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5 things you should know about student housing in the Netherlands

Tips on how to survive the stressful process of looking for student housing in the Netherlands. Source: Shutterstock

The Netherlands is one of Europe’s most popular study abroad destinations. Thanks to reasonable living costs, high quality of life and the wide range of English programmes, international students are increasingly applying to Dutch institutions.

In 2018, some 122,000 international students from 162 countries were enrolled in Dutch universities – 10,000 more than 2017, according to data collected by Nuffic, the Dutch organisation for international co-operation in higher education.

With this boom in popularity comes strains in the supply of student housing. Note that Dutch universities here are not responsible for securing housing for their students, so the task falls on the students alone. And it can be one tough process.

In a report published last month that found the majority of international students don’t feel at home in the Netherlands, while the lack of housing was identified as a major source of stress.

With this in mind, we’d like to prepare aspiring international students interested to study in the Netherlands with the right information about the state of student housing in the country.

Here are the top four things to know:

1. There will be a shortage of available student housing


In the next eight years, a report from student housing lobbying body Kences’s estimates that the number of full-time international diploma students and visitors who pursue a module of their course in the Netherlands will increase by 34 percent and 31 percent respectively. There will be an increase in domestic students too, presenting a major challenge, especially in university towns such as Wageningen and Delft.

With high demand and low supply, students have little choice than to settle with whatever they can find, which includes accepting subpar and overpriced housing.

2. Student housing in the Netherlands ‘lack organisation’

In a survey of more than 1,000 international students by three student organisations (LSVb, ISO and ESN), more than 70 percent said student housing should be better organised.

“International students are actively recruited,” said Carline van Breugel from LSVb.

“But when they get to the Netherlands, often there isn’t any affordable accommodation, they don’t get Dutch lessons and they find it difficult to connect with fellow Dutch students. This needs to change,” she explained.

3. Prepare for some racism

There are reports of racial discrimination in the land of idyllic canals and liberal politics. Source: Shutterstock

More than one-third of international students said they have been rejected for a property due to their nationality, according to the same report.

According to Dutch Review, there is “significant discrimination” if you happen to be an immigrant and/or have a foreign sounding name (ie. not Dutch) when applying to rent a property. When a survey by De Groene Amsterdammer experimented applying for 250 rental properties under the names of ‘Jaap’ and ‘Rachid’, only 116 responses on availability for Rachid came through, compared to 162 for Jaap. This 28 percent “net discrimination” difference can be a distressing situation for a foreigner in desperate need of housing.

There have also been reports that Dutch students aren’t always keen on having a housemate from abroad. Others may request interviews, which can sometimes be impossible for international students who will likely not be residing in the Netherlands yet.

4. Avoid Facebook groups

Fraudsters prey on desperate folk by asking for deposits of up to hundreds of euros for non-existent rooms. Erasmus Magazine reported that dozens of Facebook groups have been set up to cheat new students out of their money in Rotterdam.

Be wary of housing agencies too as they have been reported to scam folk by requesting they pay a fee with no houses booked or provided. Stay clear of advertisements without photographs, prices or addresses and messages full of spelling mistakes. Profiles without friends in the area of the room offered or landlords who are unwilling to meet should also be avoided. Most importantly, never sign a contract or transfer any money until you’re absolutely sure it isn’t a scam.

5. Plan way in advance


Some applicants won’t know the status of their application even until one month of their first day of class and this can make booking a room early impossible. However, for those who have the luxury of time, get your search on ASAP. It’s recommended that you start this search at least three months in advance – the earlier the better!

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