Nieuws - 9 september 2010

Student hotel: A luxury or a disgrace?

Joris Tielens

International students are guaranteed a room if they come to Wageningen. But when there’s a shortage of student accommodation they are temporarily housed in hotel rooms. Two to four students to a room.

Are these international students getting preferential treatment with this ‘luxurious’ reception, as the Dutch right-wing party the PVV suggests? Or is Wageningen giving its international students a disgracefully meagre welcome?

A shared hotel room in Hof van Wageningen
Karmijn van den Berg, chair of the Wageningen Students' Organization WSO:
'We are getting alarming reports from international students. Not only are people sharing rooms, they are also sharing two showers between about 150 people. What is more, the showers are outside in a container, so they have to go out of doors to have a shower. I think this is inhuman: you cannot treat international guests like that. And there is no internet, while students have to do everything on the internet. Not just keeping in touch with their families, but also organizing their studies. They can't study like this.'
Akalu Sima, who has come from Ethiopia to do an MSc in Plant Sciences:
'Ah, it is OK you know. In Ethiopia it is quite normal for students to share a room. For first years even 12 to a room. Only there is a canteen nearby where you can eat cheaply, and we miss that here. It's a bigger problem that there is no internet.'
Dirk Rolker, who has come from Germany for the MSc programme in International Land and Water Management:
'In general I have a good impression of Wageningen University, but this is quite annoying. I am sharing a room with a friend. In two weeks' time my girlfriend is coming over, and I hope that I will have a room to myself by then.'
Gerrit Epema, programme director for Soil, water and atmosphere, Forest and nature management and Geo-information science:
'There are enough places to study in the Forum, so it doesn't have to have any disadvantages for their studies. And it is only temporary. I see it as unfortunate, but not as a disaster.'

Karmijn van den Berg, chair of the Wageningen Students' Organization WSO:
'International students were given a guarantee that they would get a room. But you can't call this a guarantee of a room. I have heard of an Erasmus student who wasn't offered a room at all, so he is homeless. On Thursday 9 September we are going to serve soup to homeless and non-homeless students alike at the Forum. As a gesture of support, and to put pressure on the university to solve the problem. More temporary housing must be organized soon. And there will just have to be more rooms in the long term.'
Justus Caspers, who has come from Germany as Erasmus exchange student on the Environmental Sciences programme:
'It was OK to start with, but after a while a life without privacy gets you down. And we don't get any information. You'll just have to wait, they say, without giving you any idea how long. Strange that it is so badly organized, when otherwise everything's cool.'
Kaat van Ongeval, who comes from Belgium and is doing the MSc in Development and Rural Innovation:
'I think it's expensive; back home 330 euros per month is a lot to pay for a room. Certainly if you have to share it.'
Kindu Gashu Aynalem, who has come from Ethiopia to do the MSc in Plant Sciences:
'Wageningen is an international university, but this situation is not in line with international standards. I had not expected that. The administration and the people at the university do their level best, but there simply are not enough rooms. And there is no internet. I am not angry, but I am disappointed. A solution should be found immediately, because we cannot study like this.'
Tang Ning, who came from northern China for the MSc in Biotechnology:
'It is temporary, but nobody can tell us how long it will go on. And it is strange that others who arrive later do get a room. We don't get any explanation about that either. That is really what makes it annoying for us. In China it is usual for students to share rooms. But there we do not have to cook in our rooms. Here we do so because a restaurant is much too expensive and anyway, you have to go out in this bad weather to get there. I'm not doing that. And in China at least we have internet.'
Rien Bor, who is responsible for recruiting students to Wageningen from outside the EU:
'I hear these sorts of stories again when recruiting, and that is not helpful of course. Last year I got questions about the accommodation for students in a bungalow park fifty kilometres from the university. Then I said it would be better this year. So it is really annoying that it is happening again this year. Since 2002 there has been an annual growth of about ten percent in the numbers of foreign students. I understand that Idealis doesn't want empty buildings, but they could have seen this coming. The policy of Wageningen UR is still to go on growing, and I haven't been told to recruit fewer students because there are not enough rooms or the lecture halls are full.'
PVV party member Harm Beertema was not available for comment, in spite of repeated efforts to reach him. Beertema asked the minister during parliamentary question time whether he was prepared 'to offer Dutch students this kind of luxurious accommodation for a friendly price too'.
Simon Vink, spokesman for the executive board of Wageningen UR:
'It is unavoidable that some of the foreign students initially have to go into temporary accommodation. Fortunately, we are still talking about a temporary peak, which calms down in September already when many students graduate. Most of them are able to move to their permanent rooms within a few weeks. It is a big improvement that there is temporary accommodation in the town centre, as that means they can join in student life from the start.'