Student housing crisis hits SA

The Shackville protest at UCT placed the spotlight on bed shortages at South African universities. File picture: Cindy Waxa

The Shackville protest at UCT placed the spotlight on bed shortages at South African universities. File picture: Cindy Waxa

Published Jul 22, 2016


Cape Town - With bed shortages at South African universities estimated to amount to 216 000, Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande has called for “big and bold” solutions to tackle the backlog.

Nzimande was speaking at the Department of Higher Education and Training’s first student housing symposium, which was attended by vice-chancellors, property developers, student representatives and other role-players, held in Pretoria on Thursday.

Several protests this year, including the Shackville protest at UCT, placed the spotlight on the problem.

“We have been talking for a long time about the shortage of student housing. In particular, we have been discussing the challenge of funding student housing. Today we come together with a range of partners, both in government and in the private sector, not only to talk, but also to find lasting solutions,” Nzimande said.

He said the Ministerial Review of Student Housing at Universities that was conducted in 2011, gave the first real sense of the scale and severity of the student housing shortage.

It showed that 5 percent of first year students were housed in university residences and projected that the overall bed shortage would reach 216 000 this year.

“Moreover, by 2030, to meet the enrolment targets set out in the Post School Education and Training policy and the National Development Plan, an extra 400 000 beds would be needed.”

The report recommended that student housing should provide for 50 to 80 percent of students.

A survey conducted by the department last year of the 50 public Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges revealed that for the 710 000 college students, there were only 10 120 beds.

“Colleges can provide accommodation for only 1.4 percent of students - that is 1 in 70 students.”

Nzimande said that in 2012 he had acknowledged that the government would not be able to eradicate the 200 000 university beds shortage through its higher education budget and that situation had not changed.

At the time he appealed to the National Treasury and to Parliament to substantially increase the department’s allocation for student housing infrastructure, and invited the private sector to enter into public private partnerships to help eradicate the backlog.

“The results on both fronts have been disappointing.

“While we have made some progress in securing an increased budget allocation for student residences, it is nowhere near enough to meet the need.”

Projects at six institutions, set to commence this year, will provide about 7 000 new beds.

He said feasibility studies for another 7 000 beds would be completed by November.

“In the next six months, we will start projects with more beds than were built by the sector in the past three years.”

Student leaders at some Western Cape universities said accommodation remained a problem for many students at the institutions.

UCT SRC president Rorisang Moseli said the problem with student housing was that there were too few beds.

He said students had to find alternative accommodation in a property market that did not cater for students.

“Looking at NSFAS students who get about R3 500 for rental and the rest of the money is for food and transport.

“There is no accommodation that costs below R4 000 in the southern suburbs and it poses problems for students.”

He added he believed the institution needed to review its policy on how students were placed in residences.

He said the policy needed serious review.

“We need the private sector to come to the party.”

In February, UCT vice-chancellor Dr Max Price said the institution had accommodation for only about a quarter of its students.

Stellenbosch University SRC executive member Lwazi Pakade said they had raised their concerns with Nzimande earlier this year, and were surprised he was only giving the accommodation crisis his attention now after ignoring their complaints.

Cape Argus

Related Topics: