higher education XXX. Picture: THINKSTOCK
higher education XXX. Picture: THINKSTOCK

Stadio, the fledgling tertiary-education venture, has put a large slab of prime real estate behind its much-mooted “multiversity” offering.

Stadio announced at an annual general meeting on Monday that it had snapped up almost 8ha of vacant land in Cape Town’s Durbanville to develop a new campus.

The news coincided with an upbeat trading update that showed student numbers at Stadio — boosted by recent acquisitions Lisof and Milpark — topping about 26,500.

This is considerably higher than Stadio’s prelisting forecasts and lends credence to the company’s contentions around strong latent demand for affordable private tertiary education.

Considering the second semester intake and the possibility of more acquisitions, Stadio CEO Chris van der Merwe believed student numbers could reach 30,000 by the end of 2018.

The Durbanville development will be Stadio’s first large greenfield investment and will be crucial in the company’s long-term goal of accommodating 100,000 students.

The company’s endeavours, so far, have mainly centred on niche acquisitions, although Stadio facilities have recently been constructed at Musgrave in Durban, Montana in Pretoria and Waterfall in Midrand. The plan now is to start the Durbanville campus development by March 2019 and have the campus operational by February 2021.

Stadio, unbundled from Curro Holdings and listed on the JSE in 2017, is still relatively small compared with the well-established tertiary offering of JSE-listed rival Advtech, which owns highly profitable brands such as Varsity College and Rosebank College.

Private tertiary institutions are prohibited from marketing courses under the “‘private university” banner, but Stadio has coined the term “multiversity” to cover its plans to offer a diverse tertiary curriculum.

Van der Merwe said the Durbanville development would carry a total cost of R450m. He said the campus would accommodate faculties including education, commerce and law as well as creative industries such as fashion design, advertising, marketing and communication and film-making. He said Stadio was actively exploring the feasibility of developing a school of engineering and a health, sciences and medical school.

He said this would require further engagement with various role players, notably the Council on Higher Education, the South African Qualifications Authority and the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Van der Merwe reckoned the campus would accommodate between 4,000 and 5,000 contact learning students over time.