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Student housing key to quality of education

Update: February, 17/2012 - 09:31

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A recently published article on the VNExpress news website reveals that Le Van Lan, a well-known historian, lives frugally on his own in a tiny, 6 sq.m room.

The story astonished many readers, as they were surprised that such a respected professor would live such a frugal lifestyle. Some said the Government should offer special treatment to intellectuals to encourage research activities.

However, professor Van Nhu Cuong, principal of the Luong The Vinh High School was not shocked by the story. He told the Giao duc Viet Nam (Viet Nam's Education) newspaper that Vietnamese professors were used to living in limited conditions.

There were a lot of professors living frugal lives in Viet Nam, but that did not prevent them from contributing to research activities, Cuong said.

He added that it was impossible to make a lot of money being a researcher in Viet Nam and that the Government's budget could not afford to offer special treatment to all professors because there were many of them and their research topics were so varied.

Is it common for university professors and researchers to live frugally in your countries?

Do they receive special treatment for their contributions? If so, what kind?

Do you think professors and researchers should be offered special treatment? Why or why not?

Emails should be sent to: – or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to this week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, February 23.

Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers about student accommodation in their countries, the solutions to any shortages - and their experiences in looking for accommodation when they were students.

Arti Samkaria, Indian, Delhi

There isn't any shortage of student accommodation in India. Every school or university has plenty.

India has many private institutions so the competition to attract students makes them pour money into student accommodation - often the best available.

Students usually stay in shared accommodation and pay monthly rental. Underprivileged students receive hostel facilities at cheap rates subsidised by the government.

Viet Nam's government should create specific policies to attract the best private universities. This will also mean top accommodation for students.

If Government backing is not available, State-owned universities should actively attract investments for good hostels.

Lawry Bee Tin Yeo, Singaporean, HCM City

I did my first degree studies at the University of Singapore in the late sixties and lived in a student accommodation hall (hostel). It was compulsory for overseas students to have two years of hostel life.

The rooms was shared with another student and there was ample space for beds, study tables, chairs and cupboards. The lighting was perfect. We shared the bathrooms and toilet facilities.

Top facilities like these take away a major worry for students in their early student life. This enables them to concentrate on their studies and social life.

I believe all students should have good accommodation or given an opportunity to stay in hostels for at least two years to get adjusted to university life. It should be a priority for universities to build hostels or privatise them. This enables students to study better. It also makes universities as popular as those in the West.

I see no reason why good accommodation cannot be provided to students in Viet Nam. The student population here is huge but the accommodation often leaves a lot to be desired. I often hear my colleagues say that their student life is miserable, but they strive with it to have a better future.

Dante Javier Muana Go, Filipino, Sydney

Before I came to Sydney for my MA, I tried to look for rental accommodation on the internet. But most of the advertisements were just scams. There were a few genuine ones, but most were too expensive.

The idea of staying at university housing crossed my mind, but it had to be reserved well ahead. So when I arrived in Sydney, I stayed for the first three nights at a backpacker hostel. Rent was US$79 a night, twice the weekly cost of my current room. I would not suggest it to anyone.

Then, I met a Filipino student who had been in Sydney for two years. He immediately suggested a single room at a reasonable rental.

So the key is to make friends with people and you will get a lot of useful information. Maybe, it's not your friend who can find you a room, but the friend of a friend of your friend.

Nguyen Canh Hieu, Halle City, Germany

Most students in Halle City where I am studying my masters in finance do not stay at university hostels or on-campus residential areas but rent accommodation.

We pay cheaper rental for outside accommodation but it is still not much. We can choose a room near our university, library, supermarkets, shopping centres and entertainment centres while university hostels are far away from these places.

In summer, it is acceptable to travel such a long way. In winter, waiting for trains in such cold and snowy weather is really a nightmare. So, living in a rental room helps us save time and money.

Actually, my university offers favourable policies for students to stay at hostels. Each student is given a single 20-25sq.m room, a clean shared bathroom and kitchen costing 170-200 Euros per month.

However, looking for accommodation which is reasonable and comfortable is challenging. And we have to furnish our room when moving. I have moved four times in three years.

At first, most international students look for accommodation on the Internet but it is risky. Then, when we get used to the city and have new friends, we know where to look for a room, but it still depends on luck.

My situation has something in common with students in Viet Nam. I think while waiting for some supporting policies related to accommodation, students should actively look for accommodation by themselves based on the experiences of older students who are always willing to help. This is the best way for students to look for suitable accommodation without being cheated.

Professor Christopher Nyland, co-author of International Student Security Study, Melbourne

Australia is one of the most expensive countries to live in, so international students usually have to share rental accommodation.

However, it can become dangerous when too many people live in the same place. Many crowd in groups of 10 to 20 into three-bedroom houses, often in unsanitary and unsafe conditions.

Charges are as high as $150-$200 per person a week. This really affects their study and safety. One house meant for a family of five or six had 48 students staying in it.

The authorities found out because many students had to use toilets in the park when the house was full. There was an incident in Melbourne when four Indian boys living in one room suffocated when it caught fire.

I think this situation happens in many countries. And the primary solution for these problems is that the education institutions need to redirect their resources toward housing for students.

They should follow what Australian National University (ANU) does for its students. At ANU, all students are guaranteed on-campus accommodation, charged 30 per cent lower than the rental market.

Universities could also send experts out to a house or flat to make sure everything is good enough for students new to the city.

Nguyen Xuan The, Ha Noi

I stay in a single room in a small lane off Lang Ha Street, which is 10 minutes away from my university.

It is quite okay for me to pay a monthly VND1million ($47.6). However, we are limited in the use of water by the landlord. He can cut the water whenever he thinks it is overused. Moreover, this residential area is not safe for female students to travel at night. Some of them are harassed.

I want to live in the university's hostel. However, I am still on the waiting list.

To reduce risks for students looking for a room, universities should form a supporting agency responsible for providing specific and appropriate advice on where to live or how much to pay. There should be a hotline which students can call anytime they are facing an emergency. — VNS

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