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Austria – juggling with student quotas

The full extent of the new Austrian University Law (UG), which was passed shortly before the elections to the new Austrian National Council (we reported in the September issue of the ACA Newsletter – Education Europe), is only now becoming visible. In fact, not only were tuition fees at Austrian universities abolished, but new student quotas for psychology and veterinary medicine will be in place starting September 2009. This was confirmed in a press release by the Ministry of Education and Science (BMWF) on 17 November.

The quotas foresee that 75 percent of the places at Austrian universities must be reserved for Austrians, while 20 percent may be filled with EU citizens. The remaining 5 percent will be open to non-EU nationals. This threshold had been valid only for medicine and dentistry until now - and also just on a provisional basis as the European Commission had given Austria (and Belgium, for that matter) until 2012 to submit additional evidence for the measures. The country had cited a major strain on its health care system as German students in Austria tended to seek employment in their home country rather than in Austria. The new quotas will have an imminent effect on the composition of the Austrian student body. In some universities, e.g. in Salzburg and Vienna, Germans currently make up for more than one-third of all students in these specific subjects areas.

The European Commission has not reacted yet. It is, however, quite unlikely that it will buy the quotas at face value, i.e. as a future lack of veterinarians and psychologist.