Throughout past days, students in Austria have been protesting, as they said, poor educational conditions and obvious commercialization of higher education. In the last years, the tuition fees at Austrian state universities were introduced, public funding for universities was decreased, while the number of enrollments and course availabilities were significantly reduced.
The protests that started by the occupation of the University of Fine Arts in Vienna, spontaneously continued by squatting Austria’s largest auditorium in the main University building. In the next days mass demonstrations have spread throughout the country, in the Austrian largest cities 1 . Students presented a broad catalog of demands to the policy makers, including democratization of all aspects of university life, massive increase in funding, free and equal admission modalities and a 50% women clause in all positions of university administration and education. The movement is based on the grassroots democracy, with plenum, inclusive for all, as the only decision making body.
The Federation of Young European Greens supports the initiative of students in Austria and sees it as brave example of the confrontation to the constant commercialization of the education that happens almost worldwide. Obvious neoliberal tendencies can be identified in the education sector, which is now adapted according to the needs of the market, while access to eduction becomes a privilege for the ones who can pay for it. It is being implemented in all Council of Europe member states in the frame of “ Bologna’s declaration ” signed in 1999.
While we support the idea to create one common European academic space, we condemn the further and any commercialization of the education. Education of the individuals strictly based on their future profession, instead of a widerange development of young citizens and their access to science and free choice of a life path, is a serious threat for democracy. In the future, this process may create mass of short-minded, only professionally oriented citizens with lack of basic knowledge and democratic awareness, who can be easily manipulated and controlled by minor power elites.
Therefore, we see students struggle for free education and against neoliberal reforms of high importance and as such, it must not be given up. Students movements, similar to the one started now in Austria, has been taking place in many other countries in the past years 2 . We hope for wider students solidarity to be formed and that struggle for free education and against neoliberal reforms will take place Europe-wide.
With full support to the initiative and requests of the students in Austria, with hope that they will be accomplished 3 , we invite young green student activists all over the Europe to involve and promote the ideas of the free education.
One world – one struggle! Education is not for sale!
Eline van Nistelrooij, Spokesperson of FYEG, +31 6 26296368
Gordan Isabegovic, Spokesperson of FYEG, +387 61 569616
JPBerlin – Politischer Provider