University of Groningen asks staff to host international students

According to RTV Noord, employees of the Office of the University of Groningen received an email on Friday asking if they could provide temporary housing for international students.

Translation by Traci White

University of Groningen spokesperson Jorien Bakker confirmed to RTV Noord that email was authentic. “This is one of the options that we have been considering, and we are now rolling it out.” Not all university staff received the email, Bakker says. “We sent this request out to the Office of the University first.”

“Consider volunteering”

RTV Noord was able to view the contents of the email on Friday evening. “As has recently been the case, we are once again expecting many new international students at the University of Groningen and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. Some of these new international students have been having a very hard time finding suitable housing by the beginning of this academic year”, the message reads.

“Despite our best efforts, we fear that a number of students will not be able to find a room within the coming weeks. As a university employee, you can help. Do you have a spare room or other accommodation available? Would you like to help provide temporary shelter for a foreign student? Consider volunteering”, the mail continues. “Having a place to stay in the meantime will make it easier for students to find more permanent housing. You can request compensation, but you cannot charge rent.”

Help a fellow student out

Earlier this summer, student political party DAG launched a couch surfing database – Help a fellow student out – for city residents with a bed or couch to spare to offer their rooms to incoming internationals still seeking housing. Around 60 volunteers signed up for the programme, but there are still more students than beds available.

The number of international full time students at Dutch universities has increased dramatically over the past decade – far more foreign students enrol for the entirety of their degree programme rather than just studying abroad – but the amount of available housing has not kept pace. In the 1980s, Dutch higher education law explicitly stated that providing housing was not one of the core tasks of academic institutions in the Netherlands.

Dedicated international student housing is typically provided by housing corporations, but a variety of economic and environmental factors have made it challenging for Groningen to build enough new units to meet the growing demand for incoming internationals.