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Ian Hudghton
Scottish National Party
Member of the European Parliament

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Press Releases
7 October 2003
Hudghton seeks solution to students' plight in France

SNP Member of the European Parliament Ian Hudghton has taken up the concerns of students, parents and academic staff over the provision of decent, affordable accommodation in France.  The students are funded through an EU programme called Erasmus, enabling students to take part in exchange schemes between European universities and colleges.

The MEP was contacted by parents of students from the north-east of Scotland.  The young people had recently arrived in France and were about to embark on studies at a French university but were facing considerable difficulties in acquiring suitable accommodation.  The host university in France had put the students in touch with a number of private landlords but the Scots were confronted with demands for large cash deposits or the requirement to sign long leases.

Mr Hudghton spoke to the students’ co-ordinator in Aberdeen who also expressed his concerns and informed the MEP that the situation confronting these particular students was becoming more typical in France, where colleges and universities make extensive use of private rented accommodation.  The co-ordinator confirmed that the “host” university or college is responsible for assisting the students to find accommodation and that the staff in Aberdeen take great pains to help exchange students from other EU countries have a trouble-free stay in Scotland.

Of the 27 participating countries, France is by far the most popular country for Erasmus students from the UK to go to.  The Erasmus Council in Canterbury informed the MEP that France was the destination of nearly a third of UK Erasmus students (2,633 in total) in the last academic year.  328 of these were from Scotland.  While Mr Hudghton is sure many were able to secure accommodation with ease, the MEP is keen to prevent other students facing the uncertainties he’d been informed about.  He has therefore written to Mr Peter van der Hijden, the European Commission’s co-ordinator for the Erasmus programme, to see what can be done.  Speaking from his office in Brussels, Mr Hudghton said:

“Although several academic institutions in Scotland have had successful exchanges with their French counterparts over many years, accommodation problems have emerged only over the last couple of years. Germany doesn’t seem to be a problem as students are often able to rent a room or flat in college accommodation.

“However the situation in France isn’t as straightforward with students often depending on the private rented sector, which is not regulated by the academic institutions.  I have heard of Scottish students being asked to provide a French guarantor before being given a lease.  This is ridiculous; incoming students are unlikely to know anyone in France at the start of their exchange, never mind someone who would act as a guarantor.  It’s been reported to me that students or their parents are being asked to pay huge deposits or several months rent up front, with no guarantee of reimbursement at the end of the lease, and of students being required to sign leases for a year when their stay is considerably shorter.  All these factors combine to make a very unsettling start for Scottish exchange students abroad, and their concerned parents back home.

“I am glad to report that the students who contacted me have at last found suitable accommodation.  However I am determined to ensure that no other students have to confront these problems in future. My letter to the Commission is to alert them to what has been happening and to ask them to seek a solution to these problems which could, if left unresolved, undermine the successful running of this otherwise excellent academic exchange scheme.”

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