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Student housing queues grow longer

With the 2018 academic year approaching, universities in KwaZulu-Natal continue to struggle to accommodate applications from thousands of prospective students. Three of the province’s leading institutions – the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) – have received more than 300000 applications. The huge number of applications reflects the province’s shortfall in coping with the demand for enrolment, and highlights the need for student accommodation, which has become a contentious issue that has triggered student protests. UKZN has received the highest number of applications at 212352. Its most popular programme is its education degree course, which drew 20286 applications. The social work degree course registered 16511 applications and the science and nursing degree courses more than 15000 applicants. “Our enrolment target was 44956 students for the 2017 academic year. In 2018, we estimate that the number of students enrolled to be around 45651,” said UKZN spokesperson Normah Zondo. The university’s student housing department was sourcing extra accommodation, Zondo said. “The demand for accommodation always exceeds availability. We are hoping to accommodate approximately 17500 students in the 2018 academic year,” she said. To prevent student disruptions over accommodation issues, Zondo said the university’s executive management had been meeting student representatives to avoid potential problems. DUT has received 76234 applications, but spokesperson Alan Khan said it did not anticipate a drastic increase in this year’s enrolment of 29689. To avoid protests, which often marred the January registration, Khan said DUT management had continuously engaged student leadership. DUT has 6695 beds in Durban and 3216 beds catering for the two Pietermaritzburg campuses. MUT has received 37184 applications, but spokesperson Bheki Hlophe said it had room for only 3750 new students. Accommodation was also an ongoing challenge for MUT, which had only 5500 beds available for students, he said. The bulk of MUT’s total student population, which is likely to be around 11500, requires accommodation. For most universities, admission to residence was allocated on the basis of students fulfilling academic admission requirements, as well as the needs of students who were unable to commute daily from their homes to the university, and that included those living with disabilities. Sibonisiwe Gumbi, who co-owns an apartment building in the city centre, said she had already started receiving calls from students who planned to move to Durban in the new year. “We had about 40 students this year and most will be graduating, but the waiting list for space is already more than we can accommodate and it’s the same every year,” she said. Gumbi said some of her tenants came from Zululand and the Eastern Cape. “Affordable student accommodation is a serious problem in Durban. Students want convenience – they want to be in the city and live close to campus because they want to be able to hang out with their friends. So living in places like KwaMashu or uMlazi is often the last option, even though it could be cheaper,” she said. UKZN has processed most of the applications and offers have been made to students. With regard to easing the burden that came with the registration period in January, all the universities encouraged students to use the online registration system to avoid queues. “The university has overhauled its registration process to improve the student experience by introducing a pilot ‘one-stop-shop registration’ for 2018 on the Westville and Howard College campuses,” said Zondo. “On these campuses, students will be able to access all registration services and processes at a central venue. So students with unfavourable term results will be able to access counselling facilities at the same venue in which they register.” Khan said DUT was processing all applications in advance, with thousands of students having already been given conditional offers of places. “DUT is also informing applicants in advance about any available space at the residences, if their application was successful,” he said. (Source: Sunday Tribune, 31/12/2017)