When you think of a typical student city, Eindhoven is probably not the first place that springs to mind. This is something that former member of the DAS faction Joëlle Bink and her party colleagues would like to see change. “It's not enough that we want this, we need to know whether the idea has traction,” the Data Science student says. If they have it in black and white that more students feel this way, it will strength their negotiations and discussions with Eindhoven's politicians and educational institutions.
The main question asked by their study is what current students need from Eindhoven as a student city. “Personally, we believe Eindhoven has untapped potential in, for example, its nightlife and the ties between students and the city, its student culture and, of course, accommodation. These are all themes we are asking questions about.” They are doing this initially in three two-hour sessions in which groups of ten students with different backgrounds have the opportunity to voice their opinions. “These are students of TU/e, Fontys and the Design Academy, and they won't all be people hugely active in student life. On the contrary, we also want to hear the views of students who take the train home at the end of the day, to learn what it would take to make them eager to do their bit for the city.”
Students feel too little connection with Eindhoven, says Bink. “You see many of them leave as soon as they've finished their degree, even if it's only to go as far as Den Bosch. What does that city have that Eindhoven doesn't?” The municipality and TU/e also see the importance of this sense of connection, knows Bink, who is a former member of the University Council. To her mind, it is missing lack partly because many students don't come and live in Eindhoven. “If you don't live here, never visit here, and don't have a fondness for the place, there's no reason why you would do your bit for the city, is there?”
Nor is it easy for students to settle in Eindhoven, whether temporarily or longer term, due to the considerable housing shortage. This is another subject that should be brought to the municipality's attention, believes Bink. “Housing is problematic for everyone at the moment, but all the emergency facilities and newbuild homes currently being built are studio blocks. This is incredibly inefficient and it's not an arrangement that students are happy with, it breeds loneliness. The most efficient way to use space is to have people sharing a house, like a student house.”
Bink is curious to know whether more students share her ideas. The study will reveal this one way or the other. She isn't conducting the study herself, it should be said, that's the work of innovation agency Six Fingers. “As students we are good at big data involving lots of figures, but asking the right questions in a qualitative study is a different kettle of fish. We felt it was important that this study be conducted well. And outsourcing it to other people will also give it more weight and avoid it being seen as students marking their own homework.” Funding from STEHVEN made it possible to hire Six Fingers.
On March 9th, Bink and her party colleagues will present the initial session results to administrators of the educational institutions, the press and local politicians. A survey is also being held, but its results won't be available until later. Nevertheless, members of DAS decided to go ahead and hold a meeting in the city hall. “We are holding it before the local elections so that when politicians form their coalition and write a coalition agreement, they can take the study's findings into account. Most parties are sending an election candidate to the meeting. And if more people want to know the findings of the study, I'll happily present them a hundred times more. Anything to keep this subject on the agenda.”