Student retrospectively receives grant for „self-supporters“ of € 11,600 for master’s studies

20. October 2022
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Won by the ÖH: With the support of the ÖH, a student is awarded a study grant for her Master’s degree.

Student Z suffers from a long-standing eating disorder. This disease has already accompanied her throughout her studies. This is also the reason why she can only complete her bachelor’s degree after 17 semesters. After graduation, she decides to start a master’s program in the summer semester of 2020 and applies for a self-employed scholarship. Her application is rejected by the Student Aid Office in April 2020 because it took her more than 9 semesters to complete her bachelor’s degree. This maximum study duration of nine semesters for a bachelor’s pre-study program is provided for in the Study Support Act (StudFG). She turns to the social counseling of the Österreichische Hochschüler_innenschaft (ÖH).

Z doesn’t want to leave it at that decision. The lawyers of the ÖH support them in the formulation of the following legal remedies. In it, she explains in detail the reasons that led to the above-average length of study. As proof, she submits specialist medical findings, confirmations of her inpatient stay and of psychotherapeutic treatment. In addition, Z becomes pregnant during her bachelor’s degree and cares for her first child.

The Student Aid Board will make a negative decision in June 2020. The existence of an illness, pregnancy and childcare were important reasons to be taken into account, but these reasons were not the only ones in Z’s case that led to the study time being exceeded. The authority emphasizes that Z would have studied slower significantly because she worked alongside her studies. And a professional activity is not a relevant reason for indulgence.

After another rejection by the authority in December 2020, Z now turns to the Federal Administrative Court (BVwG), an independent court that reviews the decisions of the student aid authority. In her complaint, she describes in detail the impact that each phase of illness had on each semester of study. After the inpatient therapy stay, occupational activity was recommended by the treating physicians, as structure and regularity, together with continued therapy, support recovery. At that time, the course of the disease was marked by relapses. But pursuing a job kept Z from losing control of the addiction disease. The new daily structure created by the part-time job made it possible to complete my studies despite my illness.

Student Z would not have expected it anymore, but after almost 2 years of proceedings the positive decision of the court is issued in December 2021 (BVwG of 02.12.2021, W 254 2239904/2E).

The court states: “There is a factual relationship between the proven illness and the delay in studies that occurred. Moreover, the part-time employment was not owed to economic efficiency, but to establish a daily structure in order to break out of the habitual patterns of the mental illness and was taken up on the recommendation of the treating physicians. The requirements for a leniency from the study time excess are therefore fulfilled overall, which is why the contested decision is tainted with illegality, since the authority concerned wrongly assumed that the study delay was not significantly due to the illness.”

Finally, Z is awarded the grant for the summer semester 2020 and the winter semester 2020/21 by the study grant authority and thus receives more than € 11,600 in back payments for her master’s studies.

Won by the ÖH: With the support of the ÖH, a student is awarded a study grant for her Master’s degree.

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