Wir fordern eine klare Regelung darüber, welche Abwesenheitsgründe bei einer Lehrveranstaltung von der Leitung zu akzeptieren sind. Jedenfalls ist für uns selbstverständlich, dass Krankheit und familiäre Notfälle zu einer Abwesenheit ohne negative Konsequenzen für die Studierenden führen müssen.
Außerdem soll eine Maximalgrenze für Anwesenheitspflichten eingeführt werden (zB bei 80%). Eine ausnahmslose Anwesenheitspflicht ohne jegliche Flexibilität stellt vor allem für Studierende mit Betreuungspflichten eine unverhältnismäßige Mehrbelastung dar.
Austrian universities of applied sciences offer a wide range of study programs with different curricula and focus. However, many applicants are not free to choose between these options, as some UASs require a final acceptance, while feedback from other UASs is still pending. Applicants must be able to choose freely between their options! We, therefore, call for a standardized, defined point in time throughout Austria, where UASs must announce their acceptances so that applicants can make a commitment to their future studies in peace.
Currently, continuing education courses at universities are not sufficiently regulated or labeled. High-quality standards must be maintained at Austria’s higher education institutions – whether in a degree program or a course. Therefore, we call for the obligation of quality assurance of courses by an independent body (ex AQ Austria), which corresponds to the standards of regular bachelor and master programs.
Many students in UAS can not enter their Advanced Master’s degrees courses (AMDCs) because, at their UAS, it is constructed as a separate course of studies, which could cost thousands of euros.
Due to this circumstance, many must change their place of study to find a suitable Master’s degree course.
This is not an individual case and leads to general social restrictions.
We demand that all AMDCs can be attended as general courses of study without extra payment.
We demand that the public authorities fully fund all universities of applied sciences, colleges of education, and universities.
High qualitative courses of studies are only possible if the funding is secured in the long term, independently from private investors.
External funds (third-party funds) should only be a source of additional funding, not the financial foundation of teaching and research.
Students need security to complete their studies!
Free access to scientific literature is not only an advantage for students looking for suitable sources for their final papers but also for the whole society because progress in the society needs free circulation of knowledge. Research findings should not be hidden behind paywalls.
Ethics is a very relevant topic concerning research and teaching. To raise more awareness and create a space for discussion between the members of these institutions, we must establish mandatory ethics platforms at all institutions of higher education. Here, representatives from all organizational units of an institution as well as students would be represented. The ethics platform at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna shall act as an orientation aid.
Students need exact details on the assessment for each course and need to comprehend how a final grade is assigned. Grades must not be attributable to the subjectiveness of a teacher but must be based on objective criteria. For this reason, we demand the presentation of a comprehensive catalog of criteria at the beginning of the course, with the possibility of discussing it. This will provide security for students taking courses with continuous assessment.
For courses with only a single exam, such as traditional lectures, the law lays out clear rules to protect students from arbitrariness. For all other courses for example with continuous assessment, such precautions don’t exist.
To provide students with more legal certainty when it comes to compulsory attendance and retaking courses, we demand the implementation of minimum legal requirements. Currently, each institution of higher education establishes its regulations. It is time to create an Austria-wide minimum standard.
To counter potentially arbitrary assessments with safeguards, we call for the possibility of appeals against the grading of exams.
For universities of applied sciences, we ask for the possibility of repeating exams passed successfully to improve the grade point average.
Many students have had to endure massive invasions of their privacy in the past year. Several cameras, recordings, and spyware had to be accepted to take part in exams.
We call for legal clarification of the facts and clear guidelines for online exams, which will put a stop to a disproportionate interference in students’ privacy. Should participation be refused, due to disproportionate measures, the university must create alternative modes to enable all students to take exams.
Last year, courses throughout the country had to switch to digital methods. Drastic differences in the knowledge of the required methods and software between the teachers became apparent. While some recognized and used the potential of distance learning (e. g. by recording lectures), others were content with uploading their presentations. Digitalization at universities must not remain an improvised bridge. Even after the current exceptional situation, the positive aspects of digitalization should contribute to the quality of teaching and to the flexibility of studies in favor of students. Therefore, we demand training for teachers on the use of software and contemporary didactic methods in distance settings.
In particular, the drastic measures taken at universities, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, have shown how important it is for a modern university that both lecturers and students are equipped with the appropriate technical infrastructure for teaching and research from a distance. We call for the expansion of technical infrastructure at Austria’s universities. In any case, there must be streaming and recording facilities in lecture halls and large seminar rooms. For students, who do not have the necessary infrastructure, the university must offer alternatives. This can be done by providing the university’s rooms or technical infrastructure and or offering alternative assessment methods.
With the growing proportion of online exams, the teachers’ fear of cheating has also grown. At many universities, the number of cheating accusations has increased enormously in recent months. Unfortunately, in such situations, it is still the case that examiners are both plaintiffs and judges. This state of affairs is unfair and intolerable. That is why we are calling for the creation of a special commission to examine these cheating allegations impartially, with the participation of students.
