Nocturnal Austrians turn to food and drink to make ends meet

July 12, 2002

The high cost of university life throughout the world is pushing more students into term-time jobs. The THES reports on some enterprising ways to raise cash.

One of the most bitterly contested "reforms" of the far-right Freedom Party when it was ushered into power in Austria was the end of the pledge of free education for all.

Student fees were introduced in October 2001 and are set to increase. Education minister Elisabeth Gehrer claims that fees this year will generate an extra €133 million (£85 million).

But, inevitably, the number of students in Austria forced to take jobs to finance their studies has increased, and many have dropped out of education.

Student unions say that the government has created education for the rich and that tuition fees on top of rent and a lack of government help mean more students in Austria are being forced to take jobs.

Tuition fees are €780 a year for Austrian, European Union and European Economic Area citizens.

Karoline Iber, project leader at Student Point, a service and information platform for students at the University of Vienna, said she was not surprised that an increasing number of students were turning to part and full-time jobs.

"Although no official figures have been produced since the fees were introduced last October, we have noticed an upturn in the number of students asking for work, and there are fewer and fewer vacancy positions on student notice boards," she said.

Michael Gebhart is a law student at Vienna University. He is 30 years old and has been studying for almost ten years, with four more to go. "I had no choice but to work part time from the beginning of my course, even though there were no tuition fees at that time. The cost of living can be quite high with rent, food and books. I also wasn't entitled to a state grant. And now with the added tuition fees the situation has worsened."

According to statistics from the ministry of education, typical jobs for students include work in the service sector, in particular, in bars, cafes and restaurants. But although the money earned from such jobs can be substantial, the effects it has on student performance can be disastrous.

"Restaurants and bars stay open very late. Students are forced to work long hours until very late, and it is simply impossible to concentrate on studying the following day. Most just stop attending lectures to catch up on sleep," Mr Gebhart said.

About 36 per cent of students at Vienna University work regularly throughout term time and holiday time, 34 per cent work from time to time, while just 30 per cent do not work at all.

But some think there are advantages to students working in term time. Arthur Mettinger, vice-rector of the University of Vienna, said: "Working students are a very useful commodity. They bring valuable experiences to academic education. Being able to juggle work and education is also a valuable trait and will serve the students well in future."

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