Austrians petition for the right to free higher education

November 16, 2001

An Austrian petition is calling for free access to state-run educational institutes and more funding for student grants.

The petition, which was launched by Austria's student union, also seeks the abolition of tuition fees of E406 (£250) a semester.

Student union leader Georg Brockmeyer said: "In Austria 100,000 (signatures) are needed to bring the demands before parliament. This means parliament has to debate on these demands and decide on them."

Mr Brockmeyer admitted that it was unlikely the demands, which include the right to free access to universities being established in the constitution, would be adopted. But he added: "This petition is also a way to underline the demands. If we get the 100,000 signatures, it is a strong sign against the present policies, and a sign for the 2003 general election."

The petition was launched to coincide with the deadline for the payment of tuition fees.

Werner Weingraber, head of the student union at the Vienna Economics University, said: "Apart from the fact that not all students who need it get financial support, there are disastrous conditions at the universities." Last month, part of a hall ceiling collapsed during a lecture at Vienna University. No one was injured.

The petition is supported by the opposition parties, while the coalition partners defend government policies.

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