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Significant student housing shortages reported in the Netherlands

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Thousands of students may not be able to find a place to stay in the Netherlands while studying
  • Increased demand for study abroad relative to last year is fuelling the supply/demand imbalance

Many students planning on going to the Netherlands this year for study will face a challenge in securing housing, and this challenge looks like it will intensify in the next few years. The issue could well affect international enrolments, since foreign students will of course think twice before applying to Dutch universities if they know it is possible that they won’t find suitable housing.

Thousands of students unable to find a place

In fall 2020, 22,000 students were unable to obtain student accommodation in the Netherlands according to the Kences National Student Housing Monitor. Kences director Jolan de Bie expects that number to increase to at least 50,000 in 2024/25, and he says that an acute housing shortage will be felt this year as well, due to:

  • Both first-year and second-year students looking for housing, as many second-year students had not moved into housing last year because of the pandemic;
  • More international students coming to the Netherlands this year (many had stayed away last year, again because of the pandemic).

Eighteen thousand new student residences are scheduled for construction and completion by 2024, but even that number of new places will not be enough to accommodate demand.

Shortage especially troubling for international students

International students may find the housing shortage even more of a barrier than domestic students given that their parents’ homes are not in the Netherlands, leaving them with little other option but to find housing outside of student residences if they do not find a space.

The issue is serious enough that The University of Twente has encouraged international students who have not yet found accommodation to study at a different university.

At the same time, the university is being supported by other stakeholders within the region to develop solutions to the housing crisis. In late August, Twente Board, Saxion, the City of Enschede, housing providers, and the University of Twente discussed a number of strategies aimed at finding solutions to the problem, and it is possible that temporary housing units will be created to increase housing supply in the near term.

Not exclusive to the Netherlands

The pandemic has created student housing issues in other countries as well, mainly because:

  • Many students who had deferred last year due to COVID are now attempting to follow through on their study abroad plans;
  • Some universities are reducing student housing capacity in order to not crowd residences (i.e., as a strategy to prevent COVID transmission).

In Canada, for example, several universities are reporting hundreds more applications for housing than there are spaces.

International enrolment increased despite the pandemic

Despite the pandemic, international enrolment in Dutch universities actually increased by 13% (as measured year-over-year as of 1 October 2020), largely driven by continuing growth in European Economic Area (EEA) numbers. Most foreign students in the country come from within the EEA and from Germany, Italy, and Belgium in particular. There is potential for still more growth given that there are now more barriers for EEA students to study in the UK post-Brexit. European destinations outside the UK are expected to pick up some students who might have chosen the UK in a pre-Brexit context but who are now considering other options.

Nuffic, the peak body for international education in the Netherlands, has been conducting research aimed at assessing student demand for Dutch higher education in 2021/22. In March 2021, three in four prospective/incoming international students said that it was “likely” or “very likely” that they would follow through on their study plans in the Netherlands this year. Being able to secure accommodation would only strengthen that resolve, while not finding a spot would obviously weaken it.

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