Science - September 25, 2008

At a vacation resort as there are no rooms

There is a shortage of rooms for students in Wageningen. That is why Wageningen University is housing approximately 75 international students at holiday park Landal Miggelenberg in Hoenderloo. About thirty Dutch students are staying in mobile homes and tents at camping de Wielerbaan. The Wageningen Student Organisation (WSO) considers it a bad situation. They are working on a temporary solution.

In the morning and evening, the international students shuttle back and forth in two buses between Hoenderloo and Wageningen, which is the drive of about forty five minutes. ‘The facilities at the holiday park are very good, Internet connections have for example been taken care of’, tells Clifton Sabajo of the Board of WSO. ‘In the beginning, the students kind of liked it. It now, after a few weeks, it's becoming more difficult. Having to depend on the bus and the amount of time traveling takes are starting to annoy.’ One of the people who signed a petition of WSO wrote: ‘I came here to study, not for camping.’
‘The university and the town get people to come here. Then you also need to make sure that they have a room’, agrees Kim van Groningen of WSO. The WSO blames the housing problem on bad communication between the university and the student housing organization Idealis, the growth of the number of first-year students, and the decline in the number of available rooms. The complex de Binnenhaven for example will be moved in spring, which means that 150 rooms are temporarily unavailable. Van Groningen: ‘On top of that, this year, 150 rooms were reserved for international students, while the number of Dutch students is also increasing. The university and Idealis should have seen it coming.’
Jan Harkema, deputy director and head of the housing department at student housing organization Idealis, says that Idealis the label to get everybody a room before May 2009. According to him, there is currently a normal inflow of Dutch students, but something did go wrong with the planning for the info of foreign students. University reserved 1100 furnished rooms in March, but at the beginning of September, Harkema was told that there were 150 more international students. ‘That took us completely by surprise and it is not the first time this has happened’, according to Harkema. ‘We will have to tackle this problem structurally. The university will either have to set an upper limit for foreign students or plan a large number of rooms and accept the financial risks of having empty rooms.’
A quorum for international students isn't possible, responds Simon Vink, spokesperson for Wageningen University and Research Center. ‘A large part of the international students who want to come here, still need to obtain a diploma or find funding. This year, we ended up with more international students than we expected. It was impossible to plan for that and so, no mistakes were made.’
Together, Wageningen University and Research Center, Idealis, the city of Wageningen and WSO are looking for temporary solutions. Soon, 35 students can be housed in the renovated IPO building, which has served as temporary student facility before. Other unoccupied buildings of the university are temporarily made suitable for housing. The city is operating by means of an accelerated permit procedure.
In the future, the university wants to be able to deal more flexibility with the inflow. Vink: ‘We are also already working on solutions for the next year. Of course we have to prevent similar problems in the future.’
The shortage of rooms also caused problems last year. Then, seventy international students stayed at holiday parks and twenty five Dutch students at the camping.