Minister wants university admission tests

People’s Party (ÖVP) Science Minister Beatrix Karl may have to brace for harsh opposition by student protesters after revealing plans to set up admission tests for popular university courses today (Thurs).Thousands of students have joined occupations of auditoriums at several Austria universities and street marches over the past few months to make the public aware of their displeasure with the circumstances they have been confronted with when sitting courses.The protest movement has called for more long-term investment in university infrastructure and has warned that they will increase their activities if the government decides to reintroduce so-called study fees.The fees, which had existed since 2001, were abolished in a midnight parliamentary session days ahead of the 2008 general election. All parties represented in the Austrian parliament apart from the ÖVP supported the decision.Karl today said a concept to introduce restrictions on overcrowded study courses would be handed to experts for a check next week. The minister explained that she was acting on the basis of so-called “emergency paragraph 124b” of the university law.Publizistik (journalism and media studies) at the universities of Vienna, Graz and Klagenfurt, architecture courses at the technical universities in Vienna, Graz and Innsbruck and economic and social science lectures at Vienna’s University of Economics and Business (WU) would be affected if Karl finds support in the government coalition the ÖVP forms with the Social Democrats (SPÖ).The Social Democrats are expected to oppose the plans since the party has made clear it has no plans to reintroduce study fees or set up barriers to study at universities and colleges.Karl outraged many students when she announced on the January day she took office as science minister that the reintroduction of study fees would be considered as a means of improving the current situation at universities.A poll conducted by public opinion research institute Market revealed only yesterday that 68 per cent of Austrians were in favour of reintroduction of study fees and introduction of admissions tests at universities and other higher educational institutions.