We demand a clear regulation on which reasons for absence from a course are to be accepted by the management. In any case, it is self-evident for us that illness and family emergencies must lead to an absence without negative consequences for the students.
In addition, a maximum limit for compulsory attendance should be introduced (e.g. 80 %). Mandatory attendance must be didactically justified. A mandatory attendance without exception and without any flexibility represents a disproportionate additional burden, especially for students with care obligations.
Austrian universities of applied sciences offer a wide range of degree programmes with different curricula and specialisations. However, many applicants are not free to choose between these options, as many universities of applied sciences require a legally binding acceptance, while feedback from other universities of applied sciences is still pending. Applicants must be able to choose freely between their options! We therefore call for a standardised, defined point in time throughout Austria by which universities of applied sciences must announce their decision, so that applicants can make a commitment to their future degree programme in peace.
Many students are unable to take up a postgraduate Master’s degree at their university of applied sciences because it is only offered there as a course and therefore costs several thousand euros. As a result, many are even forced to change their place of study in order to be able to take a suitable Master’s programme. This is not an isolated case and leads to social restrictions in studies! Every continuative Master’s degree must be offered as a course of study in order to enable all students to continue their education!
Due to the lack of suitable Master’s programmes at universities of applied sciences, more and more graduates of universities of applied sciences are starting Master’s programmes at universities. There, they are often treated as if their studies were worthless, even at the admission stage. Their degree is often not regarded as equivalent to that of a university, despite almost identical content. We therefore call for a real, lived equality and real permeability between university of applied sciences bachelors and university bachelors.
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.
Artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT are on everyone’s lips. We call for a sensible, reflective use of resources at universities instead of strict bans on the technologies. Educational institutions need to adopt and push advances in technology. Learning how Artificial Intelligence works and how to use it properly is an important skill to pave new paths for students. It is also imperative to maintain and expand advances in digital coursework, recordings, and flipped classroom models in teaching.
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.
The climate crisis is the greatest challenge of our time. Universities must take a pioneering role and live up to their responsibility to society. Therefore, we call for a sustainability strategy in the higher education sector and a strategic plan for climate-neutral universities by 2030. Active measures for climate protection must also be pushed by the educational institutions themselves – green labs in research, UZ46 certified eco-electricity and expansion of renewable energy sources. In addition, climate research must be increasingly promoted and the findings must also be implemented.
The first-semester tutorial, also known as ETUT or EST, is an essential part of a good start to student life at many universities. The first-semester students network, form their first learning groups and are accompanied by higher-semester students. We want to campaign for tutorials to be established at all types of universities so that all first-semester students have a good start to their studies.
Students need clear information on the tasks of the respective course in order to be able to comprehend how grades are composited. Grades must not be based on the subjective sensitivities of teachers, but need objective criteria for assessment. Therefore, we demand a comprehensive catalogue of criteria that is communicated to the students at the beginning of the course and discussed if necessary. This should give students security, especially in the case of courses that are immanent to examinations.
In order to be able to counteract potentially arbitrary assessments, we demand the possibility of legal remedies against the grading of examinations.
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.
In principle, students of universities of applied sciences cannot retake examinations they have passed in order to improve their grade, even if the examination was already passed at the first attempt. In addition, many universities of applied sciences limit the possibilities to take all three examinations provided for by law, even in case of illness or similar.
We demand that universities of applied sciences students should always be able to take all three examinations provided for by law and that the best grade should be taken into account.
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 of learning. Students must be provided with the necessary infrastructure for this! We therefore demand the creation of sufficient study and group workplaces as well as an extension of the opening hours of universities and libraries. In addition, there is a need for recreation rooms, rest rooms and communal kitchens for students. Digital infrastructure must be available in seminar rooms and study rooms for students to use.
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.
In order to enable the best possible selection decisions in commissions, it should be obligatory to ensure diversity of members – especially gender balance – in the composition of commissions. It must also be made clear that any biases of any kind must be defined and declared before the commission begins.
Furthermore, we are in favour of strengthening and legally anchoring the participation rights of students in abbreviated appointment procedures as well as abolishing the ECTS limit for the delegation of students to commissions.
In order to represent the interests of students, there needs to be a balance of power in the decision-making bodies of universities. Currently, many decisions are made over the heads of students and our needs are subordinated to (university) political and financial interests.
In order to change this, we demand that at least one third of the seats in committees are filled by students, so that students’ concerns can be represented with a strong voice.
Higher education institutions should focus more on the internationalisation of curricula with a focus on socio-cultural transversal teaching, cooperation with European University Alliances and the use of English or other foreign languages as the language of instruction.
To this end, universities should develop interdisciplinary curricula that reflect the cultural diversity of students and promote an awareness of socio-cultural transitions. European University Alliances should ensure that the opinions and needs of all stakeholders are included in the design of common curricula and qualifications. Universities should increase the use of English or other foreign languages as the language of instruction to provide access to international teaching and preparation for a global world. Through these measures, students can be better prepared for the globalised world and thus students can be given a „mobility” experience without having to travel abroad with it.
