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Critical shortfall of student accommodation

More than 200 000 university students as well as a further 400 000 Further Education and Training (FET) students will be left without adequate housing when the university year kicks off in February 2015. A boom in higher education has resulted in a major accommodation shortfall, with university heads conceding that the situation has reached crisis levels.

The student accommodation shortfall has been directly linked to the high student failure and first-year dropout rate at universities around the country. “The likelihood of a first year student passing is increased from 60% to 80% if they stay in residence,” John Schooling, MD of the Student Accommodation Group, STAG African said. “The negative pass rate is even more staggering at previously disadvantaged universities, where it is common for six or more students to share a room, simply because there is no alternative.”

“The solution to the crisis in our universities is through the provision of well-designed student accommodation,” Pieter Kloppers, the Director of Student Communities at the University of Stellenbosch said. “We are currently in the process of increasing our capacity to meet the demand for residences. Accommodation for students is more than providing a place to sleep; it’s about creating communities; a listening, learning and living environment. This is crucial to the success of the housing facilities provided by the university.”

With university budgets facing major constraints and cutbacks from national government, many have prioritised academic and teaching facilities ahead of upgrading or building new university residences.

“Many students are forced to live in appalling conditions that are unsafe, overcrowded, unhygienic and not conducive to studying,” Angela Church, spokesperson for Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha said.

“Lack of accommodation is one of our biggest challenges, most of our students come from rural areas and do not have any accommodation options when they arrive here. Currently our residences are barely able to accommodate 30% of our student population – our ultimate aim is to house 50% of our students.”

Despite the increased allocations towards upgrading and new residences at some universities, rising maintenance costs, ageing residences and other problems have limited the growth options for student housing.

“Through optimal architectural design and product innovation, the cost of building student accommodation can be brought down dramatically,” Schooling said. “Our innovative designs ensure a cutting-edge residence that is sought after by students, at minimum cost to the commissioning university.”

Over the past six years, STAG African has provided more than 1 055 beds to universities, FET Colleges and schools across the country. The property developers are currently working on a 2 046-bed residence at the University of Fort Hare in Alice, a 240-bed residence at Walter Sisulu University’s Nelson Mandela Drive Campus in Mthatha and were recently awarded the tender for a 200-bed residence at Stellenbosch’s Tygerburg campus.

In an effort to reduce the student accommodation shortfall, STAG African have set their sights on providing 50 000-beds to the value of R11-billion over the next five years throughout Africa.

ENDS

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Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications

Beverley Houston

Beverley@be-cause.co.za

021 462 1723 / 082 824 8617

On behalf of STAG African

Director: John Schooling

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