The fact that the now 18-year-old University Act is being amended to better address the situation at universities in the here and now is in principle a welcome step. As ÖH, we are the legal representation of all students’ interests and it is our duty to continuously and constructively campaign for better study conditions.
As a strong legislative advocacy group, we have long been thinking about what the university law of the future should look like. This is precisely why cross-faction student representatives have been working on a joint position paper. This can be viewed on the Education Policy Unit page: Education Department.
The statement we submitted to the Ministry of Education on the draft of the amendment to the UG comprises around 90 pages. The goal was to make a constructive proposal for better study law. Concrete proposals for changes have also been submitted in this regard. Likewise, the statement contains a number of other topics and proposals that have not yet been considered in the new university law, because there are still enough open issues that can and should be regulated in favor of students.
The central points in the statement revolve around the study law provisions in the first draft. For us as ÖH, the goal of better overall studyability can only be achieved with a combination of encouraging and demanding measures. For example, we see the approaches to improving ECTS equity and recognition as a positive step.
At the same time, further clarifications and measures are needed on these points. The amendments presented place increased demands on students in many places, while the supportive component tends to be weaker. Here we want to ensure a better balance.
In addition, we are opposed to the planned shift of competencies between the senate and the rectorate and the simplified re-election of rectors. This not only restricts the co-determination rights of all university employees, but also disturbs the delicate balance between the different governing bodies of the universities and creates unnecessary areas of tension.
We also stand behind the concerns of our local university representatives. After all, they are the ones who, in their voluntary work, are the first point of contact for students on site day after day and know where the shoe pinches at our universities.
For almost a year, the ÖH has accompanied the process around the UG amendment, both with criticism and constructive suggestions.
In doing so, we have already been able to achieve great successes for students with our work.
Thus, as emerged from a joint press conference of Federal Minister Faßmann and science spokesperson of the Greens Blimlinger, many of the adaptations proposed by the ÖH, especially in the area of leaves of absence, the number of examination dates per semester but also the minimum study performance in the sense of the students were adopted.
We are particularly pleased with the mitigation of the minimum study performance through a reduced ECTS number and the relaxed consequences through a shorter retention period.
Other improvements, compared to the review draft, include adaptations to exam dates and leaves of absence. A reduction in the number of exams per semester, which was under consideration, was prevented with reference to the government’s goal of promoting studyability and shortening the duration of studies. The ÖH was also able to avert the abolition of autonomous leave of absence, an important pillar for many students in exceptional situations, by means of constructive criticism. Likewise, the often criticized changes around the re-election of the rector was changed to the variant proposed by consensus of ÖH, UniKo and SVK with co-determination of the senate with a simple majority.
We continue to advocate for Austria’s students!
The review process clearly showed how important it is to have a strong ÖH that can make competent and constructive suggestions. However, there is still much to be done here, and we must continue to advocate for the improvement of study conditions and against potential deterioration.
We will continue to work constructively for a better study law and work together to bring out the best for Austria’s students! Our proposals for this are already on the table and we will not tire of campaigning for it!