Taking housing to task

The RUG is taking the findings of an international student housing task force to heart. Along with the Hanze University of Applied Sciences and SSH, they will work to ensure that housing is an asset for coming to Groningen.
By Nina Yakimova and Traci White

The task force of students and staff from the RUG and the Hanze was announced last summer in response to dissatisfaction among international students living in SSH housing. The results were finalised in January and will be discussed in detail during the University Council meeting on Thursday.

According to the report, monitoring and improving services and accommodation conditions should not be a onetime event. ‘Quality assurance is based on an analytical cycle that can be repeated each year’, the report reads.

‘Considerable shortage’

Last year, there was a ‘considerable shortage’ of beds in comparison to the number the RUG alone needed for its international students and staff. The RUG notified SSH in late February that they will be needing the same number of beds for the coming academic year: 1,724. That number consists of 590 exchange students, 855 bachelor or master students, 59 staff, postdocs or short stay residents, and 220 PhD scholarship students. ‘But this is now a demand that must be realised’, writes Luut Kroes, director of the RUG’s Education and Students department.

But as of January, SSH only had 1,558 beds available. The pressure on SSH should be somewhat alleviated as of this summer: De Trefkoel mixed-use apartment complex near Zernike is nearing completion, which will eventually add 465 rooms to SSH’s portfolio. SSH was legally restricted from further growth throughout 2016, but the law limiting their operations will be withdrawn this summer.

Quality

The task force relied on responses to the International Student Barometer (ISB) and a Feeddex questionnaire distributed by SSH, which assess the quality of location, buildings, rooms and units, services facilities, prices, and communication, among others. All criteria must meet a certain standard, but the student scores on all fronts indicated that considerable room for improvement remains.

The assessment created a list of 72 accommodation quality indicators, ranging from distance to the city center and campuses to building security. For every item on the list, a minimum and average standard have been set.

Approved

The report has already been approved by both universities’ boards, but staff official for Education and Students, Jan Wolthuis, says that SSH was only provided with the results on Monday last week and therefore is not yet in a position to comment on its findings.

According to a prognosis by the RUG for the next three years, the number of internationals will continue to increase through at least 2019, at which point 4,348 international students are projected to be attending the RUG.

The report stresses that its findings should be seen in context: ‘Only a small part of all international students live in a room from SSH.’ Be that as it may, the RUG expects an increase in demand for accommodation from SSH of ‘6 to 8 per cent in 2018 and thereafter’.

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