In the last ten years, the number of international students attending Dutch universities for their Bachelor’s or Master’s degree has grown from roughly 40,000 to 80,000. If we include students on exchange or foundation year students, the total number of international students in 2016 reached 112,000, an all-time high for Dutch universities. As a consequence of this success, finding accommodation in some Dutch cities has become noticeably harder. While it is certainly true that domestic student numbers have declined slightly, and the proportion of them living at home while studying has grown, there is considerable pressure on accommodation that is suitable for international students.
In this same time period, the number of British students undertaking a full degree at Dutch universities has grown from around 50 to over 3,000 and continues to grow at around 20% per year. Naturally, there are more British students who will be affected by potential housing shortages. Some recent headlines have revolved around international students staying at a campsite in Utrecht or at a recently reopened refugee centre in Groningen. It is these two cities, along with Amsterdam, that appear to be experiencing the greatest difficulty accommodating their international students.
There are plans in place to address this shortfall and it is a matter that has reached the attention of the Dutch government. However, changing the supply of housing from one year to the next is not going to be particularly easy. We would not wish to see any British student discouraged from attending a Dutch university for this reason alone and we don’t think that they should be. Finding suitable accommodation in major university cities in the United Kingdom can also be nightmarish if you don’t follow the instructions that universities provide.
We would encourage all first-year students to plan their accommodation in good time, ideally around April to May prior to travelling to the Netherlands. Contact the university housing office and make sure that you are clear about the process involved in guaranteeing a room. Naturally, this might be difficult for those students who are not prepared to make a firm commitment until their A’ level results are announced but we would certainly advise taking steps to find a room in order to avoid any complications upon arrival. The Dutch student housing market can be difficult to navigate and there are risks from unscrupulous landlords, although nothing that should frighten anyone who has negotiated with their UK equivalents. The only specific difference is that contracts will be in Dutch and it is never wise to sign such an agreement without knowing what it contains. If a university housing office can remove this uncertainty, it is worth paying for its help.