Unfair battle for spots between UU and HU students

Where to study in Utrecht when all spots are occupied?

De strijd om de studieplekken
De strijd om de studieplekken

A small room filled with clothes and dirty dishes. Beer-drinking roommates celebrating the completion of their last exam. Heavy metal tunes coming from that one neighbour who can only concentrate when listening to this type of music. Many students don't have enough peace and quiet at home, so they need to find a place to study elsewhere in order to secure a passing grade. But, with almost 76,000 students in Utrecht and only around 5,000 official study spots, that seems practically impossible – especially for students of the university of applied sciences, who are not allowed to enter UU's libraries during exam weeks.

Which one has the best library: UU or HU?

The university library in the city centre is clearly the most popular place to study. It’s always packed, and students have to deal with long queues and an inconvenient reservation system. It makes sense — after all, who wouldn’t want to study in Napoleon’s former palace? It's central, it's light, and it's quiet. Well, that's if you’re not next to someone chewing bubble gum open-mouthed or a troll who enjoys stirring a pot of pickles with their fingers just for fun.

Studieplek UBB Foto: DUB

UU's Library in the city centre. Photo: DUB

You have to be early or you can’t get in, which sucks if you were studying until 3:00 am and could use an extra hour of sleep. Some students set their alarms to be able to reserve a spot on time, put their stuff down on the desk, and then leave again to go for brunch or catch up on sleep. It's pretty frustrating to see empty desks with randomly strewn-about books and chairs with nothing but a coat on them when you’re desperately searching for a quiet place to study. But here’s a tip: spots are released if people abandon them for over 30 minutes. With a little bit of patience and cheekiness, you might just grab a spot after all.

Places to study
Places to study

If that doesn’t work, you can always cycle to the Utrecht Science Park (USP), because there are usually more spots available there. If you're a UU student, there’s a fair chance you’ll find something because of an agreement between UU and HU stating that their students can study in each other's buildings. However, during exam weeks, UU students can study in the HU library but the other way around is not allowed. You don’t even have to make a reservation to use the HU library.

Secret places to study at Utrecht Science Park

True veterans know that there are many places at Utrecht Science Park that are actually a lot better than those offered by the UU and HU libraries. You just have to be in the know. One spot relatively few people know about is the canteen inside the Kruyt building. Since that's such a depressing, desolate chunk of a building, hardly anyone ever comes here, so the canteen always has dozens of empty tables and chairs, not to mention around twenty booths with windows that open and plenty of outlets. The canteen was closed for years, which made for a spooky atmosphere but it opened for business again a few months ago. There’s also a table tennis table around the corner, where you can compete against the PhD candidates who sometimes come down from the laboratories.

Sudiewerrkplek in het Kruytgebouw. Foto: DUB

Places to study in the Kruyt building. Photo: DUB

But if the bleakness of the Kruyt building makes you more depressed than your upcoming exams do, it’ll only take you a few minutes to move to our next golden tip: the administration building. Despite the comfortable seats, the many windows, and the free coffee (if you know where to find the right machines), there usually is enough space to sit here, oddly enough. In between the second-floor offices, there are even sun-kissed flex work spots, colourfully decorated with plants, calming lights, and comfortable sofas and chairs. Additionally, the building has isolated phone booths where you can peacefully hold online meetings. If you want to be absolutely certain that you will not be disturbed, make sure to go on a Friday afternoon when most people who work there will already have gone home!

Studiewerkplekken in het Bestuursgebouw. Foto: DUB

Places to study in the Administration building. Photo: DUB

If there truly aren’t any spaces left anywhere, you can always go to the Hijmans van den Bergh building – or, as the Med students say, the HVDB. This building is located right next to the Utrecht Medical Centre, which is sometimes forgotten as part of the university, so it's less busy. Granted, it looks like a hospital, but there is free coffee!

