26/11-09 6:06

Massive student protests in Germany and Austria

University of Vienna
Photo: Karola Riegler
Inside the Audimax at the University of Vienna on 29 October, at the start of the protest
University fees, declining standards and oversubscribed courses have sparked a month of student demonstrations and sit-ins in Switzerland, Austria and Germany

One month ago, students from the University of Vienna occupied some of their largest lecture halls. They are still there today.

This is according to the Austrian news site austriantimes.at.

The first protests were triggered by budget cuts and changes to the Bologna-system at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, where students occupied buildings with banners reading »Education is not for sale«.

Protests quickly spread to other Austrian universities and German universities, where students are demanding better academic standards. The University of Basel in Switzerland has also been occupied.

Lecture halls occupied

In Germany, more than 80,000 students took part in the nationwide protests, according to University Word News. There have been sit-ins in lecture halls at around 20 universities throughout the country.

Courses are too rigid

Students are calling for the new bachelor programmes, introduced in the context of the Bologna process, to be abandoned.

They complain that the courses are too rigid and that they are crammed with content, and that instead of improving student mobility, the Bologna process has actually made it more difficult to transfer course or university.

At the University of Vienna, the Audimax and C1 lecture halls, which fit around 800 people each, have been occupied by self-organised student groups for over one month now.

Christmas in the lecture hall

The Oesterreichische Hochschuelerschaft (students' representatives) support the occupations and demonstrations, both in their official statements and with a EUR 100,000 fund .

The number of students involved in the occupation has dropped drastically since protests started last month, with only around 800 taking part in the Vienna protest on International Student’s Day, 17 November. It seems the lengthy protest may be running out of steam.

However, asked whether the occupation of the Audimax auditorium would continue throughout the Christmas period, a student said to the Austrian broadcaster ORF, »I cannot think of anything more beautiful than celebrating Christmas at the Audimax«.


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