Maverick Citizen

STUDENT ACCOMMODATION

Auditor-General lauds completion of residence projects at three varsities

Auditor-General lauds completion of residence projects at three varsities
A new student residence at the North West University, Mahikeng campus. (Photo: Supplied)

North-West University, Nelson Mandela University and the University of the Western Cape have built new residences that have helped increase beds for students. The projects were largely on budget and on time.

Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke has hailed the completion of new residences at three universities — North-West University (NWU), Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC) — in the government’s housing programme initiative.

According to the consolidated general report on national and provincial audit outcomes for 2022-23 tabled by Maluleke in Parliament on 29 November, students often live in poor and unsafe conditions in decaying parts of a city, in informal settlements or areas far from their campuses.

Auditor-GeneralTsakani Maluleke. (Photo: Phill Magakoe)

“Where on-campus accommodation is available, residences are often overcrowded and in a rundown condition,” the report reads.

Faced with these accommodation challenges, the Department of Higher Education and Training launched the Student Housing Infrastructure Programme (Ship) to provide safe, accessible, affordable and decent student accommodation.

The programme aims to accelerate the roll-out of 300,000 student beds at 26 universities and 50 technical and vocational education and training colleges over 10 years.

It came into effect following an agreement between the department and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) on 23 July 2019.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Nzimande focuses education budget on student accommodation, new colleges, 4IR

The AG’s report says that affordable student accommodation will alleviate financial pressure on students and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

In 2022-23, 5,936 of the planned 6,248 student beds for the year were added at a cost of R1.52-billion.

“The project was completed ahead of schedule at NWU and NMU, and only 13 days after the planned completion date at the University of the Western Cape,” the report reads.

Ship success

The AG’s office found that the following contributed to the success of the projects:

  • Implementing proper procurement and contracting processes, such as appointing reputable, competent and experienced contractors;
  • Harnessing stakeholder engagement and governance — the main contractors appointed local labourers and subcontractors, and the DBSA (as implementing agent), the department (as contracting department), student housing infrastructure team and Infrastructure South Africa all collaborated; and
  • Ensuring project management by all stakeholders through monthly steering committee meetings to oversee and monitor the projects, including monitoring their status and progress; and addressing quality, health and safety challenges and risks.

Amounts

The report shows that:

  • The project at NWU was budgeted for R462-million but the actual expenditure was R455-million and it was completed in August 2022;
  • At NMU, the project was budgeted for R573-million but the actual expenditure was R551-million and it was completed in January 2023; and
  • At UWC, the project was budgeted for R670-million. The actual expenditure totalled R516-million and it was completed in February 2023.

NWU

NWU spokesperson Louis Jacobs confirmed the budgeted amount but said the actual spending on the project was R463.6-million.

The project added 1,728 beds.

“This addition pushed the number of beds on the Mahikeng campus up from 2,986 beds to 4,714 beds. The total beds on campus now provide accommodation to 31% of the total number of contact students on the Mahikeng campus,” Jacobs said.

He said the beds were occupied for the full year in 2023.

“Fifty percent of the total beds were ready in January 2022 and students occupied the available beds fully. During 2022, the remaining 50% were in construction and by February 2023 all 1,728 were ready for occupation,” he said.

Jacobs said the funding of the project came from three sources — the department’s grant, a DBSA loan and the university’s own funds.

The full amount of the department’s grant was utilised, 90.6% of the loan from DBSA was used and the university’s funding was also used in full, including overspending of R1.6-million.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Eight of SA’s 26 public universities fail to get clean audits

Jacobs said the project was managed by a highly experienced NWU internal facilities team.

Its success, he said, was also due to the strong risk management, which entailed spreading the project among four contracting companies.

The additional beds pushed the ratio of on-campus students in residences up from 19.9% to 31.3% of the total number of contact students on the Mahikeng campus.

“There is a further need for beds and ideally, the NWU would want to accommodate at least 50% of the contact students in residences on campus. This would then require another 2,800 beds,” Jacobs said.

NMU

NMU spokesperson Primarashni Gower said the project enabled them to provide an additional 2,000 beds on the George and Gqeberha campuses funded by the department’s grant.

The project was completed before January 2023 to meet the ever-growing demand for student accommodation.

It provided:

  • 200 beds at the George Campus, and work was completed before the pandemic began in March 2020;
  • 1,000 beds for the South Campus in Gqeberha and residences were opened late in 2021;
  • 800 beds for the North Campus, also in Gqeberha and 688 were available in January 2023.

“The remaining monies (R22-milllion) were used to enhance the new projects, particularly from a sustainability perspective with the introduction of boreholes and water tanks, as well as fencing and other security initiatives,” Gower said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Nelson Mandela University’s conundrum – online teaching when 35% of students don’t have digital access

The new residences, she said, meant the Gqeberha campuses now had more than 5,000 beds.

“Additionally, [NMU] now has about 15,000 accredited off-campus beds for its 30,000 students.”

While great strides had been made to address the need for student accommodation in Gqeberha and George, Gower said, much work lay ahead to increase the accommodation.

The university’s accreditation process with private landlords to provide accommodation was ongoing, along with efforts to increase its on-campus bed numbers.

The university has high-level conceptual designs in place for an additional 2,000 beds.

UWC 

“We are proud to indicate that our new 2,700-bed capacity Unibell student residence started to accommodate students at the beginning of 2023,” spokesperson Gasant Abarder said.

He said this enabled the university to accommodate 1,700 first-year students in 2023 compared with 670 first-year students in 2022.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Students from UWC’s Hector Peterson Residence in court battle to declare ‘forced evictions’ unlawful

Full occupation, Abarder said, was achieved with returning and postgraduate students shortly after the commencement of the academic year.

“The R516-million budget mentioned was for construction and professional fees only. This excluded the cost of land and fit-out. The total cost amounts to R668-million.”

He said their new student accommodation was made possible through a public and private partnership between the university and various branches of government.

“The success of the project is attributable to the teams who committed to work extra hours to make up the lost time during the Covid-19 restrictions and Eskom load shedding programme.” DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • John Patson says:

    Presume the architect was Chinese — you see a lot of similar accommodation in China. No thought that people, (a category which believe it or not, includes students) benefit from greenery and space — just cram them in a build them high. It is cheaper, I know, but brutalising.

  • Sihle Sigwebela says:

    All three projects ran under budget? What’s wrong with the residences?

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