The largest student housing project ever undertaken by a South African public university is currently under development at the University of Fort Hare (UFH).
Developed by student accommodation group STAG African, the student village includes a new student centre and a dedicated postgraduate accommodation block.
Phase one of the project, completed in 2014, saw 610 beds made available to the university.
Completion of phase two, set to cost R400 million, will bring the total number of beds handed over to 2,047 – giving UFH the highest ratio of students to beds in the country.
“Lack of accommodation is one of the biggest challenges we face at the University of Fort Hare. Most of our students come from rural areas and do not have accommodation options when they arrive here,” said vice-chancellor of UFH, professor Sakhela Buhlungu.
“Currently, our residences are barely able to accommodate 50% of our student population on our Alice campus. Our aim with this project is to house 65% of our students on this campus,” says Buhlungu.
The project is being funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the European Union.
Construction on phase two of the project is expected to be completed by October 2020.
Government has previously acknowledged that it needs an additional 300,000 beds to accommodate the nation’s students.
The student housing crisis is a result of a growth in demand for higher education in recent years, it said.
It added that the lack of accommodation has been directly liked to higher failure and dropout rates for first-year students.
Studies confirm that students who live on-campus have a 25% greater chance of passing than students who are not residents on campus, said co-founder of STAG African, John Schooling.
“When a student is placed in temporary accommodation or is required to stay in accommodation that is unsafe, overcrowded and unhygienic, it’s no surprise when they can’t cope,” said Schooling.
“We need to create the right conditions for academic success, and that starts with providing good accommodation. Once we do that, students can focus on achieving the results they need to be successful.”