Studentification and Urban Change in South Africa

  • James J. GregoryEmail author
Part of the GeoJournal Library book series (GEJL)


Studentification is a relatively recent addition to urban studies and explores the economic, cultural and social impact of students residing in privately rented accommodation near higher education institutions. This emerging form of urban change has mainly received attention in the context of the global North, particularly the United Kingdom, with limited attention in the global South. In the South African context, there is evidence of the growth of a private student housing sector. Limited academic attention, however, has been paid to studentification in South Africa, except for case studies in Stellenbosch, Bloemfontein and Braamfontein in Johannesburg. Drawing on limited published academic material this review is supplemented by articles in popular press, government and property research reports to examine the development and growth of the private student housing sector and its linkages to studentification and urban change in South Africa.


Studentification South Africa Higher education Urban change 


  1. Ackermann, A., & Visser, G. (2016). Studentification in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Bulletin of Geography. Socio-economic Series, 31, 7–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Africa Property News. (2015, March 15). Student accommodation entices private money in Africa. Retrieved from
  3. Akoojee, S., & Nkomo, M. (2007). Access and quality in South African higher education: The twin challenges of transformation. South African Journal of Higher Education, 21(3), 385–399.Google Scholar
  4. Allen, C. (2008). Housing market renewal and social class. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Allison, J. (2006). Over-educated, over-exuberant and over here? The impact of students on cities. Planning, Practice & Research, 21(1), 79–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Anderson, A. (2017, August 2). Student digs fund targets JSE niche. Business Day. Retrieved from
  7. Anderson, A. (2018, April 24). Why student housing specialist Inkunzi pulled the plug on listing. Business Day. Retrieved from
  8. Benn, J. D. (2010). Studentifikasie in Stellenbosch. Master’s thesis, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.Google Scholar
  9. Boersma, K., Langen, H., & Smets, P. (2013). Paradoxes of studentification: Social mix versus gentrification in a disadvantaged neighbourhood in Amsterdam East. The Open Urban Studies Journal, 6(1), 40–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Booysen, S. (2016). Fees must fall: Student revolt, decolonisation and governance in South Africa. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brookfield, K. (2018). Studentified areas as contested heterotopias: Findings from Southampton. Area, 1–10.Google Scholar
  12. Bunting, I. (2004). The higher education landscape under apartheid. In N. Cloete, P. Maassen, R. Fehnel, T. Moja, H. Perold, & T. Gibbon (Eds.), Transformation in higher education—Global pressures and local realities in South Africa (pp. 35–53). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  13. Chatterton, P. (1999). University students and city centres—The formation of exclusive geographies. The case of Bristol, UK. Geoforum, 30, 117–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chatterton, P. (2000). The cultural role of universities in the community: Revisiting the university-community debate. Environment and Planning A, 32, 165–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chatterton, P. (2010). The student city: An ongoing story of neoliberalism, gentrification, and commodification. Environment and Planning A, 42(3), 509–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chatterton, P., & Hollands, R. (2002). Theorising urban playscapes: Producing, regulating and consuming youthful nightlife city spaces. Urban Studies, 39(1), 95–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chibelushi, W. (2017, April 7). Should you invest in African student housing? African Business Review. Retrieved from
  18. Christie, H., Munro, M., & Rettig, H. (2002). Accommodating students. Journal of Youth Studies, 5(2), 209–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Clark, B. R. (1998). The entrepreneurial university: Demand and response. Tertiary Education and Management, 4(1), 5–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cloete, N. (2004). Policy expectations. In N. Cloete, P. Maassen, R. Fehnel, T. Moja, H. Perold, & T. Gibbon (Eds.), Transformation in higher education—Global pressures and local realities in South Africa (pp. 53–66). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  21. Davids, N., & Waghid, Y. (2016, October 10). #FeesMustFall: History of South African student protests reflects inequality’s grip. Mail & Guardian. Retrieved from
  22. Davison, G. (2009). Carlton and the campus: The university and the gentrification of inner Melbourne 1958–75. Urban Policy and Research, 27(3), 253–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Department of Higher Education and Training. (2011). Report on the ministerial committee for the review of the provision of student housing at South African universities. Retrieved from
