Members of DAG, youth factions of the Socialist Party and the Green Party and the Groningen Student Union held a protest at the Martini Church before the opening ceremony for the new academic year.
Translation by Traci White
The groups blocked the entrance to the church and held a banner reading “geen woning, geen opening” (“No housing, no opening”) to draw attention to the ongoing housing shortage in the city for international students. In a statement from DAG, Teun Schoutens wrote, “While the university is celebrating the opening of the new academic year, there are still students who are desperately looking for a place to stay.”
The opening ceremony for the University of Groningen, which was held on Monday afternoon, featured speeches by university rector Elmer Sterken and global flyway ecology professor Theunis Piersma, as well as a reading by the university’s poet-in-residence and the presentation of the alumnus of the year award. A separate welcoming ceremony was held for the thousands of incoming international students at MartiniPlaza on Friday.
Tents and boats
Following public outcry and political pressure, the boards of the University of Groningen and the Hanze University of Applied sciences announced last week that they would make the temporary tent facilities housing international students on the Zernike campus free of charge. The academic institutions also lowered the price for students staying on a hotel boat from nearly 50 euros a night to 25 a night and made it possible for them to book the room a week at a time.
International student numbers continue to rise each year in Groningen. SSH, the housing corporation which is responsible for coordinating short stay housing for international degree and exchange students in Groningen currently has around 2,000 rooms in its portfolio, but supply is not keeping pace with demand.
Hundreds of container housing units have been set up at the grounds of the former sugar beet factory on the outskirts of town, but there have been issues with the suppliers wrongfully charging certain fees the students, and not all of the units are ready in time for the beginning of the new academic year.
Photo by Marit de Jong