For those who can't focus without coffee

One of the most important ingredients of a successful study session is, of course, coffee. And let's face it, nobody drinks the bean water from the university's machines because they love the flavour. If you're one of those people who can only focus with a really good cup of coffee, you should take a look at the European Coffee Trip., which tells you exactly where to get Specialty Coffee in Utrecht. It’s no coincidence those are often great places to study, too. Moreover, in a café, it doesn’t matter whether you’re an HU or a UU student, everyone is welcome.

Take Koffieleute, for example. This little café by the water, near Vaartsche Rijn station, is a pretty cosy option because its décor resembles a living room. That comes in handy if your own living room is a mess. Well, that's if you even have one. This place does require you to be able to focus with some background noise but that isn’t an issue for some people. You can also play Mario Kart here, if you want to procrastinate for a bit. In addition to the delicious coffee, they serve homemade baked goods, although this is one of the very few cafés in Utrecht where you’re not obliged to order anything.

Studieplek Koffieleute Foto: DUB

Koffieleute Café is a nice place to study. Photo: DUB

In the city centre, StayOkay hostel can also be used as a place to study. They used to serve unlimited coffee and tea for 7 euros a day but, unfortunately, inflation has affected them too. It's still worth it to study there, though — after all, you get a great view of Neude Square.

When Napoleon’s palace is full but you still want an epic place to study, how about an old church? BUNK is located at Catharijnesingel, near Utrecht Central Station. If you think all they offer is accommodation, drinking and dining, you're wrong: the second floor has lovely work spots which are ideal for diving into those study books. Beware, though: they’re very strict about not allowing people to bring their own food and drinks!

One final tip for those not living in Utrecht: we're sure you know how lovely studying on the train can be. But not if you have to stand in between folding bicycles, suitcases, and sweaty people. You're better off spending rush hour at Vascobelo, next to the central station. They’re open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm and there is a room upstairs with couches, far removed from the crowds near the bar and entrance.

Studying outdoors

Although the weather isn’t exactly inviting for studying outside right now, some students find studying indoors in the spring and summer months to be even worse than the exams themselves. If that's you, did you know that the HU buildings on Heidelberglaan 15 and Padualaan 97 both have roof terraces? UU students are also allowed to soak up the sun there while they study. If you like to be one with nature, both UU and HU students are welcome at the Botanical Gardens (free entrance). You can sit at Garden Café Botanica all year. From May to September – which includes the final exam week – there’s even a tent where you can sit in the shade, surrounded by flowers and bees.

But if you're into studying out in the wild, Stayokay hostel in Amelisweerd is the place for you. They have a shaded terrace with a lovely view of the grounds. If your laptop is running out of batteries, you can sit indoors to charge it. But heading East isn't necessary if nature is what you're looking for: the garden behind Dom Tower is an oasis of peace and quiet in the middle of the city centre.

Where not to go?

All of HU's buildings offer soundproof booths where you can make phone calls and attend online lectures but they are very popular among HU students, so they are almost always taken, forcing students to study in the hallways of buildings like the one located on Heidelberglaan 15. Believe us, that is one place where you really do not want to sit in the hallways. The chairs will hurt your buttocks and you will be overwhelmed by all the noise made by the chatting students grabbing coffee around you. You will also see computers that look like they could make for a lovely place to study until you find out they don't have Internet access.

Nobody knows why they’re even there, except perhaps to mislead unsuspecting HU students looking for a place to study. If you bring your own laptop, you may get somewhere at least, as long as you manage to obtain a table with an outlet. They’re not just scarce here, but at the Langeveld building as well. Your battery might just die after hours of searching for a spot just to begin studying. Aaargh! No wonder you'll barely see any UU students hanging around in these HU buildings.

Studiewerkplekken grafiek UU
Study spots

Last but not least, we asked students what most spots are missing right now. Outlets are high on their list but there’s also a lot of demand for secluded spaces, especially at UU. HU students mostly miss affordable food nearby.


Tags: study area