No time limit on the duration of entitlement to study grants in the event of an extension for important reasons: Supreme Court confirms the legal opinion of the ÖH
Student I begins his diploma studies in the winter semester of 2008. The planned duration of study of the 1st section is 2 semesters, the duration of the 2nd section 6 semesters. For these studies, I receives a study allowance; in principle, he is entitled to one semester of tolerance per study period.
Due to the presence of several important reasons, I’s study progress is delayed. During the 1st study period, I becomes a father for the 1st time. With the end of the 5th semester, beginning in the summer semester of 2011, Student I has now entered the 2nd semester of study. In the 2nd semester he becomes a father one more time and is active as a student representative for 4 semesters. In one semester, I falls ill. All these events delay his graduation.
I am aware that in case of important reasons, the generally stipulated period of entitlement to study grants can be extended. For example, childcare obligations, illnesses, but also significant disabilities or other unavoidable events are reasons for extension.
Therefore, he contacts the student aid office. The latter acts accommodatingly and grants with notice an extension of the claim period in the 1st section of 2 semesters due to his educational obligation for his 1st child. He thus receives 5 semesters of tuition assistance for the 1st study section. Also in the 2nd section, the entitlement is extended by the authority for 6 semesters: 2 semesters concerning the childcare obligations for its 2nd child, 1 semester due to his illness and 3 semesters due to his service as a student representative.
Mr. I believes that because he has been a student representative for 4 semesters, he is entitled to an extension for 4 – not for 3 semesters. This is because serving as a student representative can also lead to an extension of the period of eligibility for student aid. This can be found in the Student Union Act (Hochschülerinnen- und Hochschülerschaftsgesetz, HSG) and is specified by ordinance of the Ministry of Science. Therefore, in the fall of 2017, I applied for continued tuition assistance for the winter 2017 semester, his 19th semester. After rejection of the study grant authority, I turns to the social counseling of the Austrian Student Union (ÖH). With the support of the ÖH, Mr. I lodges a complaint. However, the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht, BVwG) also rejected the continued entitlement to student aid for the winter semester 2017 in a ruling dated August 27, 2019.
In its negative decision, the BVwG states that the “systematics of the provisions of the law on study grants” imposes a time limit on the extension of the period of entitlement for important reasons, namely with the maximum extent of “twice the planned period of study of a course of study” or study section.
Mr. I does not want to accept this; after all, there is no legal basis for the claimed time limit on the claim period extension. He asks the ÖH for further help. The ÖH decides to have the important legal issue at hand clarified and assumes the court and representation costs for the highest court proceedings before the Administrative Court (VwGH). 8 months after the appeal has been filed, the VwGH issues its decision (VwGH dated 15.06.2020, Ro 2019/10/0037-6).
The Supreme Court overturns the ruling of the BVwG and clarifies: The extension of the period of entitlement for the granting of study assistance is not limited to twice the intended duration of studies. No time limit can be inferred from the statutory provisions.
Won by the ÖH: The Supreme Court clarifies that the extension of the period of entitlement for the granting of study assistance is not limited from the outset, but must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Further successes from consulting at www.oeh.ac.at/geschafft