The following letter was sent to the NUS community by University President, Professor Tan Eng Chye.
17 April 2020
Thank you for your hard work in addressing the various aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak measures since late January 2020, when the virus began to spread across the world. Everyone at NUS has worked assiduously in an enormous and unprecedented effort to keep our community safe, deliver our core academic mission, and contribute to the larger national and international fight against COVID-19. Colleagues have had to reinvent how we teach, learn and work in a rapidly evolving and uncertain environment, and through it all, we have built new capabilities in the way we operate.
We are an educational institution, and students are at the heart of what we do. In these difficult times, our students’ health and well-being are our utmost priority, and NUS has swiftly implemented a range of initiatives to support our students in various ways. Amongst others, NUS had moved swiftly to facilitate our exchange students’ return to Singapore, as well as supported students who were on Quarantine Orders / Stay Home Notices / Leave of Absence. NUS is also providing study spaces to students who do not have a conducive home environment for studying. On the academic front, apart from supporting our students’ e-learning, NUS has revised the exams and assignments schedule to allow for more flexibility and time for preparation. Our students may also exercise the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory option for up to 10 MCs for any module taken this semester.
In the midst of this pandemic, we recognise that there are students in our community who are experiencing financial hardship. COVID-19 has already hit Singapore’s economy, and the economic impact of the virus is projected to be more severe than SARS and the Global Financial Crisis. To help our students who are experiencing financial difficulties during this period, the University has set up an NUS Students Solidarity Fund. We will be raising donations from the NUS community to help needy students through this Fund.
The NUS Students Solidarity Fund has raised an initial sum of $220,000 from several alumni benefactors. With the initial sum raised, NUS will be giving a one-time Solidarity Grant of $400 in cash to our neediest students, whose monthly per capita family income is less than $150. This will provide our neediest students with immediate support and relief. Nearly 700 NUS students will be receiving the NUS Solidarity Grant, which is on top of the existing regular financial aid. The NUS Solidarity Grant for eligible students will be disbursed by early May 2020.
The University hopes to be in a position to extend some help to even more students. Many students in NUS are the first in their families to enter university, and a significant number of our students are from families whose per capita income is below $500 a month. We are also preparing for the likelihood that more students may need help, as there are students whose family income has been badly affected by the economic impact of COVID-19. Early last week, the Office of Financial Aid had sent an email to NUS undergraduates highlighting that they can apply for financial aid for AY2020/21 if their family’s financial situation has been adversely impacted, and over 100 applications have been received.
Here in Singapore, we are fortunate to have a Government that has the foresight to steer Singapore through this crisis, and the resources to support Singaporeans and families through this challenging period. All Singaporean adults have received a $600 Solidarity Payment in cash, and many Singapore Permanent Residents and Long Term Visit Pass+ holders are eligible for the $300 Solidarity Payment.
Many of us in the NUS community are in a position to be able to provide financial help to others who are in need. I would like to make a personal appeal to colleagues to consider contributing your Solidarity Payment, or any other financial sum, to the NUS Students Solidarity Fund. All donations are voluntary, and will be kept anonymous. Please click here to donate through a secure website managed by the NUS Development Office. The Individual Gift Form can be downloaded here for those who prefer an offline mode. Your donations to the NUS Students Solidarity Fund are tax deductible.
Donations to the NUS Students Solidarity Fund will be used to provide aid to needy students at the University so that these students can complete their NUS education without financial worry. Gifts to this Fund will also help address student financial needs that have been exacerbated by the current crisis. The Office of Financial Aid will work on the disbursement criteria, taking into account the amount raised, and based on each applicant’s need.
Many of you would have read about the significant financial impact of COVID-19 on universities around the world. I would like to assure you that NUS remains in a position of strength, though we will need to be even more prudent with our expenses going forward. We remain steadfastly committed to our staff – your jobs are secure, and we will push on with our development efforts to ensure that you are prepared and have the necessary skills for the challenges ahead. Many of you who are working from home are already part of the 4,300 Executive and Professional staff and Laboratory Technicians taking the online learning components of the Data Literacy Programme (DLP). My hope is that the DLP curriculum will provide you with valuable insights and new skills in this important field. A second staff training programme in Artificial Intelligence will also be launched soon.
Once again, I would like to thank all colleagues for your professionalism and commitment to NUS and to our students during these challenging times. Many of you have gone beyond the call of duty to assume a variety of roles, and to lend care and support to our colleagues and students. I sincerely thank you for your amazing and dedicated efforts.
Please stay home, stay safe and stay strong.
I look forward to seeing all of you back on campus when the situation improves.
Professor Tan Eng Chye