According to media reports, the conservative ÖVP (People’s Party) and far-right FPÖ (Liberal Party) agreed to implement nationwide tuition fees in Austria.
The introduction of tuition fees was part of the coalition contract by both parties, which will govern for the upcoming five years in Austria. The Austrian Students’ Union (ÖH) strictly opposes these plans, which would be highly irresponsible regarding student’s rights and in socio-economic terms.
“The fact that we are still talking about nationwide tuition fees casts a poor reflection on the Higher Education Area in Austria”, state Johanna Zechmeister, Hannah Lutz and Marita Gasteiger, the chairing team of the Austrian Students’ Union (ÖH). “The administrative expenses which would result after the implementation of such fees would be enormous”, elaborates Zechmeister. “In addition, the Austrian Higher Education Institutions are subject to five different federal laws. Accordingly, it would not even be possible to regulate levying, administration and utilization of the fees uniformly.”
Next to threatening students’ rights, the implementation of tuition fees leads to fatal consequences for students with lower socio-economic backgrounds. “Analyzing the students’- social-survey (Studierendensozialerhebung) of 2002, one can clearly identify the consequences of the implementation of nation-wide tuition fees”, Lutz indignantly declares.
“Approximately 45.000 students had to drop out, as the financial pressure became too high to withstand. Compared to today’s living conditions, these numbers could increase drastically.” Cutbacks, especially in the area of education, is a disastrous sign for future generations. “In a state like Austria, where education is part of the most substantial resources, the implementation of nationwide tuition fees would mean surrendering the challenges of the Higher Education Area”, says Gasteiger.
The Austrian Students’ Union (ÖH) calls for wide protests against these measures around the inauguration of the new government. “Tuition fees are a step towards the wrong direction. ÖH will always point to the right way, at the negotiation table, as well as on the streets”, concludes the chairing team.