Student Housing in Europe: What is the real scenario?

We all know that Housing can be a headache for international students. But how big the problem can be? Erasmus Students Network is a non-profit organisation for International students. Their recent survey revealed that housing shortage across many European host nations is seriously affecting students. According to the survey findings, in addition to the shortage of residence provision, students have experienced discrimination and fraud. And the same is reportedly being ignored by some Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), policymakers and housing providers. The survey reported that 45% of Erasmus + students found the housing market of their host HEI difficult. Whereas 12% experienced attempted fraud. Out of these,  12%, 20% of those trying to find accommodation in Turkey or Sweden and 28% in Ireland reported cases of fraud. There were cases like fake housing advertisements on social media and students were asked for the deposit in return for getting the key via mail. During the survey, total 108 international students in Ireland responded, where 32 of them faced fraud instances.

But Mr Derrie Murray, a spokesperson for Irish Council for International Students, said that findings were based on a very small sample size. He added that even though there is a serious problem of fraud in the private rental sector in Ireland and many scams occurred in the past which targeted international students in particular- it is not in their experience that 28% of all international students in Ireland became victims to such scams. He also said: “many do fall victim to these scams each year, and the government and the HEIs need to do much more to combat this.”

In this statement, he acknowledges the fact that student housing scams are an issue and not receiving the attention it should get.17% of respondents even faced discrimination in terms of higher rents for international students and particular instances of xenophobia. Other issues highlighted were insufficient student housing and quality information. Because of this information gap, 25% of respondents admitted that they went abroad without having any permanent accommodation arranged.

Erasmus project coordinator Mr Jérémy Apert said that there is lack of cooperation among HEIs, policymakers and housing providers to address this crisis. He said that universities are not interested in the accommodation issues and hence they do not do much to help students in this matter. Also mentioned that it is not only the responsibility of universities as housing concern can be only addressed with the building of new houses. And for building new houses, funding is much necessary.

He said: “Policymakers need to make more funds available because in smaller cities, student housing falls under urban planning and international students are at the bottom of the list of priorities”.

He added: “We are trying to highlight the economic and cultural benefit of international students with local communities because students are being forced to compete in the local housing market where they are at a disadvantage.

“Universities are burying their heads in the sand. We need to keep having discussions, conferences and talking about the housing crisis. The better this practice is the faster we might have a solution.”

He also mentioned that due to lack of housing as recently exposed in the Netherlands, some had no alternative but to cancel their international stay and return home. It is reported that renting cost is on the rise in campuses as well as outside campuses. This is making the life of students more difficult.

According to Mr. Murray, Higher Education Institution officers in Ireland are doing their best to assist students but they need to be allocated more resources for more efficient assistance.

He said that there is opposition from some councillors in Dublin and Cork to the construction of purpose-built student accommodation in their areas and this may affect badly the number of international students in Ireland with an expected increase of 27% over the next two years.

Also added that to tackle accommodation crisis, quality and affordable purpose-built student accommodation must be an important element and that will be the factor which will be more attractive to the international students who are unfamiliar with the rental market in Ireland.

The European Union has already set a target of having 20% of all higher education graduated to take part in its mobility experience by 2020. Let’s hope that the government, HEIs and housing providers will try to give more importance and understand this serious issue of housing solutions for an international student. What we need at the moment is strict action against fraud, discrimination and cheating in providing accommodation to international students.

At the same time, there is the necessity for a robust solution which can provide quality and affordable housing facilities for international students.

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