Memo International housing
The motto of Tilburg University is ‘understanding society’. In the contemporary complex global world, it is impossible to propagate that motto without taking the global society into account. It is important for Tilburg University to take up a position in the international academic world. The importance of that goal to the university is illustrated by the fact that the word ‘international’ is mentioned well over a hundred times in the strategic plan of the university for the coming years.
Another important topic for the university’s strategy is growth. Growth in terms of research and quality of education, but also growth in mere student numbers. This growth will not only be realised by Dutch students, but also by an increased influx of international students. A crucial prerequisite of growth is sustainability according to student party SAM. The facilities of Tilburg University should match the growth in student numbers. However, not only Tilburg University should be able to sustain the influx of students, but the city of Tilburg also has to develop along with the university. The last few years there has been an increased influx of international students in various universities. In most of the cities they have not been able to cope with such a large increase in student numbers. For example, in Delft they have not been able to house approximately 700 international students and in Utrecht the problem is even bigger, nearly 1200 students have not been able to find living arrangements. While the problem in Tilburg is not nearly as big, the problem grows every single year. According to the housing office, this year the international office was able to secure 300 extra rooms for international students, but the amount of international students without a room still increased. In spite of the terrific efforts of organizations such as the International Center Tilburg, the international office and the housing office offering support to international students, the problem is still growing. As we have seen in other cities, the problem will not solve itself. It is difficult to estimate the amount of students that do not end up studying in Tilburg because it is impossible for them to find living arrangements, but even without taking those students into account there is a problem with international housing. Therefore it is very important to tackle the problem before it gets bigger.
To solve this problem there are numerous factors to take into account. Firstly, is the number of international students that are accepted into Tilburg University not too big to sustain? Secondly, is there a big enough offer of housing in Tilburg to accommodate these increasing numbers? Besides these obvious points there is also a larger issue at stake. Since a couple of years there has been a new phenomenon on the housing market in Tilburg. Dutch students are not willing to share residence with an international student if they can also share residence with another Dutch student. This has led to the phenomenon of ‘Dutch only’. One look at the biggest housing page of Tilburg on Facebook with approximately 30.000 members, makes for a very bleak prospect of the future. A very large portion of the posts in this group opens with the words ‘Dutch only’. This is detrimental for the feeling of inclusion of international students. If Tilburg University wants to ensure a positive experience for all international students, we have to address this problem.
After meeting with local council member for Groenlinks, Dwayne Heuvelmans, student party SAM wanted to take action in this matter. We sat down with various stakeholders, such as the international office, the housing office, the International Center and several international students. We discussed the obstacles and difficulties that they experience in solving this problem. It is crucial to take action to overcome these obstacles early on to prevent situations that are happening in other student cities in The Netherlands; the problem will not solve itself. The best way to counter these problems is to make them a fit topic for discussion. We propose to form a committee to discuss possible solutions for this problem. In that committee there should be representatives of all major stakeholders. We propose that there are representatives of the housing office, international office, the municipality, external stakeholders such as the International Center Tilburg and IESN present. Student party SAM also would like to be a part of this committee. The committee will look at various subjects that are related to the main topic of international housing, such as international integration, availability of student housing and the diverse points of view from the stakeholders that are involved. The next influx of international students will be in January, so for that reason we think it is in the best interest of all stakeholders to move quickly with this proposal.