Far-right 'bias' under fire

March 7, 2003

Rightwing extremists dominate the Austrian government's choice of nominees to new university advisory boards, students have claimed.

The bodies, introduced at the beginning of this year, advise deans and senates and are an attempt to decentralise control over universities. Each university has its own board of between five and nine members with equal numbers chosen by the government and the university. A final member is chosen jointly by the two appointed sides.

But members of the Austrian students' union association say that the nominees proposed by the People's Party (VP)-Freedom Party (FP) coalition prove that it wants to keep a tight hold on decision-making.

Ulrich Kroeger of the Vienna Student's Union said: "Of the 12 candidates put forward by the government, four are known members of Burschenschaften [far-right fraternity groups] and the other eight all have strong connections with the VP."

Legislation stipulates that board members should have no direct affiliation to political parties.

Mr Kroeger added: "The people nominated by the government have no experience of running a university and will not bring any new or innovative ideas."

He claimed that the association with far-right groups would have "terrible consequences" for the international status of Austria's universities.

Vienna University rector Georg Winckler has also spoken out against the government-appointed nominees and in particular against notary Friedrich Stefan, who is allegedly a member of the country's most extreme right Burschenschaft, Olympia."

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