Austrian plan to cut red tape causes rift

March 30, 2001

Plans to shorten the time spent by students in higher education in Austria by reducing bureaucracy have sparked a clash between university authorities and the education ministry.

The ministry wants to cut down paperwork by introducing a new chip-based card by the winter of semester 2001-02 for all students.

The card will include personal details, registration and social-insurance numbers, a digital signature and information on whether student fees have been paid.

But the card, which aims to simplify the administrative nightmare of Austria's universities by doing away with needless paperwork, has been greeted with an at best subdued and at worst hostile response from university rectors.

They say that although in theory the card is a good idea, the proposed time frame for its introduction is unrealistic and that universities do not have the necessary software to deal with the technology.

The University of Linz, which already is piloting its own student card, said that the implementation of the government's chip card would be seen as a step back in the services that it provides.

Josef Schmied, who is in charge of the pilot project at Linz, said:

"Students at Linz can use their cards for almost all services on campus from paying in the canteen, signing up for exams and accessing their results, obtaining parking places, changing their personal details, entering buildings or even registering.

"This card provides more services than those that the government wants to introduce -but it focuses on services for the students rather than acting as a citizen's identity card."

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