Is Groningen a Sustainable Student City? A White Paper

Hubert Matuszewski, Daniel MacRae, Advay Jain, Erfan Mohseni, Lise Oldenziel, Ferdinand Lewis

Research output: Book/ReportReportProfessional

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Abstract

Over the last few years, Groningen has emerged as an international city. The universities and the Gemeente have undertaken an initiative to become known not merely as a student city, but as an “international” city. To achieve this, they have planned to increase the international student population within the city (Gemeente Groningen, 2018). While trying to attain this vision, however, problems seem to have surfaced. In order to properly evaluate the complex situation Groningen finds itself in, we had to begin by defining our terms, creating a toolbox with which to analyse the city. In our investigations, we found that the idea of sustainability proposed by our sources was not clearly defined or was too narrow. Based on the existing literature, we found that sustainability could be divided into three pillars; economic, social, and, of course, environmental (Purvis, Mao & Robinson 2018). Once we had defined our terms and established what we were looking for, we began assembling relevant data regarding the city of Groningen. Utilising both qualitative and quantitative methods, we conducted interviews, collected statistics, created maps and examined existing legislation and literature pertaining to the subjects of sustainability and student cities. Finally, we evaluated the current condition of Groningen as a sustainable student city, pinpointing shortcomings, the reasons behind them, and the areas where we don’t know enough. It seems that the universities and the Gemeente hadn’t fully evaluated the capacities of Groningen to accommodate this increase of international students before their internationalisation campaign. Perhaps the largest issue that arose is the unexpected lack of integration between the international students and the local residents. This is seen as extremely unfavourable by students, making it very difficult for them to assimilate into the city and become active agents within their respective communities. Instead, a sort of bubble emerges; where internationals live together and mingle amongst themselves, only really acting as consumers within the city, departing the city after they complete their degrees, without having integrated into the city. The demands of the two separate groups which have a completely different way of being, are almost irreconcilable, with limited communication between one another augmenting their disparities. Unfortunately, the lack of social integration and insufficient planning have been the demise of each other, particularly in regards to how Groningen can sustain the influx of internationals. Some issues that have arisen as a result of this are; the shortage of student housing, the difficulty of access to the labour market for international students, a lack of student representation within the city, and the rise of dodgy practices against internationals. If these problems aren’t promptly addressed, then it seems likely that the situation will worsen. If Groningen starts building a negative reputation as a result of these issues, it could face major difficulties in continuing its ambition of becoming a truly international student city. An evaluation regarding the capacity of Groningen to accommodate international students is needed in order to determine whether or not it is sustainable. If we actively collaborate with the various stakeholders, on the basis of a concrete analysis of Groningen (in terms of the city and the University), we can set a realistic path to achieve a sustainable and well-integrated student city, where both the internationals and the long-term residents have adequate say and input within their communities, and the city as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGroningen, The Netherlands
PublisherUniversity of Groningen Press
Number of pages31
ISBN (Print)978-94-034-2846-8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • sustainable cities
  • student cities
  • sustainability

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