Progressive student groups in Austria have registered a strong protest against the raising of fees for non-European Union (EU) students by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research. Last week, the Communist Student Association (KSV) released a statement criticizing the fee hike, and extended its solidarity with Ramiro Wong, a Peruvian student of the University of the Applied Arts, Vienna (die Angewandte), who has started a hunger strike against the fee hike.
According to reports, the crisis began when die Angewandte decided to enforce Tuition Fee Ordinance 2019 as directed by the Austrian federal ministry to introduce higher tuition fees for Non-EU/European Economic Area (EEA) students. This tuition fee depends directly on whether a student belongs to the group of Lower Middle Income or Upper Middle Income Countries and Territories, as categorized by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The move is expected to directly affect around 15% of the student population of die Angewandte alone.
For many of the international students, the fee has increased up to 740 euros per semester. Following objections and protests from students, it was reported that die Angewandte has reduced the tuition fee for the 2020 winter semester, but only as a short-term relief.
In his petition against the fee hike, Ramiro Wong stated that the universities are autonomous institutions and can decide if, when, how, and to what extent to enforce the ministry policies. He also claimed that such policies jeopardize internationality and diversity as well as the ideals on which the image of these institutions is built.
“To allow this to happen is to be complicit with a system that is based on injustice, a system that perpetuates inequality and discriminates Non-EU/EEA students when applying for work, state grants, stipends and other forms of support funds. A system that treats us differently because of the passport we are holding, and provides us with more challenges instead of opportunities,” he said.
In its statement, the KSV has called for the suspension of all tuition fees, including for non-EU/EEA citizens.