Majority back study fees, survey shows

More than two thirds of Austrians back so-called study fees and admission tests at the country’s universities and other higher educational institutions, a new poll has shown.Public opinion research agency Market said today (Weds) 68 per cent of the 704 Austrians aged 15 and older who had been polled had said they were in favour of study fees and admissions tests at universities and other higher educational institutions.The governing Social Democrats (SPÖ) teamed up with the three opposition parties represented in the Austrian parliament in autumn 2008 to abolish the study fees that a government coalition formed by the People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Freedom Party (FPÖ) had introduced in 2001.The ÖVP’s Beatrix Karl caused outrage among many students earlier this year when she said on the day she was named Johannes Hahn’s successor as Science Minister that she was in favour of study fees. Hahn took office as EU commissioner for regional policy last month.Protests by students – who occupied auditoriums at several institutions across Austria for months last year – have called for more long-term investments in universities’ infrastructure to improve study conditions that they have branded “appalling”.The protesters said the situation had worsened since several courses were overcrowded and facilities at universities lacked quality.Pollsters Market found that only 32 per cent of Austrians want to keep the current educational system.The agency also found that 82 per cent would like politicians and society to engage more in securing and creating jobs, while just 39 per cent said the situation at universities needed more attention.