Forget CDs, give an education voucher this Xmas

December 20, 2002

Stuck for that special gift? Seeking an alternative to book or CD tokens?

This Christmas, Austrians have the chance to buy study vouchers for would-be students unable to pay the high tuition fees. The vouchers, which come in price categories from €10-€100 (£6-£60), can be redeemed at a number of higher education institutions - including Vienna's Institute of Economics. Although the vouchers are non-transferable, they are valid for up to three years. Austria has introduced fees of €7 (£450) a year.

And in a move that will bring a Christmas chill to smokers, the Italian government is to double tobacco tax to 20 per cent to scrape an extra €400-€500 million for higher education and research to end the impasse over the 2003 budget, which last week reached a crisis point with the mass resignation of Italy's university rectors.

The money will be equally split between universities and research institutes. The rectors said they would withdraw their resignations only when the budget was finalised in late December, and if it clearly set out the extra funding.

This week, as the senate discussed last-minute changes to the budget - to meet the rectors' demands for €350 million extra for universities - thousands of students from more than 30 universities staged demonstrations.

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