“About ten people actively came forward since March 2020 with this complaint,” says Adem Topdag, council member at the municipality of Eindhoven for DENK. “Our youth department OPPOSITIE subsequently looked into this and started to ask around. Especially now with corona, there are fewer study seats available because people need to keep more distance, and because some locations have limited opening hours or are closed even, such as the public library in the city center of Eindhoven. TU/e now also refuses students who don’t study at the university access to their buildings. That doesn’t solve the problem of a shortage of study seats. There is also a greater need for places to study because more people sit at home now, and therefore more students aren’t comfortable studying at home. I’ve also heard from TU/e students that they have to wait for a study seat to become available. This is a problem at peak moments during the exam weeks in particular. Students complain that they have to book a study seat, but that many students don’t show up but occupy a seat with their reservation anyway.”
Improving the app
TU/e has heard complaints, but the university is continuously monitoring the peak load and trying to improve things. Monique Kuyck, head of Operational Services, says that there are enough study seats available in principle, but that the challenge lies in finding them. “The Book my Space-platform in the Planon app doesn’t function optimally at this point. We will make improvements, but it takes time. We keep our eye on the reservations and see that between 80 and 90 percent of the study seats are booked at peak moments during the exam weeks. We only sporadically receive complaints from students who can’t find a study seat.”
MetaForum was open to vulnerable and international students for the first time last year during Christmas. “We saw some fifty students a day there. By way of illustration: we have about two hundred seats available at MetaForum during times of corona. Our advice is still: work at home as much as possible. Those study seats are meant for students who really can’t work at home. Sure, there are people who don’t show up, but that’s difficult to tackle. Our main focus now is on improving the app so that it will be easier for students to find available study seats.”
Studying in a nightclub
Topdag couldn’t say exactly how many (TU/e)students complained in the investigation carried out by DENK’s youth organization. “The municipal executive needs to say how serious the problem is in Eindhoven. This is currently being looked into, and they are legally obliged to answer within four weeks.” Topdag says that this problem is not limited to Eindhoven alone. Other cities also have problems offering their students enough locations to study. “In Zoetermeer, for example, they’ve opened the doors of their council hall to students. Can’t we do the same here? Or what about nightclubs, which are empty now.? If they discuss the problem with the educational institutions, they might be able to help each other out.”
The alderman responsible for education in Eindhoven, Stijn Steenbakker, was asked for a response, but he hasn’t replied (yet).