Organisation - October 17, 2018

International PhD students can’t find home

Tessa Louwerens

The current accommodation shortage in Wageningen is not just a problem for BSc and MSc students; it is also affecting foreign PhD students on a grant. Idealis stopped giving them priority in the allocation of rooms last May and their grants are often too small to rent privately.

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Lerato Thakholi, a PhD sandwich student in the Sociology of Development Change group, is homeless. She was unable to find a room via Idealis and doesn’t have enough money to rent somewhere on the private market. ‘The hopes of immersing yourself in your studies and embracing Dutch culture are quickly exterminated when you arrive at Schiphol and are reminded that you don’t have a home. I’m lucky that I already know people here who I can stay with.’

Last Monday, Thakholi organized a meeting about the housing problem in Leeuwenborch. Two other international PhD candidates explained that they too were having problems finding accommodation. Representatives of various PhD Councils were present. They are considering organizing a survey to find out how many PhD students are affected by the housing shortage.

Pim van Hengel, who works in the PhD Services department at WUR, says Thakholi’s story is familiar. He has had other international PhD students coming to him because of trouble finding affordable accommodation. ‘There is currently not much support for international doctoral students looking for a room. Only PhD candidates with an NFP grant from Nuffic are still entitled to an Idealis room. Until May 2018, all PhD students on a grant were covered by that scheme but because of the room shortages, Idealis scrapped that priority scheme in agreement with the university.’ The PhD students are told to use the private housing market, but Van Hengel says that is not an option for students on a grant.

The Executive Board is currently considering how to resolve this problem, says spokesperson Simon Vink. ‘Idealis had to have 1000 rooms available as of September for the new first-years. That’s why the PhD students had to make way last May. But of course the PhD students have to be housed somewhere too.’