Austrian students demand support amid COVID-19 crisis, reject changes to university law

Austrian students have been seeking comprehensive financial support in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. They are also calling for the withdrawal of proposed changes to the University Act which impose higher grade point requirements for them to pass their courses

December 21, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
The Communist Student Association (KSV) and the Communist Youth of Austria (KJO) have organized protests in several Austrian Universities. Photo: KSV

On Thursday, December 17, students across Austria protested the crisis in universities due to COVID-19 and the policies of the government that have placed additional burdens on them. The protests were organized by the Communist Student Association (KSV) and the Communist Youth of Austria (KJO) under the banner ‘Students on the offensive.’ The students have also raised strong objections to UG Novelle, the planned changes in the University Act.

The protesters demanded comprehensive financial support for all students who had lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 containment measures. They demanded that graduations not be delayed, and sought the immediate suspension of fee collection and refund of all tuition fees for summer and winter semesters of 2020. Another key demand was the withdrawal of the changes proposed as part of UG Novelle. These changes to the University Act will put in place mandatory higher grade point requirements for the students to qualify their courses.

The KSV said that due to the COVID-19 lockdown, many students have lost their part-time jobs. The semesters have become chaotic and students have been under severe pressure due to financial and other difficulties. KSV said that the “Austrian People’s Party (OVP)-Green Party-led federal government is pushing forward with the amendment of the University Act as part of another attack on us students by increasing pressure on our shoulders once again through the planned minimum study performance and eroding the democratic speech of students in the universities”.

Niklas Böck, chairman of the Communist Youth of Austria (KJO) told Peoples Dispatch, “Adding to the very poor conditions students currently have to face, the new amendment to the university law will increase the pressure on students dramatically. Therefore we took to the streets and presented our banners. We need an organized front of students to fight for student rights and stop the commercialization of our universities.”

Earlier in October, KSV had demanded a refund of the fees paid by the students for entrance exams to various universities which were cancelled due to COVID-19. KSV-KJO had also protested the raising of fees for non-European Union (EU) students in Austrian universities.