Accommodation for international students: identifying major challenges
Finding a temporary home is critical to the study abroad experience, and can have a serious impact on the reception and immersion of individual students in the host country. While those involved with student housing have been aware of the issue for some time, and recognise it is a challenge throughout Europe, the scope of the problem has received heightened attention lately. In The Netherlands, the creation of the “Housing Hotline” clearly showed the extent of the problem, but there are numerous other examples out there.
Student accommodation: a study
From November 2015 to October 2017, a consortium consisting of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), the European University Foundation (EUF), the Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe (UNICA) and the Compostela Group of Universities, teamed up to carry out the HousErasmus+ project. Co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme, the project looked at the issue of student accommodation from a variety of angles. Specifically, project coordinators conducted several surveys and study visits with in-depth interviews and regional conferences, along with other fun and engaging activities - culminating with a final conference in Brussels.
Researchers from the EUF analysed the findings and produced a comprehensive research report. They also produced a recommendation and good practice booklet, with recommendations for various groups such as students, universities, housing providers and policy-makers.
The following highlights from the research reveal several interesting facts regarding the lack of accommodation. While the project partners knew anecdotally of many of the issues, it was enlightening to get some concrete numbers on the problem:
- Lack of equal treatment: About 17% of respondents reported that they faced discrimination when looking for accommodation abroad. About 12% reported attempted (not actual) fraud when looking for accommodation.
- Information: The main source of information on student accommodation was identified as the host universities. About 2/3 of the respondents said that the information from the host universities was useful. Social media channels and general housing websites were also listed as useful information sources, but less useful when it came to actually finding accommodation.
- Trainees: Compared to students in academic programmes, Erasmus+ trainees seem to face more difficulties in finding accommodation abroad.
With the wide range of suggestions, ranging from small-scale ideas to very broad policy developments, we invite everyone to have a look at the conslusions and think about what can be done and improved at each level. In the end, student exchanges represent a fantastic opportunity for the ‘Erasmus+ Generation’ to get out of their comfort zone, grow through academic and professional experiences and, ultimately, gain new insights into the world. Let’s all work to make sure that accommodation issues will not get in the way!