Betriebsrat für das wissenschaftliche Personal
Tuition fees for WU employees
Up until this summer, the Universities Act 2002 (Universitätsgesetz 2002) had included a provision making it possible for all long-term students (including those working on their PhDs or doctoral degrees) to have their tuition fees waived, as long as they could prove that they were simultaneously in employment.
Unfortunately, due to a successful legal challenge at Austria’s Constitutional Court, as of 31 July this legal provision has been dropped, which means that as of the coming winter semester 2018/2019, all students who are unable to complete their degree within the standard duration of their degree program, plus a grace period of two extra semesters (so-called “tolerance” semesters or Toleranzsemester), will have to pay tuition fees for each further semester in which they continue their studies.
At WU, this change to the law will have a potentially detrimental affect particularly on teaching and research associates (“pre-docs“) who are typically employed on a six-year contract, as part of which they are simultaneously expected to complete their PhDs or doctoral degrees. The law now states that such degrees must normally be completed within a period of three years, plus the two “tolerance” semesters. This could lead to a situation whereby WU as an employer is required to collect payment from its employees for the completion of a degree which itself forms part of their contractual obligations (see chapter 1.1.1 of the new Personnel Development Plan).
We have already received a number of queries from colleagues who are worried about how they are potentially affected by this new legal situation, and we will be using every opportunity available to us to raise these concerns with WU. One solution under consideration might be the establishment of a kind of degree-completion scholarship, a step which has been recommended by the Universities Austria association (Universitätskonferenz).
We will of course keep you updated as soon as there are any further developments.