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Austria and Belgium: student quotas

The complaint lodged by the European Court of Justice against Austrian and Belgian foreign student quotas (see February ACA Newsletter- Education Europe) has received formal responses from both governments. The response is essentially no. Austria had already been reproached once by the ECJ in 2005 after which an amendment of the University Act took place. This, amongst other things, enabled the introduction of special admission procedures in eight fields of study (medicine, dentistry, psychology, business administration, etc.). This academic year, the fields of study that are most affected by the decision of the court, namely medicine and dentistry, none-the-less introduced entrance examinations with the following quotas:
  • 75% of the places for students with Austrian school leaving certificate;
  • 20% of the places for students with a school leaving certificate of an EU country;
  • 5% of the places for students with a school leaving certificate from a third country.
Complaints from the EU quickly recommenced earlier this year and Austria was asked to once again explain their student quota system. In the end of May, the Austrian Federal Minister for Science and Research answered by arguing that these quotas are necessary to guarantee a sufficient number of medical doctors for the Austrian health system. According to a recent survey more than 80 % of German students of medicine at Austrian universities do not see their professional future in Austria.

In the French Community of Belgium, the other country reproached by the ECJ for discriminatory student quotas, the complaint lodged was formally rejected in March. Similarly; the Belgian government complained that the influx of French students into their veterinary medicine and physiotherapy courses has put extreme strain in the Wallonian universities and colleges and undermines its ability to educate enough domestic students. For the 2007-8 academic year, the French Community will continue to enact its June 2006 decree, fixing 30% cap on the number of foreign students (students without a residence in Belgium of at least three years) allowed to enrol in some science related undergraduate courses.

Both countries now await a response from the European Court of Justice, due early autumn. Austrian Ministry of Education and Science
Belgium's Ministry of French community
Press release