SUPPLIED: Student Digs vs Residence vs Private

Accommodation – What’s The Difference?

Finding the ideal student accommodation in Cape Town can be a massive challenge. There are so many different factors to consider when choosing from the different student accommodation options available. When looking at the pros and cons of different types of on-campus and off-campus accommodation you have to think about the lifestyle fit, proximity to your campus and transport routes, and much much more.

Take the stress out of making your decision by finding out the difference between residence, student digs, and private student accommodation in Cape Town.

Student digs 

The “Shared” living environment

Living in a digs means that you rent a room in a house occupied by students and young professionals. You’re likely to live co-ed with another 3-5 students (although house sizes vary) and have your own room, but share common spaces like the kitchen, lounge, and bathroom.

A student digs setup is a lot of fun. It’s less crowded than a traditional residence building which has dozens of rooms – but you still live alongside students of similar age, enrolled at universities in Cape Town. As a bonus, some days you might be able to split the bill for meals, cleaning services or other household expenses.


A student digs is different from residence accommodation. It provides more independence as you may have less rules, potential curfews and policies to be wary of. 

You’ll also pick up helpful information about Cape Town, hacks for student living and enjoy socialising as there’s always something going on in a digs. 

Some household tasks will be off your plate as most student digs have an existing housekeeper and additional chores typically form part of a schedule for each resident – which can make “adulting” a whole lot easier. 

The suburbs surrounding university locations in Cape Town are full of student digs meaning you will have a choice of suburbs each with their own character and local attractions. You can live near the city centre for a host of entertainment and other activities or close to the mountain if nature is more your thing.


You won’t have access to after hours programmes offered by university residences like on-site tutoring, counsellors or mentors.

You are unlikely to have a management team to settle any issues with your living space such as a broken lock or plumbing maintenance. This means you may have to organise service providers or at the very least make yourself available when they come to fix things. 

You also have to make sure you are able to get to class on time. If you plan to get to UCT for example, living near a Jammie Shuttle stop your best bet for free transport. Otherwise, for universities requiring you to travel a bit further, such as UWC in Bellville, you’d want to insure a train stations is located near your digs.

Residence Living

The “on-campus” lifestyle.

Residence is on-campus accommodation for university students. You’ll need to apply with high enough marks high to be considered and getting into residence  can be a challenge. Once you have been accepted, you are assigned a room, usually shared with a flatmate in a section of the residence. You share a small common area as well as bathrooms with your section and a dining hall and larger common areas with the entire residence. Residences can be co-ed or single sex depending on the residence. 

The lifestyle “res” provides is ideal for students looking to be immersed in the university experience, as you’re on campus surrounded by other students sharing rooms and common spaces.


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