Austria warms to new laws

June 7, 2002

Austrian education minister Elisabeth Gehrer says she detects a stronger climate for acceptance of new university legislation among its opponents.

Cabinet has approved the new law, which will have to be rubber-stamped by parliament. Ms Gehrer said there was a "broad compromise" between her ministry, her party, their coalition partners and the finance ministry. But the opposition social democratic party has not backed the move.

Ms Gehrer said that many of the students' and professors' demands have been taken into account. The law will regulate the autonomy of the universities, the way in which they create their governing and administrative bodies and reforms in finance and student involvement in planning the curriculum.

The new rule changes will include the removal of medical universities from the general university structure and the founding of new medical universities to add to the three that already exist in Vienna, Graz and Innsbruck. Parliament is expected to vote on the bill on July 11.

Planned changes in the status and functions of the universities have caused heated debate between university staff and students, and the government. Countless protests have been held.

Ms Gehrer said:"It is a well-rounded law that everyone can live with."

Georg Winkler, head of the Austrian Rectors' Association, also approved of the bill but said there were still unresolved issues over financing.

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