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Austrian medical schools fear influx of German students

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 10 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:328
  1. Tuffs Annette
  1. Heidelberg

    With most German universities planning to charge fees from 2007, medical schools in neighbouring Austria are worried that they will be deluged with German applicants.

    The move in Germany follows a recent decision by the Federal Constitutional Court at the end of January, which entitled universities to raise tuition fees for all subjects.

    For the past 40 years, university tuition in Germany has been free. Already, about half of the German federal states, including Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, have announced that they will take up the option and ask an average of €1000 (£688; $1295) a year from each student.

    After this development, Austrian universities, which have either free admission or lower fees, are afraid that many German medical students will apply to Austria.

    Austrian medical schools are already popular with German students because of the shared language and the proximity. However, German medical students have restricted access to Austrian universities. Austrian universities only accept foreign students who already have been offered a place at a German university, but choose to study in Austria, usually for just one year.

    A European Court decision in March 2005, however, is expected to open all Austrian universities to European applicants. Austrian medical schools in Vienna, Innsbruck, and Graz do not have any admission restrictions on the basis of grades or interviews.

    “If just 10% of the rejected applicants come to Austria, we will not be able to manage any more,” said Rudolf Mallinger, vice rector of Vienna Medical School.

    Georg Winckler, head of the Austrian University Rectors Association, fears that 23 000 German medical students who failed to get in last year to German universities might turn to Austria.

    So far, the only option for German medical students who fail to gain a place in Germany or the other German speaking states, such as Austria and Switzerland, but want to study medicine in German is to go the University of Budapest or Szeged. These currently take about 250 German medical students a year for preclinical studies; however, their fees are expensive at €20 000 a year.

    Austrian universities and the science ministry are trying to avoid the problem by introducing election procedures that will keep the gates open for Austrian candidates and almost shut for other European applicants.

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