We demand that the system of grants and scholarships be adapted to the reality of students’ lives. Using the minimum duration of study as a basis for calculating the duration of entitlement ignores the fact that many courses of study cannot realistically be completed within this period. Therefore, the average duration of study + tolerance semester should be used for the calculation.
Aid must protect against poverty and exclusion which is why an increase is essential. In addition, age limits for subsidies are to be completely abolished. A clear overview of all grants and scholarships is needed, to facilitate access for students.
We demand that student benefits (e. g. on public transport) are available to all students, regardless of their age. The average age of students in Austria is 27 years old and not every student begins their studies at the age of 18. The current rules ignore the reality of the very group of people they are intended to relieve.
65% of students work alongside their studies, mostly to be able to finance them. This additional timely burden makes it impossible for many to complete their studies in the minimum period of study and thus are in the situation of having to pay tuition fees or lose their entitlement to subsidies. We, therefore, call for a longer exemption from tuition fees and a longer entitlement to allowances for proven employment.
Those, who are raising a child or caring for a family member, are unable to study full-time and will not be able to complete their studies within the minimum period of study. But this work also deserves to be appreciated. That is why we are calling for a longer exemption from tuition fees and a longer entitlement to subsidies for all students with care obligations.
In addition to the interruption of their studies, UASs students should be allowed to split their academic year into two years, for reasons known in advance, and thus apply for a part-time study program for this period.
The courses of the first and second year, as well as transitional provisions, in the event of a possible change of study plan, must be determined together with the head of the program.
Students have to pay half the fare for their dog in most of Austria. In some Austrian cities, a dog can be brought free of charge with the annual ticket. Students who take their dog on public transport incur expenses for each trip – if you take your dog with you on public transport every day, you incur costs almost three times as much as a student semester ticket costs.
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of dog owners has demonstrably increased. In many cases, a dog is indispensable as social and emotional support. We, therefore, call for the free transportation of dogs on the means of transport of the Austrian public transport associations to impose an additional unbearable financial burden on students with dogs. In addition, the transportation of pets must be included in the negotiation of the 1−2−3 ticket already announced by the government.
Education is a human right and must be freely accessible to everyone! Social, financial, and economic aspects should not be a reason for studying exclusion. That is why we are clearly against tuition fees and therefore call for their abolition.
We are particularly critical that students from third countries are structurally disadvantaged by paying significantly higher tuition fees right from the start of their studies. This must be abolished.
Many students have to work alongside their studies to make a living. The costs of courses (excursions, exercises, laboratories) represent a further burden. The universities are to be given an additional budget for it – the costs must not be left to the students.
Financial barriers hinder the progress of studies. We demand that specialist literature and scripts are generally free and easily accessible. This can be done, for example, employing an online library that is accessible throughout Austria. Furthermore, the software required for the courses must be freely accessible and free of charge.
Inclusive institutions of higher education
Everyone has prejudices. However, especially in the course of appointment and postdoctoral lecture qualification committees, it is important to critically examine them. We must not give any chance to prejudices about the gender, age, or origin of candidates. We, therefore, call for mandatory training on unconscious bias for all Commissioners.
5.6% of all students have children, under the age of 14, living with them. In order to enable these students to study, childcare services must be expanded directly at the universities. Changing tables and nursing rooms must also be offered across the board.
Universities throughout Austria must become accessible for people with disabilities to be able to provide inclusive education. To this end, it is mandatory to create an appropriate infrastructure. In addition, universities should offer flexible courses for students with long-term disabilities and or chronic illnesses and, where appropriate, offer exams in a barrier-free environment.
To ensure mobility among students and young scientists, diplomas or matriculation certificates from all those countries that have guaranteed the quality of those diplomas must be acknowledged. Currently, even from EU countries, such notifications are only possible with a high degree of bureaucracy. A recognition database, similar to the Anabin Database (https://anabin.kmk.org) in Germany, must be introduced in Austria to facilitate rapid and transparent procedures.
Active promotion of gender diversity at universities by raising awareness among existing teaching staff is essential. Teachers must attend mandatory training on women’s empowerment, gender diversity, and gender awareness. In addition, universities must offer their courses to make students aware of gender issues.
Lack of knowledge about issues of the queer community and discrimination of queer people are still omnipresent at our universities. Universities need to sensitize their members, to issues of the queer community, in the form of training or information campaigns. In addition, each university should set up its contact point for queer people. Unisex toilets must be available.
Discrimination and abuse are unfortunately a bitter reality at our universities. This is why there is a need for low-threshold counseling facilities, which can also be used anonymously. Members of the universities must have a contact point that offers them both psychological and legal advice and places them elsewhere.
We call for the establishment of independent advice centers for discrimination, at all universities! These advice centers must be staffed competently and independently. Close co-operation with the Working Group on Equal Treatment is necessary, in order to preserve the legal structures. In addition, they are to report annually to the Senate, on the forms of discrimination reported and the advice given, and to propose concrete improvements for the university.
