By Rebekah Daunt
In September 2018, the Democratische Academie Groningen (DAG), a critical student movement which strives for the profound democratization of the University of Groningen, calculated that 500 international students were still without homes in the first week of the academic year.
“The city of Groningen cannot handle the number of students attending university, the housing market is not ready for this.” said Koen Marée (24) a spokesperson for the DAG.
According to law, Dutch universities are under no obligation to provide housing for students, but The RUG encourages students to start searching for accommodation as early as April each year.
However, despite beginning their research in good time, many students found it extremely difficult to secure accommodation from overseas. “I arrived in Groningen last Thursday, but I have been searching for a room since mid-June” said Camélia Barbachi (20), an International Business and Management student.
Like so many others, Miss Barbachi has spent months contacting agencies and independent landlords advertising rooms on Facebook without success. “I really hope to find accommodation soon, otherwise… well, I don’t want to think about what might happen” said Miss Barbachi.
There are approximately 50,000 students studying at the University of Groningen and Hanze University combined. According to the briefing notes from the University Council meeting on the 28th of June 2018, the University of Groningen (RUG) will continue to raise the head count with an average of 800 students per year resulting in a grand total of 35,000 students by 2025.
RUG’s competitive ratings have been evaluated across a set of impressive standards. According to the World University Ranking website, these standards include teaching, research, international outlook and reputation.
Reporting for UKRANT magazine, Gijs Altena outlines how an increase in the number of international students at RUG will benefit the university’s growth, financial position, and higher education rankings.
Marée, who is also a Freelance journalist for Dagblad van het Noorden, believes that the housing crisis is due to overpopulation and bad planning.
UKRANT magazine has specified that the DAG, along with a number of other student organisations have been trying to raise awareness of the great need for student housing and the unbridled growth the university is experiencing.
The DAG Couch Surfing Initiative connected 130 students to a couch or a spare bed in the first week of September. This initiative strives to provide safe and homely temporary solutions for students without the price tag.
This is not the first time there has been a housing crisis in Groningen. Hundreds of students also struggled to find accommodation in 2017.
This year the university assured students that new rooms would be made available and uploaded to the new housing module, At Home in Groningen, in due course.
However, this initiate was not launched until July, and by the middle of August, when students were arriving in Groningen, only 320 rooms had been listed.
The Suikerlaan Container Project is another university led initiative. These purposely built containers were made available to students a batch at a time. Students had permission to reserve these containers upon signing a contract, agreeing to a rental fee of 500 euro per month. These containers have yet to be completed.
A Delayed start in the Suikerlaan Student Container Project means that students who have already paid their deposit and first month’s rent, must find alternative accommodation until the 15th of October 2018.
“I am lucky to have finally secured a container” said Karl, a German Erasmus Student dining at the Feel Good cafe in Groningen this afternoon. “This container will not be ready until mid October, so in the meantime I am grateful to be sleeping on my friend’s couch”.
Jorien Bakker, a spokesperson for the university, acknowledges the overwhelming demand for student housing but believes that the university warned international students in good time.
“Efforts made by the DAG are making the situation better” concluded Marée, “I never want to see a student sleeping on the street but this is not our responsibility”.