Science - April 23, 2009

FARAWAY TEMPORARY HOUSING NEXT YEAR TOO

There are no international students left in the holiday park in Hoenderloo. From this week the last few students have rooms in Wageningen. But next year again, new international students will have to make do with a temporary room, and perhaps at a distance.

‘We are working on getting a picture of how many international students will come to Wageningen next year’, says spokesman Simon Vink of Wageningen UR. ‘It’s always hard to guess, but since the numbers of Dutch students are growing too, we expect more pressure on accommodation. So, yes, we shall have to make some supplementary arrangements again next year. The executive board is now looking into how to do it next year.’ Really, the university does not see it as its jobs to make accommodation arrangements for students. But in the case of international students, the university does feel more responsible, says Vink. ‘They can’t stay at home and it’s not easy for them to organize furniture.’

Ideally, the university would like to accommodate as many students as possible at one place which can cope with the peak numbers, which is of adequate quality, and from which they won’t have to be moved in between. So it may well be that students are housed at Landal Green Parks in Hoenderloo again next year. Vink: ‘The distance might be a disadvantage but the facilities are good. But it’s not settled yet. It would be best of course if they could be put up nearer Wageningen, so we are exploring the possibilities. But it’s really up to market players to step into the breach.’

One of the obvious candidates is the Wageningen cooperative Idealis. ‘We would like an extra location’, says deputy director Jan Harkema. ‘We are looking at everything, existing buildings and land for building. But if we were to build we would expect to pay a ‘social’ price for the land, and up to now we’ve had no response.’ The student council parties PSF and VeSte, the tenants’ organization SFO and the students’ union WSO make a joint plea for more rooms in a letter to Resource this week. They think the university and Idealis should just make a deal to provide enough student accommodation. Vink says that’s not an option.

Harkema doesn’t see an accommodation crisis anyway. This year again, all the new students had a room by May 1st, which is Idealis’s target – in spite of the closure of the Binnenhaven complex, with its 150 rooms. These container units will be moved, starting next week, and the move will take about six months. Some time in the Autumn they will be available again, says Harkema. The new buildings on the Vijzelstraat are still due to be ready by September 2010, and those on the Rijnsteeg a year later. ‘There are so many units planned that you don’t start building until you know there’s a market demand.’

And for international students, says Harkema, the number of rooms available at the Bornsesteeg is going to grow to 1194, enough for about three quarters of the current international student population. Exactly when that number is reached depends on when the present Dutch occupants leave. ‘We’re not going to force them out’, says Harkema.

Putting students up in a disused university building is not a very likely scenario. The university is certainly not going to do this itself, says Vink. In any case, it is difficult to get a permit for this, and it is often expensive to make such buildings habitable. Kim van Groningen of the students’ union WSO knows this too. ‘Although it could be a nice solution.’

Whether students might be put up in chalets at the Wielerbaan campsite in Wageningen does not seem to have been settled. The only thing Van Groningen can say, just like Vink and Harkema, is that ‘there has been contact.’ The chalets have double rooms, though, which is not ideal.

In order to find out more about the wishes of international students concerning accommodation and services, Idealis is going to conduct a survey among this group this year.

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