Student housing demand remains a hurdle

Johannesburg – A study by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank, has laid bare the challenges faced by South Africa’s higher education sector in providing enough beds for the ever-growing student population.

South Africa’s post-school education and training sector comprises 26 public universities, 50 public technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, nine community education and training colleges and numerous private universities and private colleges.

The IFC’s report, The Student Housing Landscape in South Africa, as of 2020, says there were about 223 000 purpose- built student beds available for public universities and TVET college students.

“Given a calculated combined enrolment of 1.19-million postschool education students at these institutions in 2020, and a bed-to-student provision ratio of 68%, there is an estimated supply- demand gap of 511 600 beds.

“With enrolments set to grow to almost 1.6-million by 2025, this demand gap is set to grow to 781 000 beds by 2025. Of this demand gap for student beds, approximately 59% will be for TVET colleges,” the report says.

Sunday World reported in March that eight South African higher education institutions could soon be home to new residential facilities should various feasibility studies by the government pan out.

Walter Sisulu University in Eastern Cape would add 3 200 new beds should the feasibility study make a strong case. The University of Johannesburg is earmarked for 2 048 new beds, Lephalale TVET College 1 200, Sekhukhune TVET College 1 500 and Central University of Technology 2 000 new beds. Cape Peninsula University of Technology is in line to get 2 150 beds and Northlink TVET College could soon be able to house 1 500 more students. The Treasury has put the price tag of the mooted projects at R3.2-billion.

Feasibility studies on other projects have already been concluded and include a study on Tshwane University of Technology, which could see the institution open doors to 3 500 more students; the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s 3 000 new bed project; Gert Sibande’s 1 500 bed infrastructure plan and Majuba TVET College is in line for 1 500 new beds. Adamou Labara from the IFC said: “A partnership between the public and the private sector will be critical to achieve the ambitious targets set by the government of South Africa to meet student housing demand.”

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