Dunearn Road Hostels

Dunearn Road Hostels (DRH) was opened in 1952 to provide accommodation for overseas undergraduates of the 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
The genesis of DRH 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. With the proposed move of the university to Johor Bahru, DRH was originally planned as a temporary hostel sited opposite the campus at College Green along Dunearn Road. 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 upper floor as lounges.3

The 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, an attempt to completely shut down the hostel and convert it 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. In the following year, the hostel was refurbished with donations from 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. 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, as well as an air-conditioned reading room and 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 4 feet of water.8

In celebration of its 25th anniversary, the hostel introduced the DRH Silver Jubilee Award in 1977. This was a scholarship fund created to encourage and recognise outstanding residents’ contributions to the hostel, starting with a S$15,000 donation from the Lee Foundation. The award 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. The new hostel constructed at Kent Ridge was named after Benjamin Henry Sheares, then chancellor of NUS.10 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.11

DRH/SH Alumni Endowment Fund
In October 2009, a group of DRH/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 set, and successfully 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. The fund is managed centrally by NUS, with Sheares Hall administering the selection process.12

Masters of DRH13
1952–1967: V. Thambipillai

1968–1969: John A. Jansen
1970–1981: Lawrence Chia


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. “NUS May Name New Hostel after Sheares,” Straits Times, 21 July 1981, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
11. National University of Singapore, Dare to Reach the Highest (Singapore: Sheares Hall, National University of Singapore, 2002), 16. (Call no. RDET 378.19871095957 DAR)
12. “Financial Aid,” National University of Singapore, accessed 20 January 2017
13. “History,” National University of Singapore, accessed 20 January 2017.

The information in this article is valid as of 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.


Student housing--Singapore
National University of Singapore--Student housing
Residential buildings