Housing Office for international students successful
Good news for international students who came to Tilburg. Those who could not find a room to stay in the first weeks of this academic year, were helped by the university.
Last year more than 800 international students found their way to Tilburg University. Every year the number increases with approximately ten percent. This development has put pressure on the housing market for students, especially for the internationals. For them, it can be harder to find a room. They don’t have a network in the Netherlands, and landlords seem to prefer Dutch students because of the language barrier. End of August 2016 there were about 115 students who registered at the International Office because they experienced problems in finding housing that suited their needs. Eventually the university helped them out with temporary rooms in hotels and hostels, but it did cause some stress, negative publicity and 76.000 euros.
After this the university council decided to address the problems in time for this year. A Housing Office was established to assist and advice students who are not able to find a room, and arrangements were made with landlords, housing corporations, hostels and budget hotels to offer temporary housing until something more permanent becomes available. The market usually ‘frees up’ in October, when former generation students graduate and leave their dorms. For most Dutch students that doesn’t cause any problems, as they can commute between their parents’ house and university, but this is obviously not an option for internationals.
A bathroom of one’s own
The director of the International Office, René Voogt, was very pleased to inform members of the University Council that most of the incoming students were accommodated right away this time, unlike September 2016. Some of them found a room within a few days and others were accommodated in hostel Roots or a hotel: “There were hardly any complaints and everything went quite smoothly.” He also reported some exceptions: “Some international students experienced problems even when there were rooms available in the market. The reason for this is that they seem to have mismatched demands. In the Netherlands it is quite usual that you live together with other students in a dormitory, and you share a kitchen, and a bathroom. Some international students are not willing to accept this. It is simply not their culture. Some others expected more for the price of a student room and wanted a complete apartment.”
Cultural problems and diva behavior aside, most students were served to satisfaction and this deserves some respect. It is impossible to know beforehand how much internationals actually arrive after enrollment, and how many of them manage to find a room themselves. But if you book too many temporary rooms, this can turn out very costly, Voogt explained. The university had to pay for the risk of rooms that remain vacant. Recent negotiations with the housing cooperation had the fortunate outcome that accommodations were held until a specific date. After this date, the cooperation was still able to put them back on the free market, without charging the university too much.
Nonetheless, nearly the full capacity was used this year to house the students. Assuming that even more internationals will find the city of Tilburg in the years to come, we have to remain alert, says Voogt: “We have to remain attentive and we have to keep working on deals to increase the number of rooms that is available for our new incoming international students.”