Austrian students protest new government's student fees plan

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Monday, January 8, 2007

Vienna

The demonstration in front of the Burgtheater

A crowd of about 250 activists from the Austrian National Union of Students (Österreichische Hochschülerinnen- und Hochschülerschaft, ÖH) as well as the Organisation of Socialist Students of Austria (Verband Sozialistischer StudentInnen Österreichs, VSStÖ) quickly reacted to the announced forming of the new Austrian coalition government by starting a demonstration in front of the University of Vienna, the largest in the country.

Specifically, the demonstration protested against the proposed plan of enabling students to do community service work at a rate of EUR 6 (about USD 7.6) per hour to work off student fees of about EUR 372 (about USD 475,8) per semester. These fees were introduced under the government of chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, which ruled Austria from 2000 on.

The demonstration in front of the Parliament

The protest started directly in front of the university buildings on the famous Ringstraße. Protestors blocked the street by sweeping the street, symbolising the work students have to do in order to study. They proceeded to the headquarters of the SPÖ, where they chanted "Who betrayed us? Social Democrats!", and later to the parliament building. After this, they announced to go to the ÖVP headquarters, when this reporter had to leave the scene.

On October 1, 2006, a new National Assembly was elected. The Social Democrats narrowly won the election, while the ÖVP suffered severe losses and fell to second place. Since then, intense negotiations between the two parties about a coalition have taken place and presumably ended today, when at 13:30 hours, SPÖ leader Alfred Gusenbauer and ÖVP leader Wolfgang Schüssel announced the finishing of negotiations and conciliation of the two parties in a new government, which is to be sworn in by President Heinz Fischer on January 11.

Signs displaying quotes by SPÖ leaders from the campaign, calling for the complete abolition of the student fees

One of the deals struck today between the SPÖ (who called for the complete abolition of the controversial student's fees during the election campaign) and the ÖVP calls for legislation enabling easier access to and higher scholarships, as well as reforms in the student loan system and, most visibly, a system whereby students will be able to work in organizations providing social and community services. For this work, they will receive EUR 6 per hour. The total fees for one semester amount to EUR 372; this means a student will have to work 62 hours per semester to fully pay the fees.

Sources

Wikinews
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Wikinews
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

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