International students coming to Oslo are guaranteed housing but
today lack of space forces 236 exchange students to share rooms, the
smallest ones being only nine square meters. –This is far from what we
expected, says Russian student Kate Makhnovskaya.
Makhnovskaya is one of the 236 students who have to share rooms in
the Kringsjå student village. The size of the room she shares with Natalya
Semenova is nine square meters and it is equipped with two beds, one desk
and dysfunctional internet connection. For this the students pay 2300
Norwegian kroner each a month, while students who rent this type of room
alone pay 4000 kroner.
The international students are frustrated by the situation they have
– The rooms do not live up to the standard we pictured, the internet
connections are broken in half of the rooms, and it is difficult to get
through with our complaints. In addition we are segredated from Norwegian
students and it is only foreigners who are forced to share the rooms, says
The only option
85 of the international students in the Kringsjå student village have
signed a letter of complaint to the Foundation for Student Life in Oslo
(SiO). The complaint was sent August 16th but the students have not yet
received an answer to their letter. Other students have sent individual
complaints and they call the complaint process an inconvenient
– I sent an email in which I´d written about all the flaws and problems.
The answer I received was that I had accepted these conditions since I had
signed the contract. I was also told I could apply for a single room but
the waiting time for a single room is two months, and since I´m only
staying in Norway for one semester I don´t know if there´s any point to
it, says Romanian student Alexandra Toader.
Several students say that they did not choose to share their rooms but
that this seemed to be the only option. The arrangement of two students in
one room only affects international students and the students Universitas
have spoken to do not like that their rent is higher than what SiO would
have demanded for one person living in the room alone.
International students who come to Norway have the prior claim to the
student housing units SiO can offer. This is due to an agreement between
the University of Oslo (UiO), BI Norwegian School of Management and SiO.
– UiO guarantees international students a place to live and consequently
SiO priorities the international students according to the arrangement,
says Monica Bakken, study director at UiO.
Bakken thinks housing is an important factor when it comes to attracting
international students to Oslo but she stresses the need for more student
– We see clearly the challenge connected to the general lack of student
housing and UiO agrees on SiO´s claim that we need more housing units.
Only affects international students
Last august SiO had problems with with overbooking housing for
international students. 200 students were homeless by the semester had
started. Housing director in SiO Tom Olstad calls the new arrangment an
experiment in order to increase the student housing capacity and avoid
The situation with two students in one room only affects international
students and is tested at Kringsjå student village. 236 students are
affected by the experiment.
– By this year´s semester start we have several thousand students who have
applied for a place to stay with us who we have to reject due to lack of
space. Two students in one room is an experiment we test in order to offer
housing to a larger number of students than what we normally would have
managed, says Olstad.
– Did the people who have to share rooms choose this themselves?
– Normally those who wish to apply for housing do this through our
websites and this is the case for many of those who live together in one
room. Some of the students were given housing through UiO and BI.
– Why is the total rent for two people sharing one room higher than
what one person living in a single room would pay?
– This is due to several aspects. Among other things there are more common
areas, and the rooms are furnished. When it comes to energy cost two
people will use more warm water and electricity than one student.
Olstad rejects the international students´ demands about lower rent.
– The rent is set to cover the actual cost we face with this housing concept.
Manager in SiO Fredrik Øren Refsnes is humble when it comes to the
international students´ situation. He underlines that the concept is just
– The information we have sent out has not been sufficient. We accept the
complaints we get concerning flaws and defects in the rooms. We are
working to compensate for all the things that lack but at the moment we
cannot promise lower rent, says Refsnes.
– We will consider all the feedback we have received when we evaluate the
concept. I have seen the students´ letter of complaint and I can promise
an answer as fast as it is possible.
Simen Tallaksen • Ketil Blom (foto) • Translation by Ingrid F. Brubaker
Wants to remove the housing guarantee
The head of the Welfare Council wants to remove the housing guarantee
for international students. In this way it will be easier for Norwegian
students to find hou
– The internationalization works faster than the house-building. If
we keep up the housing guarantee we might end up by a crossroad where
Norwegian students will be thrown out in order to make room for the
international ones, says Mari Berdal Djupvik, head of the Welfare
Council´s working commitee.
She thinks in the long run it will be difficult to maintain a housing
guarantee and welomes a discussion on today´s arrangement.
– I think we need to divide out our housing units in August in a different
way. The number of international students given a place to live in August
has increased and this year we feared that there wouldn´t be any housing
units left for Norwegian students.
In Monday´s Welfare Council meeting the set of rules of housing was
discussed. A majority from the working commitee wanted to keep 40 per cent
of SiO´s housing for Norwegian students and by that remove the housing
guarantee for international students. This proposition was voted down but
will have to be discussed again in the case of a possible merge of SiO and
OAS in January