As published on 14 December, the conservative ÖVP (People’s Party) and far-right FPÖ (Liberal Party) agreed to implement nation-wide tuition fees in Austria. The Austrian Students’ Union (ÖH) is strictly opposing these plans, which would be highly irresponsible regarding student’s rights and in socio-economic terms. „The fact that we are still talking about nation-wide 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. 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 will lead 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 then implementation of nation-wide tuition fees: 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. Cut-backs especially in the area of education is a disastrous signal to future generations. In a state like Austria, where education is part of the most substantial resources, the implementation of nation-wide tuition fees would mean surrendering the challenges of the Higher Education Area. The Austrian Students’ Union wants to present solid suggestions to fund the Higher Education Sector. We definitely are continuing to present these suggestions at the negotiation table to enable every student to enroll and pursue their studies regardless of their socio-economic background. The implementation of tuition fees would be a step in the wrong direction!
On behalf of all signatories.