SA Has A Shortage Of Over 400 000 Student Accommodation Beds

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Student accommodation remains one of the most frustrating challenges students find themselves dealing with when entering or returning to tertiary institutions. Although the Department of Higher Education and Training, alongside NSFAS, have pledged to resolve some of the problems, there is still a long way to go.


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The Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, recently revealed that over 400 000 beds are missing from student accommodation buildings associated with public universities and colleges.

A particular worry revolving the lack of beds is the effect it will have within rural-based universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.

The shocking revelation came during the Minister's annual speech regarding the tertiary education sector's state of readiness before institutions of higher learning reopen for the academic year. 

To address the problem of the beds shortage, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and its entity, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), will "employ the allocated budget for infrastructure and student accommodation to partner with investors and property developers, to stimulate the rapid construction of university residences in a manner that will enable the state to eventually own and control these assets", stated the Minister.

Student accommodation has been a long-standing issue within the higher education sector.

A multitude of complaints have been received over the years, including the struggle to secure accommodation in the first place due to overcrowded spaces, accommodation that is not within close enough range to a university or college's campus, poor infrastructure of the accommodation facilities, and the compromised safety on and off campuses. 

The shortage of decent student accommodation leaves students to pay the price, by exposing them to immense vulnerabilities, such as serious crimes and Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

The gloomy conditions students find themselves living in have made their university experience unbearable; conditions they have been living in for most of their study period. The students have said that not only was their accommodation uncomfortable, but it has also affected their ability to study.

Nzimande added that while NSFAS processes are still underway, all institutions will apply their own existing processes when it comes to allocating student accommodation; this includes both universities and TVET colleges.

The new reforms by NSFAS, will not apply in this current registration period. NSFAS will give institutions three months’ notice prior to the implementation of the new accommodation dispensation.

NSFAS has opened the new student accommodation portal on 9 December, 2022 and 44 Accreditation Agents were appointed to start with the accreditation of accommodation.

Since the opening of the portal, there have been 1120 accommodation providers that have applied on the site, with 574 272 beds listed. Nzimande has urged institutions and private accomodation providers to continue to apply for accreditation in the NSFAS-portal. 

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