The IBB-complex, foto Wikimedia / Japiot

SSH content with results of international housing pilot

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In the past six weeks, 45 international students were able to procure a room at one of the SSH housing locations. They benefited from a test in which the housing organisation gave internationals priority for housing interviews.

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“It seems as though the idea of students preferring not to have international housemates, isn’t true after all,” Roeland Kreeft says. Kreeft is strategy manager at the SSH, and is happy with the preliminary results of a pilot in which internationals were added to candidate lists – ‘hospiteerlijsten’ in Dutch: lists of possible candidates that are given to students of an SSH house whenever a room becomes available. The pilot only applied to international students who’ve come to Utrecht to do an entire bachelor’s or master’s programme.

During the pilot, which started mid-July and ended in late August, two hundred rooms were interviewed for. Each candidate list consisted of fifteen names, of which a third to half were names of international students. The candidates then interviewed for the room. In 45 cases, the available rooms were given to international students. “Surprisingly often,” says Kreeft.

The SSH says it’s not the final score yet: they’ve yet to evaluate the pilot, and are busy processing the questionnaire forms the houses have sent in.

Kreeft stresses that they never urged anyone to choose an international housemate. Houses were offered the option of conducting the interviews through Skype in order to give internationals a fair chance, but that was never a requirement. It’s yet unknown how many of the cases included Skype interviews.

Kreeft says the SSH wanted to study in how far student accommodations are willing to choose an international degree student as roommate. Referring to widely publicised ‘only Dutch’ texts on room ads, the SSH manager says there’s a persistent idea that students don’t want international students around. A study published earlier by ISHA, the organisation that represents international students in housing matters, had also come to the conclusion that Dutch students aren’t too eager to live with internationals.

Whether Dutch students would have the same number of objections against international housemates when said housemates are degree students like themselves, was never verifiable, because the international degree students also end up in short stay units reserved for international short stay students, Kreeft says.

The housing organisation says they prefer offering regular rooms to international students, reserving the limited number of furnished short stay rooms for exchange students. Kreeft: “Like Dutch students, the degree students do the entire study programme at a Utrecht-based academic institutions, but they hit two roadblocks: they’re not able to sign up for a room two or three years in advance, and they can’t just hop over for an interview when they’re in, say, Bulgaria or South Korea. This pilot offered as solution.”

Kreeft also acknowledges the negative responses he’s received on the temporary priority status given to international students. “We’ve explained that this was inevitable for the pilot. The method we’ve used in the pilot is not one we’d implement it as a standard. Our first step is to talk to tenants’ association Boks, and then we’ll figure out how to go on from there. Our intention is to give international degree students a fair chance at getting a room. The best way to achieve this is still up for discussion.”

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