PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS OF MANAGING STUDENT HOTELS IN NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
According to Okoh (2004), Nigeria has the biggest university system in sub-Saharan Africa with 114 accredited tertiary institutions. More than 50% of these facilities have over 20,000 students each. Nigerian universities have experienced a significant rise in student enrolments over the past decades. However, the surge in students has not been matched by a corresponding growth in student accommodation and the available ones have not been properly managed. Figures from the National Universities Commission show that the provision of student housing is less than 30% of demand. The vast majority of students live in privately rented accommodation.
Bulk of “first generation” universities in Nigeria have stopped funding student accommodation. Many of the newer universities have taken the private sector participation route, although the quality of accommodation varies widely. The student enrolment in tertiary institutions is growing at an average of 12% per annum and the provision of new purpose-built student housing is limited. This in itself creates opportunities for the development of student housing in many cities in Nigeria.
Akpan (2000) suggests that developers could partner with universities in build-operate-transfer arrangements on new accommodation. There are also opportunities for better management of existing accommodation. “While the majority of institutions may be reluctant to give up control, the deteriorating condition of the majority of university-owned halls of residence indicates the need to manage these assets in a different way.” Student accommodation should also have a strong focus on innovation and sustainability. “Developers need to be innovative in their approach to design, supplying functional accommodation, which incorporates the basic needs of students and provides additional facilities and services including laundry, internet services, relatively constant electricity, water supply, shuttle services, etc. The university community should be at the forefront of sustainability issues, this should be reflected in development and management (FRN, 2008).”
Okoh (2004) added that in the future, the availability, quality and cost of student accommodation on offer will be a vital component for universities to lure good quality students. The increasing number of students in tertiary institutions in several Nigerian cities has caused serious accommodation problems and campus hostels can no longer cope with demand. Establishment of private hostels off-campus was initially perceived as a solution but landlords have taken advantage of the high demand by upping rentals and students are reeling under the financial burden. They have turned to the government for help.
There has been steady growth in the student population in tertiary institutions, most of which have been expanding their teaching, administrative and research infrastructures. But no effort has been made to provide more accommodation for students and staff.
This has allegedly been a deliberate resource allocation policy, with tertiary institutions – at the regional and national level – uninterested in committing funding to accommodation (Akpan, 1998).
Many tertiary institutions possess large amounts of land on which student hostels could be built. But it is claimed that private sector figures on university governing councils have discouraged government investment in building campus residences. Critics say that owners of houses and land near campuses made proposals to university authorities to build cheap and affordable accommodation for students. According to reliable sources, some university officials obtained bank loans to build hostels that are operated under holdings whose owners are often their relatives.
“The reason for this strange policy is not far-fetched. Members of the property class who have invested in the construction of these hostels would naturally want their investment to yield dividends,” explained Akpan (1998).
Today students are having a rough time at the hands of hostel owners whose primary obsession, has been alleged, is to maximize profit with little concern for students’ welfare. Students have also complained about the absence of a learning environment in private hostels. You get an impression that you are, at times, in a shopping mall when you enter most private hostels in Nigeria universities (Ubong, 2001).
A portion of these hostels are transformed into mini markets with hawkers. At night and during the weekend the hostels are very noisy and movements in and out of the hostels are not restricted.
However, the researcher will provide an overview on the problems and prospects of managing student hostel in Nigeria using University of Uyo Hostel as a case study.