In many degree programmes, internships are mandatory and often take up more than 40 hours per week. In addition, exams have to be completed and living expenses have to be paid. Especially in nursing and medical studies, the working conditions and compensation for mandatory practical training are shameful to non-existent. This is a huge stress factor in many cases. Students are not just a cheap support for the places offering internships, but our work is valuable and deserves recognition! That is why we demand fair compensation for our work in internships.
In a time of extreme budget shortages at public universities, a new „digitisation university” (TU Linz/IDSA) is being set up in Upper Austria as an electoral treat for the local politicians and endowed with 800 million euros. The lack of need, the private character of the „university” and the lack of involvement of the students are reasons for our demand to stop the IDSA project and to make the freed-up funds directly available to the public universities. There needs to be a reappraisal of why this project was doomed to failure from the start and the ministry must take a stand on the posturing.
Inclusive institutions of higher education
Psychotherapy and mental health support services are still rarely if ever financed by health insurance funds. Students in particular are exposed to a lot of pressure to perform and also need monetary support in order to be able to make use of help. Therefore, we demand an expansion of therapy places financed by the health insurance and psychosocial contact points at the universities in order to be able to support students in a targeted manner.
Discriminatory structures are unfortunately still part of higher education institutions. Racist, sexist, queerphobic or ableist ideas are not uncommon among teachers and university staff. We demand mandatory training for university staff so that universities take on a pioneering role. For long-term sensitisation, we demand regular follow-up training so that discrimination can be prevented.
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.
Actively promoting gender diversity in higher education institutions by sensitising the already existing teaching staff is essential. Teaching staff have to attend mandatory training on women’s advancement, gender diversity and gender sensitisation. Pronouns and one’s own first name must be able to be entered freely. In addition, universities must offer their own courses to make students aware of gender issues.
Patriarchy does not stop at universities and cis men are structurally favoured. For this reason, we demand that real FLINTA* promotion be practised at universities. The existing structures must be broken down and replaced by principles of equal opportunities. This includes awareness training and teaching content, as well as specific support programmes, until real equity is achieved and there are no stigmas regarding gender left.
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.
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.
We consider the recent increase in student grants to be insufficient. We demand an adjustment of the grant and scholarship system to the realities of students’ lives. Using the minimum duration of studies as a basis for calculating the duration of entitlement ignores the fact that many degree programmes cannot realistically be completed in this time. We demand that the average duration of studies + tolerance semesters be used for the calculation.
Grants must protect against poverty and exclusion, which is why an increase is essential. Furthermore, age limits for grants should 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.
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.
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.
Housing is a human right. Especially in times of massive inflation, housing and living costs are becoming increasingly difficult to afford and a significant proportion of students live below the poverty line. Therefore, we demand from the federal government a monthly housing allowance of 250 € for students in order to be able to guarantee targeted support.
Unfortunately, the problem of the distribution of doctors in Austria continues to be ignored by politicians. Populist demands for compulsory health insurance contracts and scholarships, which are supposed to finance the study period but tie graduates to locations for years. We demand scholarships that support students without forcing them to sign health insurance contracts and an expansion of study places to enable everyone to study medicine or nursing.
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.
The imminent shortening of the teacher training programme by one year has significant consequences for students. This shortening must not only be made out of short-sighted consideration of the labour market, but must, if carried out, be didactically and objectively justified in all subjects. In particular, the foundations of educational science and internships must not suffer under any circumstances, as they form the core of the study programme. We therefore call for the active involvement of students in the curricula amendment, both at the federal level (when the framework laws are drawn up) and in the individual teacher training associations.
When you represent the interests of students, you inevitably also express criticism of teachers and thus often your own examiners. To ensure that this does not affect the grade, there needs to be legal protection. The current legal situation, which includes a right to commissioned assessment, does not offer any solutions for immanent courses – this needs to be changed.
In order to support student representatives in the event of time delays caused by their voluntary commitment, we demand the right to waive the tuition fee for student representatives.
Those who are involved in student representation should also be able to claim the corresponding rights. Currently, however, many committed students fall outside the legal definition of „student representatives”. This definition must be revised so that, for example, year representatives, who play a very important role at universities of applied sciences, are included in the future.
We will continue to support the networking and further education of student representatives, units and university representatives in the future. This support must be organised and financed by the ÖH, among others. In this way, we lay the foundation for competent counselling and strong representation for all students.
We demand the expansion of training opportunities for student and university representatives. Student and university representatives are the ones who know best what students need for a successful study and life. This work should be rewarded and supported by free further training opportunities in all areas of university representation as well as in soft skills such as negotiation strategies and rhetoric. This is the only way to ensure the best possible representation work.