News - May 26, 2011

No room of your own, but you do get a bed

International students coming to Wageningen are no longer guaranteed their own room due to the chronic shortage of student accommodation, but they do have a ‘guaranteed bed'. That means they may have to share their hotel room or student room with others. Honest acknowledgement of what is already often the case in practice? Or is the bar being set too low?

Bed guaranteed
Martijn Kuller
Spokesman for VeSte, one of the parties in the Students' Council
'The Students' Council is pleased that the University is now being open and honest in saying that they are not able to arrange rooms for international students in practice, only beds. We still think it is important for the University to work towards a proper solution, but we are working on the assumption that they are indeed doing that; it is obviously not a good advertisement for the University if it cannot guarantee a room.
The Students' Council has received a lot of complaints from foreign students over the past year. They are particularly annoyed that they were promised their own room but the University did not keep that promise. That is why the Students' Council has mainly tried to ensure the University no longer makes any promises that it cannot keep.'
Janneke Snetselaar
Was AID mentor for sixteen international Master's students
'I was a 'Master's mum' this year and I know for certain that five of my children spent time in that hotel, Hof van Wageningen. That was really difficult for them; they had no privacy and only limited cooking facilities. Some of them spent several months there. Now they all either have their own room or are back in their own country.
If the University wants to live up to its international image it will have to arrange for better facilities and offer foreign students their own room. The guaranteed bed may seem more honest but it does not really improve the situation. Last year they could not keep their promise of a guaranteed room so this year they're calling it something different. That is simply lowering the bar. I really don't think that is acceptable. The university should sort out the rooms first before they invite the international students over.'
Rien Bor
Coordinator for the recruitment of non-European international students
'The lackadaisical response to the increase in the number of international students has been annoying me for several years now. If you want foreign students, you must make sure that the basic conditions such as accommodation are in place. If the intake of students is so great that you need more staff in the applications office, you organize that. That is how it should be for rooms for international students as well.
The guaranteed bed is an emergency solution made with the best intentions, but it is still only an emergency solution. And it would justify a discount on tuition fees. Given that foreign students pay 10,000 euros to study in Wageningen, you should be offering a certain degree of quality and not dump them in a hotel, eight to a room. There are plenty of measures you could take to offer them a better deal, such as the barracks in Ede and the holiday chalet park in Hoenderloo. Perhaps they could speed up operations to make the University's vacant properties suitable for use.'
Vincent Buitenhuis
Director of Kences, the association of student accommodation providers
'Wageningen is an unusual university as 80 percent of the students are housed by Idealis. That makes student accommodation sensitive to market developments. Student numbers were low a few years ago. Rooms were vacant and buildings were being demolished. Now the market is suddenly picking up and they are having to build like crazy. It is also difficult to predict exactly how many foreign students are going to come.
In any case, I think the University should only promise things it can deliver, and it should be honest about admitting it cannot achieve a certain standard. I am arguing for better collaboration between the University and Idealis. The University has the best information about student numbers so it should be quick to inform others about the number of applicants and only give a guarantee of a room if it actually has those rooms.
The funny thing is, we see that quite a lot of foreign students, especially the Chinese, say they actually like not being in a room on their own. They state on their application form that they would prefer to share a room with others. So just having a guaranteed bed is not such a bad idea for some of the students.'
Joel Khobondo
Master's student in Animal Sciences, from Kenya
'I have now been studying in Wageningen for eight months and I have been at Bornsesteeg from the start, so I don't have personal experience of what it's like to be sharing a hotel room with five other people. It is good that the University arranges rooms because it would be difficult for a student from abroad to find a room here. But it is important to say honestly that you will have to share a room. The students really had no privacy in that hotel. Perhaps it would be better if the University arranged the rooms first before inviting the students over.'
Karmijn van den Berg
Chair of WSO, the Wageningen student union
'We naturally think the idea of a guaranteed bed is ridiculous, but just shouting 'boo!' very loudly won't help. It is a pity that it has come to this but there has been an improvement in the information provided to international students. In practice there was a guaranteed bed rather than a guaranteed room last year as well, only the students didn't know it.
We can see that the University is doing its best to find a solution for the problem. This year, the University and Idealis have held discussions for the first time; all they had been doing recently was arguing and giving each other the blame. Now things have been set in motion and there are plans to build more accommodation. This will require a change in the land-use plan for the campus, so that will cost some time, but at least they are going in the right direction. And that gives us hope.'