Tuition fees focus minds on finishing theses

August 24, 2001

Austrian students are trying to avoid paying newly introduced university tuition fees by finishing their studies and registering for exams before the end-of-November deadline.

While some are busy completing their theses, others are applying for this October's written examination dates or trying to arrange appointments for oral exams with their professors.

The Austrian government last year introduced annual universities fees of €792 (£500), which have to be paid from this year's winter semester. The move led to country-wide protests.

Georg Brockmeyer of the Austrian student union said: "All over the country students are trying to quickly finish their studies so they don't have to pay the fees.

"Some of these students are faced with a double burden because they have summer jobs and have to study at the same time in order to be ready for the exams at the end of the summer semester. But for some courses, you might not get the exam places even if you want to finish because you have to register for these."

According to the student union, the introduction of fees will lead to a 30 per cent drop in the number of students enrolling at university.

"We are getting about 500 emails a week from worried students who say they are having problems paying fees. Some say they will have to stop studying," Mr Brockmeyer said. He added that about half of all Austrian students already had to work to afford their studies and only 13 per cent received government aid. On average, Austrian university students take 6.4 years to complete their studies.

In Austria, university students can sit exams three times a year. After the non-compulsory dates are set the students have to register in advance if they want to take the exam at that time. The oral exams need to be arranged personally with a professor.

Herbert Kalb of Linz University in Upper Austria said: "At the beginning of summer students asked us about the possibilities of finishing before November so we saw this problem coming and have enough exam dates to accommodate them.

"We have more students than usual registering for the written exams and there will be more dates available for the oral exams."

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