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European Commission legalises Austrian quotas

A saga has come to an end. In the mid-2000s, medical and dental programmes at Austrian universities saw themselves flooded by students from neighbouring countries, above all by Germans. Why this influx? Admission to medical studies in Austria earlier required applicants to have secured a place in their country of origin, too. Then the European Court of Justice ruled that this requirement was not compatible with European law. The ruling opened the floodgates. In response, Austria introduced quotas for foreign students in medicine and dentistry. Those reserved 20% of places to nationals of EU and EEA states and 5% percent to other foreigners. Fearing that this might be a case of discrimination, the European Commission agreed to the Austrian cap only reluctantly and with temporary permissions which were renewed a number of times in the period between 2006 and 2016. For medical studies, the European Commission has now given its final and non-limited approval to the quota solution. Though not for dentistry, because no shortage of dentists was in sight in Austria.

Ultimately, Austria got its way because it successfully argued that medical provision in the country was at danger, because most of the foreign graduates would leave the country. Last year, Austria provided the European Commission with a 181-page report. Of the 603 German graduates in the years 2008/09 to 2011/12, only 43 or 7.5% remained in Austria and practised there. The European Commission has asked Austria to report again in five years’ time.

European Commission – Press release

See also:

‘European Commission reacts to Austrian proposal on student quotas - ACA Newsletter ‘Education Europe’ (January 2013)