hospital for medical students in 1957, Eusoff College at Evans Road for women students and Raffles Hall for male students at Bukit Timah campus in 1958. Faced with stiff competition from these new hostels offering better facilities, the student population at DRH was reduced by half.

DRH was converted to an all-male hostel as a consequence. An attempt to completely close the hostel in 1962 and turning them into staff quarters was stalled with strong protests from the residents and the Students’ Union. However, this did not stop more units from being converted into staff quarters and the student population dropped to 156.

Hostel Development
In 1963, a new hostel crest was created and the inaugural issue of The Psyche, the hostel’s yearbook was formally published. In 1964, the hostel was refurbished with donations from the late Lee Kong Chian, 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. DRH was officially opened by the then Vice-Chancellor, Lim Tay Boh, on 12 June 1965.

In 1968, DRH started accepting female students again. It was not until 1970 that the hostel was equipped with proper games facilities and an air-conditioned reading room and library. The number of residents reached 183 in 1972 when more units were converted back to hostel blocks.

Located in a flood-prone area, DRH acted as a relief centre in the big flood of 11 January 1967 when Bukit Timah Road and Dunearn Road was submerged under two to three feet of water. Residents rescued many school children and people who were trapped in buses and cars stranded in the floodwater, provided clothes and even shared meals with them until the floods subsided.

In 1977, the hostel initiated the DRH Silver Jubilee Award to celebrate its 25th anniversary. A scholarship fund was created to encourage and recognise outstanding residents’ contributions to the hostel, and it started with a $15,000 donation from the Lee Foundation. The award was transferred to Sheares Hall in 1983.

The merger of the University of Singapore and Nanyang University to become the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 1980 and its relocation to Kent Ridge led to the closure of DRH on 22 November 1981. The new hostel constructed at Kent Ridge was named after the late Benjamin Henry Sheares, then NUS Chancellor. The only DRH remnant lies in the motto for Sheares Hall: Dare to Reach the Highest which bears the initials of DRH. Two other visible reminders at Sheares Hall include a mural painted by Rais bin Yatim in 1971, hung in the dining hall at DRH until its closure. The other is the publication of The Psyche yearbook which was continued by Sheares Hall.

DRH/SH Alumni Endowment Fund
In Oct 2009, a group of passionate DRH/SH Alumni mooted the idea of setting up an endowed DRH/SH Alumni Endowment Fund to help financially needy undergraduate students who are not receiving any form of study aid or grant. An initial target of $250,000 was set and raised within four weeks, thanks to the generosity of DRH/SH Alumni. This initial sum received a 1:1 government matching grant. The income generated from this fund will support ten bursaries annually in perpetuity.  The fund will be managed centrally by NUS, while Sheares Hall will manage the selection process. The bursaries will be awarded from Jul/Aug 2010. 

Masters of DRH
1952 – 1967 : V. Thambipillai
1968 – 1969 : John A. Jansen
1970 – 1981 : Lawrence Chia 

Masters of Sheares Hall
1981 – 2003 : Lawrence Chia
2003 – present : Gary Tan

Low Kwee Fah

Dunearn road hostel farewell dinner. (1981, August 26) [Microfilm: NL11207]. The Straits Times, p. 10.

Hostel’s study fund. (1978, January 17) [Microfilm: NL9556]. The Straits Times, p. 11.

Hussin, A. (1982, November 28) [Microfilm: NL13603]. Nostalgia was the order of the day. The Straits Times, p. 19.

In Singapore, too …heavy rain and high tide cause floods. (1967, January 12) [Microfilm: NL12189]. The Straits Times, p. 6.

NUS may name new hostel after Sheares. (1981, July 21) [Microfilm: NL11182]. The Straits Times, p. 7.

The Psyche, (64/65).Singapore: Dunearn Hostels, University of Singapore. p. 11.
(Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 P)

The Psyche, (65/66). Singapore: Dunearn Hostels, University of Singapore. pp. 5, 17.
(Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 P)

The Psyche, (66/67) Singapore: Dunearn Hostels, University of Singapore. p. 5, 25-27, 100.
(Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 P)

The Psyche, (77/78).Singapore: Dunearn Hostels, University of Singapore. pp. 12-15.
(Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 P)

The Psyche, (81/82).Singapore: Dunearn Hostels, University of Singapore.
(Call no. RCLOS 378.5957 P)

Woon, T. (2002). Dare to reach the highest. Singapore: Sheares Hall, National University of Singapore.
(Call no: ENGLISH 378.19871095957 DAR)

The information in this article is valid as at 2009 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.

Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Residential Buildings
Student housing--Singapore
National University of Singapore--Student housing
Residential buildings
Arts>>Architecture>>Residential buildings
Education>>Higher education>>Colleges and universities

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