A wave of student protest is sweeping Austria. Students at the Fine Arts University in the capital, Vienna, began it by occupying their college after the principal announced fee increases and changes to course funding.
While the numbers involved in the sit-in there have grown from 200 to over 1,000 students, a further seven universities have also been occupied.
A demonstration of 45,000 people marched through Vienna on Thursday of last week.
Mass democratic meetings take place every evening in the occupied lecture theatre.
The Austrian government aims to change the education system so it can compete on the international market for different courses and funding – a scheme known as the Bologna process. The costs will be passed onto students.
Katharina Litschauer, a Vienna student, told Socialist Worker, “Our main demands are against the Bologna process and the reduction of democracy for students.
“We occupied the lobby of the main building of my college, and had a spontaneous demonstration.
“The demonstration went through the university and we ended up in the biggest lecture hall and occupied it.
“Then the Technical university had a meeting and occupied. In every university there is a discussion on whether to support occupations.
“These discussions can give birth to new occupations. With every new one there is more pressure on the government to meet our demands.
“The government has already been pushed into making a statement pledging 40 million euros for universities. We told them it was good to know they were listening – but we need billions, like the banks got.
“It has been amazing. After the huge demonstration the occupations became even bigger.
“People feel that their opinion counts – and that everything they do makes a difference.
“It was obvious to everyone that we needed to make links with workers. The deputy general secretary of the general union came to our occupation and expressed their support.
“We feel so strong, and every day there seems to be a new occupation, new messages of support. We are determined to win.”