  24. Department of Higher Education and Training. (2018). Statistics on post-school education and training in South Africa 2016. Retrieved from
  25. Development Bank of Southern Africa. (2010a). Transformation in higher education: A briefing paper. Retrieved from
  26. Development Bank of Southern Africa (2010b). The challenges of transformation in higher education and training institutions in South Africa. Retrieved from
  27. Donaldson, R., Campbel, M., Benn, J., & de Jager, A. (2014). Reshaping urban space through studentification in two South African urban centres. Urbani Izziv, 25, 176–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fabula, S., Boros, L., Kovács, Z., Horváth, D., & Pál, V. (2017). Studentification, diversity and social cohesion in post-socialist Budapest. Hungarian Geographical Bulletin, 66(2), 157–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fedha, N., Murenga, H., & Bor, E. (2017). Effects of off campus students’ activities on well-being of community neighbouring Egerton University, Nakuru County, Kenya. International Journal of Innovative Research and Development, 6(5), 47–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fincher, R., & Shaw, K. (2009). The unintended segregation of transnational students in central Melbourne. Environment and Planning A, 41(8), 1884–1902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Foote, N. S. (2017). Beyond studentification in United States College Towns: Neighborhood change in the knowledge nodes, 1980–2010. Environment and Planning A, 49(6), 1341–1360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Garmendia, M., Coronado, J. M., & Ureña, J. M. (2012). University students sharing flats: When studentification becomes vertical. Urban Studies, 49(12), 2651–2668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Grabkowska, M., & Frankowski, J. (2016). ‘Close to the city centre, close to the university’. Are there symptoms of studentification in Gdańsk, Poland? Bulletin of Geography. Socio-economic Series, 32(32), 73–83.Google Scholar
  34. Gregory, J. J., & Rogerson, J. M. (2019). Studentification and commodification of student lifestyle in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Urbani Izziv, 30, 178–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Greve, N. (2015, February 18). South Africa could soon see dedicated student housing REIT—Nedbank. Engineering News. Retrieved from
  36. He, S. (2015). Consuming urban living in ‘villages in the city’: Studentification in Guangzhou, China. Urban Studies, 52(15), 2849–2873.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Holdsworth, C. (2009). ‘Going away to uni’: Mobility, modernity, and independence of English higher education students. Environment and Planning A, 41(8), 1849–1864.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hollands, R. (2002). Divisions in the dark: Youth cultures, transitions and segmented consumption spaces in the night-time economy. Journal of Youth Studies, 5(2), 153–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Holton, M. (2016). Living together in student accommodation: Performances, boundaries and homemaking. Area, 48(1), 57–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hubbard, P. (2008). Regulating the social impacts of studentification: A Loughborough case study. Environment and Planning A, 40(2), 323–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hubbard, P. (2009). Geographies of studentification and purpose-built student accommodation: Leading separate lives? Environment and planning A, 41(8), 1903–1923.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Jansen, J. D. (2004). Changes and continuities in South Africa’s higher education system, 1994–2004. In L. Chisholm (Ed.), Changing class: Education and social change in post-apartheid South Africa (pp. 293–314). London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  43. Jones Lang Lasalle. (2016). Student housing: A new asset class in sub-Saharan Africa. Retrieved from
  44. Kilian, A. (2017, October 25). First student-focused REIT to list on JSE. Engineering News. Retrieved from
  45. Kinton, C., Smith, D. P., & Harrison, J. (2016). De-studentification: Emptying housing and neighbourhoods of student populations. Environment and Planning A, 48(8), 1617–1635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Laidley, T. M. (2014). The privatization of college housing: Poverty, affordability, and the US public university. Housing Policy Debate, 24(4), 751–768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Lees, L. (2003). Super-gentrification: The case of Brooklyn Heights, New York City. Urban Studies, 40(12), 2487–2509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Maassen, P., & Cloete, N. (2004). Global reform trends in higher education. In N. Cloete, P. Maassen, R. Fehnel, T. Moja, H. Perold, & T. Gibbon (Eds.), Transformation in higher education—Global pressures and local realities in South Africa (pp. 7–35). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  49. Mahlaka, R. (2017, July 28). Inkunzi wealth group plans student housing JSE listing. Moneyweb. Retrieved from
