International students protest about housing shortage
International students protested outside the University administration centre Friday last week to draw attention to the housing problems they face, which include too few rooms and high rent. In good Dutch consultative tradition (poldermodel) students, university and SSHW agreed to work together towards finding solutions.
Paul Deneer, head of student affairs, discussed problems with student representatives. Meanwhile the rest of the protesters walked to the accommodation office SSHW, but found no members of the management with whom they could talk. The main concerns of the students are high rents, lack of accommodation for students with families, insufficient information on housing before arriving in the Netherlands and the lack of communication between programme directors and the central student administration office.
A growing group, the international students are worried about the number of rooms likely to be available in the years to come. "It does not help to bring thousands of international students without having proper places for them to live. The university should only accept the number of students for whom it has rooms," commented one participant. All present agreed that the estimates of students arriving and how long they are likely to stay need to be made more accurate. Students, university and SSHW representatives will meet this week to see how communication on this issue can be improved.
Rise in cost of living
On the issue of the rising cost of living, Paul Deneer, head of student affairs, said that a letter had been sent to Nuffic, the Dutch agency coordinating scholarships for international students, requesting higher scholarships. Deneer: "We endorse the point students make about high rents, but we can't do much more than press the Dutch government to give higher scholarships." He also said that students should be better informed about housing facilities before they come to Wageningen. However, the university does not intend to change its recruitment policies.
Jan Harkema of SSHW said the current housing problem has been caused by a much larger inflow of international students than was agreed upon with the university. The reorganisation of Wageningen UR has also resulted in inaccurate estimates. Harkema said that the students' complaints will be put on the SSHW agenda, including the high rents, for which the university and SSHW should find a joint solution.