200 additional residences for international students at start of new academic year
Utrecht University may offer 200 temporary, newly completed studio apartments from Holland2Stay to international UU students with priority. Priority means that UU can offer the housing 'exclusively' for a few days to new international UU students, who will start their studies per September, before they come on the market. The 200 residences will be in addition to the 950 rooms and studio apartments that UU already reserves with various housing providers for international students.
The studio apartments are located in the new Boomerang housing complex at Het Kwadrant in Maarssen, which is easily accessible by public transport. The maximum rental price is 675 euros all-in.
The university is pleased with this housing provider's offer. "Utrecht has a great room shortage and, especially for international students, the situation at the start of the academic year is dire," says Student Life And Mobility Advisor Lenn Lamkin. "After all, this group has no networks or home address to fall back on." The university is pulling out all the stops to support international students. "But we can't solve it for everyone," Lamkin says. "There are too few rooms. And although the percentage of international students is admittedly low in Utrecht compared to other universities, about 13 %, because we are a university with 37,000 students we are still talking about a large number of students."
Not a housing provider
UU is not a housing provider, Lamkin emphasises. "We are not allowed to build and operate housing," Lamkin says. "We do have a covenant with the municipality, housing providers and student organisations to increase the number of rooms in Utrecht in the coming years. The room shortage for students is high on the agenda in Utrecht and thousands of rooms are expected to be added in the coming years. With Student & Starter in the College of Mayor and Aldermen, attention will certainly not wane."
Building plans for the Utrecht Science Park
UU is contributing to this by planning space for the construction of student housing at Utrecht Science Park. The environmental vision envisages up to 4,000 additional living spaces for students. Two years ago, 400 temporary student residences were built on a plot made available by the UU for this purpose. Recently, the plan for a fifth SSH complex at the USP was signed. It is called High Five, with two large towers and over 900 housing units. It should be ready in 2025.
Unfortunately, these efforts will not suddenly solve the problems for students. Utrecht is popular, both because of the city and the high quality of education. The number of students has been increasing in recent years (up to 37,000 this academic year), and the group of international students within it is growing. That interest is good. Research shows that international students are often highly motivated, and the variety of perspectives in the International Classroom enriches the education. Moreover, an international classroom is good a preparation for professional careers after graduation. But unfortunately, there are few possibilities to guide or regulate growth. And that creates a big task for universities in organising education, but also for international students who have to find rooms.
UU tries to help the international students. Firstly, by reserving rooms (for Bachelor’s, Master’s and exchange students). "This supply covers about 950 beds and booked up quickly," says Lamkin. "It is difficult to increase the number, because the rooms are simply not there in Utrecht, and UU cannot reserve all rooms in newly available projects for international students, because Dutch students also want to live."
In addition, UU provides help and support in looking for and finding accommodation, by means of good information, webinars and additional staff members in the summer months who answer questions. For an example, new international students are encouraged to start looking for rooms in the spring, and they are explained how to avoid scams and scammers. A phenomenon that unfortunately occurs frequently in this tight housing market, and often targets students who are still living abroad and cannot visit any rooms.
Temporary landing place
"Finally, we also have an agreement with Stayokay for about 75 beds in the first period of the academic year," Lamkin said. "So students who haven’t managed to find a room have a place to stay from which they can continue looking. But those beds are no alternative to any student room. We also inform students of that clearly."
Reconsider coming to Utrecht
Lamkin says that UU realises that despite all efforts, some of the international students may end up in undesirable and stressful situations if they have to start in Utrecht without having found an accommodation. It can lead to 'couch surfing' or very high costs for hotel rooms. It often resolves itself over time, as international students build up networks and get to know the region. "But it is not what we wish for our students. Therefore, in this summer, we will explicitly advise new international students to reconsider their enrolment at UU if they have not found accommodation. With pain in our hearts, because international talent is important for our research and education. But we really don't want people to underestimate the situation and end up in difficult situations."