  50. Malet Calvo, D. (2017). Understanding international students beyond studentification: A new class of transnational urban consumers. The example of Erasmus students in Lisbon (Portugal). Urban Studies, 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Muller, S. M. (2018, January 25). Free higher education in South Africa: Cutting through the lies and statistics. Mail & Guardian. Retrieved from
  52. Munro, M., Turok, I., & Livingston, M. (2009). Students in cities: A preliminary analysis of their patterns and effects. Environment and Planning A, 41(8), 1805–1825.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Nakazawa, T. (2017). Expanding the scope of studentification studies. Geography Compass, 11(1), 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pickren, G. (2012). “Where Can I Build My Student Housing?” The politics of studentification in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia. South-Eastern Geographer, 52(2), 113–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Presidency. (2014). Twenty-year review: South Africa 1994–2014. Retrieved from
  56. Russo, A. P., & Tatjer, L. C. (2007). From citadels of education to Cartier Latins (and back?): The changing landscapes of student populations in European cities. Geography Compass, 1(5), 1160–1189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sage, J., Smith, D., & Hubbard, P. (2012a). The diverse geographies of studentification: Living alongside people not like us. Housing Studies, 27(8), 1057–1078.Google Scholar
  58. Sage, J., Smith, D., & Hubbard, P. (2012b). The rapidity of studentification and population change: There goes the (student) hood. Population, Space and Place, 18(5), 597–613.Google Scholar
  59. Sage, J., Smith, D., & Hubbard, P. (2013). New-build studentification: A panacea for balanced communities? Urban Studies, 50(13), 2623–2641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Smith, D. (2002). Patterns and processes of studentification in leeds. The Regional Review, 12(1), 15–16.Google Scholar
  61. Smith, D. (2005). Studentification: The gentrification factory. In R. Atkinson & G. Bridge (Eds.), Gentrification in a global context: The new urban colonialism (pp. 73–90). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  62. Smith, D. (2008). The politics of studentification and (un)balanced urban populations: Lessons for gentrification and sustainable communities? Urban Studies, 45(12), 2541–2564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Smith, D. (2009). Guest editorial: Student geographies. Environment and Planning A, 41(8), 1795–1804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Smith, D., & Butler, T. (2007). Conceptualising the socio-spatial diversity of gentrification: ‘to boldly go’ into contemporary gentrified spaces, the ‘final frontier’? Environment and Planning A, 39, 2–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Smith, D., & Holt, L. (2007). Studentification and ‘apprentice’ gentrifiers within Britain’s provincial towns and cities: Extending the meaning of gentrification. Environment and Planning A, 39(1), 142–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Smith, D., & Hubbard, P. (2014). The segregation of educated youth and dynamic geographies of studentification. Area, 46(1), 92–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Smith, D., Sage, J., & Balsdon, S. (2014). The geographies of studentification: ‘here, there and everywhere’? Geography, 99(3), 116–127.Google Scholar
  68. South African Commercial Property News. (2011, December 7). Hundreds of refurbished student apartments up for grabs in Jozi. Retrieved from
  69. South African Commercial Property News. (2012a, January 11). Student accommodation developments breathing new life into city centres. Retrieved from
  70. South African Commercial Property News. (2012b, January 25). Stylish student accommodation Johannesburg’s new gold. Retrieved from
  71. South African Commercial Property News. (2012c, June 13). Demand for student accommodation spikes in South Africa. Retrieved from
  72. South African Government. (2015). Policy on minimum norms and standards for student housing at public universities. Retrieved from
  73. Tuncer, T., & İslam, T. (2017). Studentification as a new form of gentrification: Changing neighborhood dynamics in Bosna Hersek neighborhood (Konya). Journal of Planning, 27(3), 303–313.Google Scholar
  74. Visser, G., & Kisting, D. (2019). Studentification in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Urbani Izziv, 30, 158–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Williams, G. (2016, May 30). Unlocking value in student accommodation. Fin24. Retrieved from
  76. Woldoff, R. A., & Weiss, K. G. (2018). Studentification and disorder in a College Town. City & Community, 17(1), 259–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesNorth-West UniversityMahikengSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations