Tents, boats and a professor’s spare room: student room shortage hits Groningen

Groningen University's main admin building. Photo: Depositphotos.com
Groningen University’s main admin building. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Foreign students in Groningen are experiencing such problems finding somewhere to live that university staff have even been asked to rent them rooms.

The Volkskrant said on Tuesday that tents have been put up on one campus to house homeless students while others are being offered a month’s accommodation in a boat hotel for almost €1,300.

One student, Michael Aidi, who is half Romanian, half Lebanese, has replied to over 100 adverts on Kamernet, the website where student rooms are advertised, without success.

He hopes to take a Master’s degree in advanced materials at the chemistry institute run by Nobel prize winner Ben Ferringa and is now staying in a bed and breakfast, some 20 kilometres from Groningen.

‘All the rejections are so disheartening,’ he said. ‘If I had known this, I would never have come to Groningen.’

Other foreign students the Volkskrant spoke to are sleeping on a mattress at student house, which responded to an emergency appeal for places by the student political party DAG.

‘We’ve been lucky and we have been made very welcome,’ said Eleonora Kirekchieva from Bulgaria, who is living in the house sitting room and has a place at the Minerva art college. ‘But it is not ideal.’

Black on white

University spokesman Jorien Bakker told the paper that the university has made it clear accommodation is hard to find. ‘We have put it down, black on white,’ she said.

‘Finding a room is difficult, the market is tight and we don’t organise anything. If we said there are no rooms in Groningen, then no-one would come… and many foreign students do find somewhere to live.’

Some 2,500 foreign students will start a degree in Groningen this year, up by several hundred on last year. The university actively recruits foreign students, particularly outside the EU. ‘We want to be an international university with a healthy mix of Dutch and foreign students.’


Earlier this month, Dutch students union Lsvb  again sounded the alarm about the way foreign students are being taken advantage of by unscrupulous landlords.

‘They are being exploited by landlords charging high rents and with weird terms and conditions. This can’t go on,’ spokeswoman Geertje Hulzebos told the Parool. ‘This has all been made possible by the shortage of rooms.’

Some 122,000 foreign students attended courses at Dutch universities and hbo colleges last year, double the 2013 figure. The students usually try and find a place to live from abroad, making it impossible to view the room.

The Lsvb says universities and colleges should stop trying to attract foreign students unless they can organise proper accommodation for them. The union, which has set up a housing hotline for foreign students to report problems, made a similar plea in 2017.

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