Quality in academic teaching
All those who enter apprenticeship and have not completed or have insufficient didactic training must be obliged to do didactic training. Furthermore, in the event of legal violations, by the university or the lecturers (e. g too long correction periods, failure to offer examination dates), consequences must be followed. And this defect corrected as soon as possible.
Universities are not only places of teaching, but also places of learning. For this, students must be provided with the necessary infrastructure! We, therefore, call for the creation of sufficient study and group workplaces and for an extension of the opening hours of universities and libraries. In addition, there is a need for common rooms and communal kitchens for students.
As part of the courses, we also call for an expansion of the equipment in lecture halls, seminar rooms, and laboratories. The quality and reliability of the infrastructure must also be guaranteed.
Universities must reward excellent teaching. Whereas negatively evaluated teaching should be improved by appropriate training. This requires a low-threshold evaluation system to allow as many students as possible, to express their opinions anonymously. The results must be made available to student representatives and serve as a basis for improvements or awards of courses. We demand that an attractive incentive system is created for good teaching and that in the event of insufficient didactic skills, further education and training be compulsory. Furthermore, the involvement in committees should be rewarded because here too the framework conditions for high-quality teaching are being worked on.
We must fully integrate the reality of students’ lives into decision-making processes at universities. Consideration of the aspect of study ability and student perspectives is therefore essential. Student-centered teaching and learning should be taken into account when designing curricula. Aspects, such as modularization, student mobility (e. g. via mobility windows), as well as freedom of choice, and individual focus, are to be taken into account in terms of study ability. In addition, we must improve structural framework conditions (e. g. facilitating recognition, short correction periods, compatibility of courses with other obligations, offering sufficient examination places) to contribute to a study able degree.
To ensure the best possible selection of committees, it is mandatory to take into account the diversity of members, in particular gender balance, in the composition of committees. It must also be made clear that any misconceptions of any kind must be defined and declared before the start of the Commission.
Furthermore, we are in favour of strengthening and legally anchoring the participation rights of students, in abbreviated appointment procedures, as well as the abolition of the ECTS limit, for the sending of students to committees.
To represent the interests of students, a balance of power is needed on the boards of higher education institutions. At the moment, many decisions are being made over the heads of students and our needs are being subordinated to political and financial interests.
To change this, we demand that at least one third of the seats on committees, be filled by students, to be able to represent the students’ concerns with a strong voice.
For many degree courses, completing internships are mandatory and often occupies over 40 hours per week. Additionally, exams must be passed, and one must make a living. For many students, this is a source of great stress. Students are not just a cheap resource for companies providing internships; our valuable work deserves to be appreciated. For this reason, we demand fair compensation for internships.
Summer schools are designed to counteract impending educational disadvantages that may have developed due to different circumstances pupils may have had to overcome during the Covid-19 situation. Participating in these summer schools is free of charge. Teacher training students instruct children and are currently compensated with 5 ECTS credits. This includes preparation and follow-up courses.
We demand a fair model that guarantees students participating in these summer schools, travel reimbursement, and reasonable compensation. Furthermore, all required teaching equipment must be provided for students or an expense allowance.
We demand the introduction of an Austria-wide quality seal for internships. Companies providing internships are rated based on a list of criteria (salary, quality of supervision, working hours, etc.). Companies and organizations with good working conditions will receive an internship quality seal from the Austrian National Students’ Union. A list of all companies and organizations that have received the seal is publicly available. Students benefit from higher transparency of working conditions at the internship, while companies and organizations profit from more applications from motivated students.
Strengthening student representatives
Student representatives should be obligated to be involved in preliminary talks for performance agreements and development plans. As these documents discuss key aspects and commitments for institutions of higher education, student participation is vital for the inclusion of students’ concerns for future developments at institutions of higher education.
When representing students‘ interests, one will inevitably express criticism towards teachers and often one’s examiners. To separate representation work from one’s grades, legal protection is needed. The current legal situation includes the right to an examination commission. However, it does not provide a solution for courses with the continuous examination. This needs to change.
Student representation work in Austria is based on voluntary work. Student representatives work by conviction and invest time, money, and many different resources doing so. This must not lead to disadvantages, which is why legal protection is needed. In addition to the current legal situation for study grant entitlement extension, we demand the right to waive tuition fees for student representatives.
When someone works as a student representative, they should be entitled to benefiting from certain rights. Currently, many committed students are excluded from the legal definition of a student representative. This definition needs to be reworked so that, for example, class representatives, who play a great role in representation work at Universities of Applied Sciences are included in the future.
We will continue to support networking and vocational training for program-level student representatives, departments, and institution-level student representatives. This assistance must be organized and financed by the Austrian National Students’ Union, among others, to provide experienced consultation and strong representation for all students.
We demand the expansion of training offers for program-level and institution-level representatives, as these levels work very closely with students. Program-level and institution-level representatives know best what students need to ensure a successful study and personal life. This work needs to be honored and encouraged by providing vocational training, free of charge in all areas of responsibility student representatives have, as well as soft skills like negotiation strategy and rhetoric training. This is the only way of ensuring the best representation work possible.