Austrian students protest poor conditions, reforms

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Associated Press

Posted on October 27, 2009 at 11:37 AM

VIENNA (AP) — Austrian students headed into a new week of protests Monday against education reforms and what they say are poor conditions at the country's universities.

For the fifth straight day, students staged a peaceful sit-in at the University of Vienna to draw attention to overcrowding of lectures and to demand more of a say in how Austria's higher education institutions are run.

Similar protests began last week at Vienna's Academy of Fine Arts after students and teachers rejected changes under a Europe-wide reform of higher education called the Bologna Process. The reforms are aimed at making it easier for students to study abroad and making university degrees equally recognizable in participating countries.

But the University of Vienna protesters say the reforms take away their flexibility to personally structure their degree programs. They also reject discussions of the reintroduction of tuition for Austrians and EU citizens, and want fees for foreigners and longtime students to be scrapped. The protesters also want entrance exams to be abolished, saying education should be open to everyone.

"I'm joining in because it's just not possible to solve the problems we're confronted with," said Fabian Unterberger, a 25-year-old International Development major who says seminars meant for 35 students sometimes accommodate as many as 90.

Last month, Spanish police clashed with university students in Barcelona staging a sit-in over planned education reforms linked to the Bologna Process.

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