If it is up to Austria, a student’s country of origin will have to pay the cost of his/her study. According to the current EU regulations, the host country pays for the study of a foreign student. Maastricht University's dean of internationalisation of education, Tom van Veen, does not think much of the Austrian plan. “It is so un-European.”
Like in the Netherlands, there is a discussion in Austria about the number of German students at the universities. In some programmes, 50 to 80 per cent of the students come from Germany.
European regulations state that students from EU countries should be able to study according to the same conditions and the same costs in other EU countries.
The governor of Salzburg, Gabi Burgstaller, has now submitted a proposal to European Commissioner Vassiliou to let the country of origin take responsibility for a student’s study costs. The student in question pays the standard lecture fees requested by the foreign university.
Van Veen: “This is not a new idea. Former Executive President Jo Ritzen said the same at some stage and submitted a proposal for a clearing fund. It would avoid a lot of discussion, but if you really want a unified Europe, it should not matter where students come from. We should be working towards European universities that are not financed from The Hague but from Brussels. This could be about a number of top universities, but you could also choose to have the schools of higher professional education paid for by The Hague and research universities by Brussels.”’’
If Austria gets what it wants, what would be the consequences for the UM? “If all individual countries decide that their students can study anywhere, then there is no problem. But I suspect that there will be limitations – that, for example, only a few hundred students may study abroad each year. That would be very bad for internationalisation.”
“Student mobility within Europe is important,” emphasizes President of the Executive Board, Martin Paul. “The national governments started a process more than thirty years ago to create an open European higher education system to strengthen not only the economy, but also social cohesion. The issue is how to implement this in a way that does justice to the strength of Europe, respecting free movement of persons and goods. The Austrian discussion fits into this and will have to be dealt with at the level of the national governments within the EU. It goes without saying that a university like ours calls for a European statute for universities, which makes it easier for students from various European countries to do parts of their studies elsewhere in Europe and then to find jobs there.”
European Commissioner Vassiliou has advised Burgstaller to find supporters.
Dutch state secretary Zijlstra has recently set up a working group to investigate the costs and benefits of foreign students in the Netherlands. The results are expected at the end of this year.