Housing shortage brings fewer new students to Ionian University
CORFU. The University is starting a detailed recording of the issue. Archaeological findings on the plot intended for the construction of the Music Department’s new building in Pallada.
The Ionian University has been dealing in recent years with the aftermath of the serious problem of housing shortage in Corfu in terms of attracting first-year students. The difficulty in finding housing, combined with the high rents, often acts as a deterrent for new students to choose the Ionian University.
The problem is visible and has two aspects, the Ionian University Dean Andreas Floros told Enimerosi. The first one is the availability of houses and whether it corresponds to the duration of the studies, as students and professors are often forced to leave the houses they rent long before the beginning of the exams, in order for the owners to convert them into short-term rental accommodation for the season.
For this purpose, the University is going to start a detailed recording of the issue through a questionnaire that will be posted on its website and will be addressed to students, in order to document any housing problems.
"The questionnaire is structured in such a way that we can capture the reality in a fully documented way. Students on all islands will be able to respond anonymously. It will possibly be available next week. The housing problem is obvious and we all know it," he said.
The other aspect of the issue, he said, is the financial one as in many cases, even if a house is found, students cannot afford the high rents. "For the past one and a half year the student housing allowance has been increased. Through the questionnaire we want to prove whether this increase has indeed turned into a rent increase. It is something we need to record in order to give it as feedback to the Ministry of Education. It is an important aspect that we have been hearing about all this time, but we want to see if it is a generalised problem," said Mr. Floros.
Free accommodation is currently offered only to Ionian University students in Corfu. However, the 290 beds (which cover 7%-8% of the active students in Corfu, i.e. 4,000 students) offered by the Ionian University's student halls of residence along with the hotel rooms are like a drop in the ocean.
These expenses are 23% of the University's annual regular budget and, due to the latter's significantly reduced amount, it is not enough to cover the accommodation on the other islands as well.
However, as the Dean said, hoteliers in Zakynthos, in anticipation of the procedures for the construction of halls of residence, responded positively to provide rooms for the students' accommodation needs in winter at very competitive prices that will cover not only the rent but also the electricity, water and internet bills. This development is particularly important, as the Department of Environment is on the island and it does not have a large number of students, because the serious housing problem, amongst other things, acts as a deterrent.
"Some are avoiding to apply to the Ionian University because of the housing problem. The University of the Aegean faces the same issue. There are children who want to study here because of the uniqueness of the curriculum, but when they come and start the process of looking for a house, there is the possibility of being disappointed - either by the unavailability of houses or the rent amounts and ultimately decide not to come. They enrol but are not active in their studies and then seek admission to another department. We have this kind of loss. These students who enroll with us are counted in the admissions but are never counted in the graduates. As a result, the ratio of graduates to admissions is distorted and puts us in a disadvantageous position as a University," said Mr. Floros, noting that awareness should be raised amongst local communities and they should help.
Archaeological findings on the plot in Pallada
As he said, the construction of the student halls of residence can provide a solution to this issue and the relevant competence has already been granted to the Youth and Lifelong Learning Foundation. However, there was a new development in Corfu recently that could potentially delay the process. "The recent development with the Music Department building and the archaeological findings found on the plot of land in Pallada will cause a new delay in the construction of the building. But since the two plots of land, the Music Department one and the one where the new halls of residence will be built, are adjacent, we believe that we will have similar problems there as well. There will not be an immediate solution to the problem", commented Mr. Floros.
He also said that the case of the construction of the Music Department’s building is being referred back to the Central Archaeological Council and in case the placement of the building on the plot needs to be changed, there will be a long delay. "In any case, I estimate that there will be a delay of at least three years. The tender for the project has been carried out. We had three bidders but now we have cancelled the tender process and we are waiting to see what happens. Since one plot is adjacent to the other, we expect that the same findings will be found on that one too. The excavations have not started there yet," explained Mr. Floros.