studying in Vienna: in praise of a dying system

It’s been almost two years since I moved to Vienna to study landscape planning and architecture at the University of life sciences and Natural Resources. Most likely, I’ll stay here for grad school and there’s a reason, why I think studying in Vienna is great (at least for people like me):First of all, as a EU-citizen, it’s free as long I stay in the regular period of study plus two semesters which shouldn’t be a problem. With my German Abitur, I could just walk up to almost any university (there are nine of them), enroll and start studying. Just like that. Even better, I can study more than just one program at several universities at the same time. So I enrolled for spatial planning at the Vienna University of Technology. I just jump on my bike and commute between classes at two different universities at which I don’t pay a single cent of tuition. I have a great amount of freedom to tailor my studies to my own interests, style and pace of learning. It’s education heaven, right? Well, close but not quite there…

Since until recently (after I enrolled, that is) Austrian universities had no tool to control the amount of their students. More often than not, this would lead to overrun programs with the universities being unable to provide sufficient facilities for all their enrolled students. It’s not too bad at my programs, even though it does get cramped in the lecture halls once in a while. The computer facilities are a joke. I had the opportunity to see some universities in the US and god, they had some shiny facilities, gorgous libraries and what not. But is that worth paying something like 20-30k a year? Not for me. I have my own computer, I don’t need a palace for studying and they have some great professors over here. You might not get invited to their homes, but you can still learn a lot from them if you’re commited. It’s actually not that difficult to get a decent education and set yourself apart from the mass of students as long you’re commited to your studies. So for me, it pans out nicely.

But wait, things have changed. They’re trying hard to reduce the number of students. Introduction of study fees for long-time students and non-EU students and limits of students for some programs (including landscape architecture). And while those restrictions are still very modest by international standarts, experiences from other countries such as the UK have shown, that it will become tougher and tougher to study in Austria if those attempts aren’t tackled now. Kill it before it grows. I want future generations of students to have the same degree of freedom while studying that I have now. As a start, you should join the demonstration for free education organised by the Austrian Student’s Union on the 5th of December.

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