High energy prices and rapidly rising inflation are having a huge impact on domestic universities. According to rector Sabine Seidler, the Technical University of Vienna (TU) is even heading for insolvency.
The danger looms, however, “not because we lived beyond our means or mismanaged it,” Seidler emphasized during a press conference on the occasion of a protest day at her university. “The external preconditions have changed.” The TU is confronted with additional costs of about 170 million euros due to increased heating and electricity prices, rent increases, KV contracts and higher costs for small appliances, of which the budget increase of 500 million euros planned by the ministry for education is only about 60 million are covered. The additional costs in the energy sector alone would rise to around 90 million euros in the next two years. “Can you imagine TU Delft without laboratories?” says Seidler.
Education Minister Martin Polaschek (ÖVP) recently promised to look for extra money, according to the rector. But: “It’s not about making an effort, it’s about coming up with solutions.” She again called for a crisis summit. Seidler received support from her designated successor Jens Schneider (as of October 2023), as well as representatives of the faculty and students.
The chairman of the TU student association, Simon Los, feared a return to distance learning without extra money. Senate Speaker Norbert Pfeifer, on the other hand, warned that failure to fill vacancies would lead to course cancellations or mass exercises rather than small groups. Without an extra budget, there is only theoretical education in the lecture hall because operating the instruments is becoming too expensive. Many of the devices necessary for the operation of the university cannot simply be switched off temporarily.
Minister of Education rules out budget changes
The protest is supported by the Austrian Student Union (ÖH) and numerous student associations and works councils of individual universities. The SPÖ and NEOS also criticize the university budget, which is too low for them. In response to an APA request, the Ministry of Education referred to ongoing talks with Uniko. Changes to the upcoming budget were again ruled out. At the same time, however, there can be relief on expenditure items such as rent or energy – one also observes the wage negotiations and can react if necessary after they have ended.
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