Student Accommodation Benchmarking

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Student Accommodation Benchmarking

Important factors to take note of when choosing student accommodation.

Due to increased Government and Private sector funding for Higher Education over the last decade, South Africa has experienced a subsequent spike in demand for student accommodation. The pressure of increased enrolment has produced a focus on the number of beds available, while the quality of the existing accommodation leaves much to be desired.

After visiting several institutions of learning, the National Department of Higher Education and Training compiled a report on the state of student accommodation around the country. The report listed standards and measures to look for in student accommodation. Also noteworthy was the link established between student housing and academic success; this will be discussed in detail in an upcoming blog. This blog highlights and discusses the Components of Quality, as per the Ministerial Committee Report, and link these with the features of Westwood Lodge.

Residential Learning Communities: Also known as "Residential colleges" or "Living-learning communities", Residential Learning Communities integrate the academic and accommodation experience. These communities tend to be premised on homogeneity, course or level of study. This accommodation type is touted as improving retention as students in such communities are reported to spend more time talking about their academics and studying outside the classroom.

As a Student Estate, Westwood Lodge is a residential learning community. The academic, lodging and social experiences are enjoyed simultaneously with student residents accommodated on an estate that is purpose built to cater to students' needs. Westwood Lodge has a broad student community with students from various institutions of learning, specialised, private and public, around Durban housed on the estate. This includes students at various levels of their studies, from undergraduate to Doctoral and research fellows. Homes and rooms are allocated according to field and level of study as this promotes continued academic discussion outside the classroom. Westwood Estate also offers a study lab which is a quiet study facility for students to continue their studies in a dedicated study facility.

Quality Standards:
1. Adequate space: Student accommodation needs to provide space for students to live, store possessions/ books and study. The recommended room size for single accommodation is 9m², 13,3m² for a double room. On inspection by the Department of Higher Education and Training, most student accommodation visited provided less than that with an average of 6 - 7m² accommodation quite common, inclusive of food preparation areas.

Each cluster home on Westwood Lodge has five bedrooms, with the option of single or sharing (double) rooms; and a studio option available to postgraduates and research fellows. All rooms are fully furnished and fitted for comfortable lodging, easy and safe storage. Each room is equipped with en-suite bathroom. Rooms are a standard 13m², whether single or sharing. The studios are fully furnished self-contained units which are also en-suite. Studio room size is 25,7m². These room sizes provide ample space for living, storage and studying.

2. Shared facilities: Access to shared facilities which includes laundries, bathrooms, sitting areas, TV and games rooms is another important feature for quality student accommodation. These facilities provide comfort and convenience of use for students to socialise, groom and maintain their belongings.

Our student estate provides fully furnished accommodation including en-suite bathrooms per room, laundry facilities per house, tv area, lounge area and kitchen per house. In addition to the laundry facilities provided, each house is equipped with a courtyard drying area for the residents of the house. The social spaces in the houses are the lounge and tv areas equipped with satellite tv channels; an open plan space for communal use. Westwood Lodge also has space for larger resident gatherings. These are in the form of a covered entertainment area, swimming pool deck and braai areas.

3. Students eating regular meals: Nutrition is a pivotal part of lifestyle. Student nutrition is essential to academic performance as this contributes to concentration levels and retention of information.

As a self-catering facility, Westwood Lodge provides the necessary catering equipment for students to prepare their meals and store their food items. This is in the form of built in stove and oven, a microwave oven, toaster and kettle; these are provided to each house. Houses are also equipped with fridges, a sink and lockable cupboards for food storage and preparation.

4. Safety and Security: Safety and security is a primary human need. This entails having relevant safety measures and features in place to ensure peace of mind. The traditional security guard at a gate has proven ineffective. Fortunately, technology has become a reliable aid with many technological appliances available as tools for security.

Our residents’ safety is paramount to us. Westwood Lodge is a secured estate with a dedicated security team that has permanent presence onsite. The estate is patrolled hourly ensuring vigilance and visibility of security personnel. Access to the estate is controlled by biometric system. This feature not only ensures that access is restricted to residents, it also keeps record of who is on the estate. Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) also aides in keeping record of people and vehicles entering and exiting the estate; as well as record of any incidents of concern.

5. Well maintained built environment: The state of repair and time taken to attend to maintenance of facilities ensures that general functionality and aesthetic of facilities are in mint condition. First impressions contribute to decision-making and a well-maintained facility presents a good image of an institution.

Maintenance and upkeep of Westwood Estate and its facilities is attended to by a dedicated maintenance staff. The landscape, buildings, fittings, furnishing and infrastructure are inspected and monitored daily. Residents are also encouraged to report defects that they have identified, and these are attended to promptly.

6. Responsive Management: Availability and responsiveness of staff is pivotal to the overall student experience. Student life extends beyond academic and lodging matters.

Westwood Lodge has an approachable and professional staff complement managing student and estate matters. This includes a dedicated official located on the estate 24 hours a day for any potential eventualities and/ or emergencies.