The controversial amendment to the University Act (UG) passed the Science Committee of the National Council on Wednesday with the votes of the coalition parties. Due to the threatened rejection of the rules in the Federal Council, the planned entry tests for attending classroom courses and exams were removed from the actual amendment and resolved separately.
In front of the committee, around 30 people protested against the decision of the amendment on Heldenplatz. The initiative “Education is on fire” had called in advance to “make a lot of noise” – sirens and megaphones were used for this purpose, but they hardly exceeded the volume of the neighboring construction site.
Among other things, the amendment to the UG provides for the introduction of a minimum course achievement for new students of 16 ECTS points within the first four semesters from 2022/23 – previously even 16 ECTS per year or 24 ECTS in the first two years of study were planned. In addition, the chain contracts for university employees and responsibilities at the universities are partially reorganized.
Blockade in the Federal Council threatened
Originally, the amendment should also have given the rectorates the opportunity to request negative corona tests for participation in face-to-face courses and exams or admission procedures in the summer semester. However, since there was no prospect of approval from one of the opposition factions, this point was removed. Otherwise a blockade in the Federal Council would have threatened and the entry tests would have been delayed. Therefore, this point was anchored in a different place by means of its own application – only the FPÖ voted against it.
As in the run-up, opinions differed about the actual UG amendment. According to parliamentary correspondence, Education Minister Heinz Faßmann (ÖVP) spoke of a transparent, realistic and performance-related study law. This means that students are required to be more binding in their studies, but at the same time universities are encouraged to promote studyability. The science spokeswoman for the Greens, Eva Blimlinger, saw the novella as a good basis for further extensive reforms of university law.
Opposition misses “courage for real reforms”
The opposition was quite different: SPÖ science spokeswoman Andrea Kuntzl rejected the law in a broadcast and spoke of a further restriction on free university access. Her NEOS counterpart Martina Künsberg Sarre missed “the courage to undertake real reforms”. The introduction of the minimum academic achievement takes place without any evidence, in practice nothing would improve for the students. Committee chairman Martin Graf (FPÖ) thought a decision on the amendment was premature and instead wanted – unsuccessfully – a further discussion in a subcommittee.