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Universities warn students not to travel amid housing shortages

International students are being forced to change their plans as universities grapple with accommodation shortages in cities including Amsterdam and Glasgow. 

Housing shortages in Scotland and the Netherlands are impacting new international students. Photo: Unsplash.

Kences estimated that the Netherlands is short of 26,500 student housing places

Students have been advised against travelling to certain universities in the Netherlands if they have been unable to secure accommodation ahead of the new academic year, while international students planning to relocate to Glasgow have been warned that the university may not be able to offer them housing. 

Gaby Godinez, 26 from the USA, was planning on studying a postgraduate course at the University of Glasgow. 

On August 9, she received an email from the university saying it would no longer be able to guarantee accommodation and that there is limited private housing available in Glasgow. 

“If you have not yet made any accommodation arrangements, we strongly advise that you do not complete registration and enrolment or travel to Glasgow until you have secured your accommodation,” the email read. 

Gaby said she then tried to find private accommodation but “never got past the initial inquiry stage”. 

“I suspect this is because I am an international student with no UK guarantor which is why I had applied for university accommodations in the first place,” she said.

“I was so emotional and stressed because of how much I wanted to study this fall”

Gaby has now deferred her place until next year, despite the money she had already spent ahead of her planned move. 

“By the time I had received the email I had already gone through the costly visa application process, bought my plane ticket, ended my current lease, and quit my job,” she said. 

“I am safe and able to defer only because of my parents. 

“I was so emotional and stressed because of how much I wanted to study this fall – I can’t imagine what other people are going through with less choices.”

The university has also denied accommodation spaces to all domestic students living within commuting distance. 

Speaking to the BBC, the University of Glasgow blamed the shortages on increased demand and “a significant contraction in the private rental market”. 

The university’s student union, the SRC, has expressed its disappointment at the university’s approach, saying in a statement, “After the accommodation crisis across Glasgow last year, the SRC lobbied the University to commit to a moratorium on student numbers, despite this it now seems that over-recruitment has contributed to the creation of a similar situation.”

Accommodation shortages are causing problems in multiple countries – international students in Canada recently described the search for housing as “traumatising”, while those planning to study in the Netherlands have been warned against travelling to Amsterdam and Utrech for the start of the new term if they haven’t already secured accommodation. 

Golnoosh, 28 from Iran, plans to start a master’s course in Utrecht at the beginning of September but is struggling to find a place to live. 

“The housing situation is crazy there,” she said. Golnoosh (who did not want to share her full name) explained that she had been trying to find a spare room using housing websites. 

“People are getting so many messages that they can’t even look at all of them,” she said. “I sent out hundreds of messages but I didn’t get any proper reply.” 

A spokesperson from the Utrecht University said that it is “one of the most popular university cities in the Netherlands, both for national and international students.”

“Because of this, the demand for student housing in and around Utrecht is extremely high.”

The spokesperson added that the university does have a reserved housing program for 1250 international students and that, although it has advised students without accommodation against going to Utrecht, it has reserved 75 spots at a private accommodation provider for those who do. 

The University of Amsterdam also told students that the housing market in the city is “extremely challenging” and urged students not to move without accommodation. 

Most Dutch universities do not own student housing so all new students are responsible for finding private accommodation. 

Last year, record numbers of international students enrolled at universities in the Netherlands, despite some universities asking the government to limit the number of non-Dutch students it allows to study in the country.  

Earlier this year, Kences, a knowledge centre for student accommodation, estimated that the country is short of 26,500 student housing places. 

“Secondary consequences of the shortage is that the rent prices have skyrocketed,” said Joram van Velzen, president of the Dutch Student Union

“This is worrisome for all students, but international students often have no choice but to accept the high rent prices. 

“They obviously need a place to stay and often do not have friends or family in the Netherlands where they can live,” van Velzen continued, explaining that as a result, international students often become victims of scams. 

Job Vermaas, board member for housing at ASVA, a union for students in Amsterdam, believes institutions should reduce the number of English-track programs on offer, so as to limit the number of international students entering the country. 

“The university and government really wanted more international students because they viewed that as good for the economy,” he said.

“The first thing they need to do is take responsibility for their actions and, concretely, that means stopping the recruitment of international students.” 

A spokesperson from The University of Amsterdam said they hoped that “our timely and clear communication about the room shortage in Amsterdam will deter international students from taking the gamble and coming without settled accommodation”. 

“Of course, we find it very unfortunate that students do not or cannot choose the UvA, but the risk of being without a room is too great for students.”

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One Response to Universities warn students not to travel amid housing shortages

  1. We are currently in a situation where our son is due to go back to UvA in 2 weeks but cannot find accommodation. He has already completed the first year at considerable expense to ourselves. He has had no communication to inform him and many others in his situation what the options might be. The university have a duty of care to ensure that students who begin courses will be able to finish them. After the trials pandemic and the effect on our young peoples education this is completely unacceptable. The universities must take responsibility and come up with solutions.

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