Wetenschap - 31 januari 2002

Long waiting lists for housing for international students

Long waiting lists for housing for international students

Wageningen not the only university with a problem

About a dozen international students in Wageningen are housed in private accommodation. The housing shortage however is not confined to Wageningen. In nearly all university towns in the Netherlands the demand for rooms for international students is greater than the supply. And much of the accommodation where international students end up is temporary.

The housing situation in Enschede in the east of the Netherlands is typical of the problems facing international students in the whole country. The waiting lists are long at the Student Housing Office Drienerlo, and they are growing. "There is a big shortage of accommodation and people can't just live on the street," says Natascha Ferwerda of the office. "We have almost five hundred housing units. At the moment these are all full, and the applications for next year have already started coming in." In Enschede there are fifty international students housed in private accommodation, and others have postponed their arrival in the Netherlands.

International students who do get accommodation nearly always live in a furnished apartment. This means that the rent is often higher than for the typical room for a Dutch student. The University of Amsterdam rents nearly eighty rooms in Amsterdam. Prices are high: single accommodation with private facilities costs 590 euro, double accommodation with shared facilities 284 euro. But this accommodation is let to students for one term only. Students can apply to stay longer. Students on the waiting list are housed in a hotel or youth hostel until a room becomes available. In Amsterdam international students are also asked to share rooms temporarily.

During the first semester this year there were ten international students at the Vrije Universiteit (also in Amsterdam) who had nowhere to live. Most found accommodation themselves, but some returned home. The Vrije Universiteit also has four hundred rooms available in its own guesthouse, specially for international students and guests from abroad. Liesbeth Westerlaken of the Office for Internationalisation: "From the beginning of February there will be ten to twenty students for whom we have no accommodation. We recommend they start looking themselves and we will put them on our waiting list. We do have a list of private accommodation where we can house about fifty people. But we really need another 180 rooms."

From a telephone survey of all university towns in the Netherlands only the university accommodation office in Utrecht (SSH) claims to have few problems. But even here there are waiting lists, a situation that everyone seems to find normal. There are 470 international students living in Utrecht, and the SSH manages to keep a few rooms free for emergency cases. At the moment there are four rooms free, but these are used purely for the first few days after a student's arrival.

While Wageningen University has no rooms available for emergencies, it has come up with a number of solutions since the accommodation shortage that arose at the beginning of the academic year. This year the SSHW had reserved seven hundred furnished rooms for international students. For next year the figure has already been raised to eight hundred.

Monnique Haak

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