Given the rent increases that have occurred in recent years, the low supply of stock and the level of student households in the private rented sector and the projected increase in student numbers over the coming years, it can be argued that an increased provision of designated student accommodation, both on and off campus, has the potential, in the medium to long term, to ease ongoing demand pressures in the private rented accommodation sector.
Student accommodation has always been fairly agnostic when it comes to macro-economics. Apart from an estimate that universities can only provide 10% of their enrolled students accommodation, this does not even take into account the largely ignored student population at other tertiary institutions in the country like TVET colleges
The property relations of South African cities, established during the colonial and apartheid periods, today affect the political economy of higher education generally and the living experiences of students in particular.
Universities, old and new, are not immune from the economic challenges facing the nation and how these affect daily life.
Increased access to higher education post-1994 created an infrastructure crisis not only at the former white minority institutions. There is a demand for student accommodation at all institutions. With limited on-campus housing accommodation, the growth in off-campus student accommodation is huge. The department of higher education reveals that the majority of students reside in off-campus residences, which are spread across the cities.
The historical property relations of the cities affect the structure of each institution's education system. The property relations of the city determine where a particular student will live and the quality of life that student will have. The city's property relations determine the fees structure of the university and they affect its budgetary framework, its key priorities and the overall political economy of the institution.
It is now well documented that the last decade has seen an explosion in student enrolment in our residential university system, with enrolment reaching 535 433 in 2010 (538 210 in 2011) and expected to grow at a rate of about 2%. Strikingly, the number of beds available at residential universities in 2010 totalled 107 598, or 20% of total enrolment.
Research suggests that, internationally, about 50% of students live at home or with relatives; however, given the high levels of poverty in Africa and the unsuitability of the home environment for academic endeavour for the majority of students, suitable student accommodation needs to be provided for up to 100% of students in some contexts. The ideal bed capacity target recommended by the Committee ranges from 50% to 80%.