Though education levels are as high as ever, a lack of dormitory housing is affecting European students and their opportunity to study
As the fall semester begins, and millions of students get ready to hit the books, some have found that before they begin studying, they need to do some extracurricular research on where to find a place to live.
According to the EU commission, a projected 19 million students study in Europe, a number that has been steadily increasing year by year. However, though the number of students have been increasing, there is little to no sign that universities or communities have been able to properly deal with this new influx.
David Meaney, a Erasmus student from Ireland studying in Utrecht, Netherlands, lives on the quaint, quintessentially Dutch street of Goedestraat. He parks his bike in front of where he lives, however it is not a college dorm, rather a two story walk-up also inhabited by an older Dutch couple who rent the top floor guest bedroom to him. Meaney, unlike most of his colleagues, had to live outside university housing, and found a room for rent online.
“It’s not a terrible situation, but it’s just unfortunate” says Meaney, “I pictured going here and living with all my mates, but it just didn’t work out that way.”
Meaney says that for the most part, he avoids being at his rented home too much. His schedule is typically to go to school and to be with his friends and stay at their dorm as much as possible. Their place is closer to school, and he’s able to have more of a classic college experience, rather than living with roommates who haven’t been to school in quite some time.
For Erasmus students, like Meaney, this situation is becoming more and more common. In the Netherlands alone, the country that accepts the greatest amount of Erasmus and study abroad students, many come without predetermined student housing. According to the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), not only is finding housing a issue, but finding a place they can afford is another struggle. According to their research, students not studying in their home country are likely to be charged more than natives and are not able to receive on campus housing as easily as native students.
And there is no sign of college students letting up. According to the Europe 2020 strategy, the EU intends of increasing the tertiary graduate-level percentage of young adults to up to 40%. That means the EU will increased funding and broadening access to educate more individuals. As of 2012, the percentage of the EU labor force with a higher-level of education was at a dismal 27%. And though the EU is supporting education through funding, there is no evidence in the strategy to distribute aid to house these additional students.
According to Joseph Waldstein, European Commission’s press officer for the Department of Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, “The EU has no competence in prescribing how national funding should be allocated, but in the programming period 2013-2020, many Member States have benefitted from European Regional Development Fund investments for building up their capacities in student accommodation. This support will be strengthened in the next programming period 2020-2027.”
So though funds and support from the EU haven’t been felt by students looking still looking for a place to live, it is possible that there will be initiative to increase housing, depending on allocated regional development funds but this won’t occur until at least 2020.
In towns like Utrecht, where Meaney is studying, there is an astounding 20% student population. Combined with a promised increase of college students and a consistent flow of international students to the Netherlands, the problems with finding a home don’t seem like they would dissipate anytime in the near future.
“If the amount of students coming to study here is going to increase” explained Meaney, “I think the city or the school would definitely have to do something about it, or it would be chaos.”.