Student accommodation has long been a challenge in South Africa. Each year, thousands of South African students enter the Post School Education and Training (PSET) sector, and each year more students are enrolling in university and college courses than the previous year.
However, not enough is being done to keep up with the increase in demand.
A student may need housing due to a number of reasons, including living far away from campus, not having access to reliable transportation to and from classes and financial circumstances. There are many different accommodation options available, such as on-campus housing, off-campus housing and private accommodation.
Yet, this is still not enough to meet the growing demand for student beds.
In January, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) revealed that there was a shortage of 400 000 student accommodation beds at tertiary education institutions. The institutions the hardest hit are universities located in rural areas and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.
In 2019, response to this issue, the Department established the Student Housing Infrastructure Programme (SHIP), with the aim of addressing the student accommodation backlog through the development of large student housing projects that will provide over 1 000 student beds each across universities and TVET colleges.
The main focus of SHIP is to address the challenges in rural and peri-urban areas first, as this is where the need for student housing is the most prominent. R1.4 billion was allocated towards the development of 13 005 student beds at the following institutions and campuses:
- University of Fort Hare (UFH) Alice Campus
- North-West University (NWU) Mahikeng Campus
- University of Limpopo (UL)
- University of Zululand (Unizulu)
- King Hintsa TVET College
- Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU)
At this stage, 3 165 beds have been completed, 5 500 are currently under construction and the construction of the remaining 4 340 has been scheduled. This falls under phase 1 of the SHIP.
In phase 2, R1.3 billion has been allocated towards the development of 6 300 beds at these rural and peri-urban institutions:
- Central University of Technology (CUT) Welkom Campus
- Gert Sibande TVET College
- Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) Ga-Rankuwa Campus
- Walter Sisulu University (WSU)
In addition, R1.2 billion has been allocated to student housing projects that are not under the SHIP and these projects are currently in progress. These projects are located at CUT Welkom Campus, TUT Ga-Rankuwa Campus, UL, Univen, WSU and Unizulu.
Another R1.2 billion has been allocated for previous projects which have already been completed at CUT Welkom Campus, NWU Mahikeng Campus, SMU, UFH Alice Campus, UL, Univen, Unizulu, WSU and UFS Qwa-Qwa Campus.
Although SHIP was first introduced and implemented four years ago, the South African PSET sector is still suffering a massive shortage of beds.
Department Minister, Blade Nzimande, also addressed the possibility of repurposing Government buildings to use as satellite campuses. The use of redundant buildings for this purpose has had to be managed at a regional and institutional level because a large percentage of these buildings are schools owned by Provincial Departments of Public Works.
However, the Department has begun the process of establishing a schedule of all redundant buildings that could be used as satellite campuses. This process was said to end at the end of last month.
The student accommodation crisis persists, particularly with the lack of safe and affordable housing currently available to students. However, last month the DHET revealed plans to provide 300 000 beds by 2030.