Austria faces a boycott of tuition fees

February 9, 2007

Austria's students have threatened to boycott tuition fees after the majority party in the Government coalition reneged on its election pledge to scrap them. Students took to the streets in protest, some with placards offering to sell their kidneys to pay the fees.

The Social Democrats, who failed to win an outright majority, were forced into coalition with the conservative People's Party after the elections last October.

Students accused Alfred Gusenbauer, the Chancellor and leader of the left-leaning Social Democrats party, of betrayal and threatened to refuse to pay the fees of €363.36 (£240) per semester.

In coalition talks, the Social Democrats dropped their election pledge to scrap student fees and admitted that they were planning to increase fees.

In the end, the Government backed down over the hike but said the fees would stay.

Students accused officials of watering down the measures by offering reductions for students engaged in community projects.

The Austrian students union said many members already had jobs in addition to studying, and branded the idea "half-baked".

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