What dose does B1 English courses mean
Universities require better knowledge of German
It sounds obvious: if you want to study at a university in Austria, you have to speak German. Michal Stolar comes from Hranice in the Czech Republic. He learned German in 2015 while completing his bachelor's degree in social anthropology at the University of Aberdeen. When he spent the summer of 2017 doing his bachelor thesis in Vienna, he fell in love with the city: "I'm interested in culture, and where else do you get as much of it as here?" After graduating in Scotland, he returned to Vienna last year for a four-month internship. And stayed to study.
The good reputation of the University of Vienna, the great humanities scholars who studied here: All of this spoke in favor of another Bachelor in cultural and social anthropology. "I would have liked to have been part of such an environment," says Stolar. So in October he enrolled in a German course at the language center of the University of Vienna.
According to his self-assessment, his German was somewhere between level A2 and B1 for studying at that time - and thus not enough. For admission to some universities, including the University of Vienna, proof of German language skills at level C1 has been required since last winter semester - and thus only one level below that of native speakers. The universities refer to the competence levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (GER).
No duty in law
Michal Stolar was euphoric at first in the course. But it increasingly dawned on him: He never reached level C1 in time for the registration deadline for the course in April 2019. "It was disappointing. We sat in a group of 16 to 17 people in the class, did one exercise sheet after the other and hardly came have to say. Now some feel discouraged, "says the 23-year-old.
The University Act does not prescribe level C1; it is the university's decision to define the knowledge of the language required for its studies. At the universities of Innsbruck, Salzburg or Klagenfurt, level B2 is sufficient. However, the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research assumes that study success is significantly higher if you master the language of study on C1 than with B2, it says compared to the STANDARD.
Critique of Linguistics
Eva Vetter, head of the didactic center and professor for language teaching and learning research at the University of Vienna, has a different opinion. "I am in no way in favor of requiring C1 for admission to the course." However, this decision corresponds to the political zeitgeist. "Let's think of the current situation in Austria, where even financial benefits are linked to language skills." Stolar also suspects a political calculation: "The Austrian government is doing everything in its power to discourage foreign students from studying."
In addition to the new developments at the universities, there will be an actual change in the University Act from the summer semester 2019: applicants must now have an A2 level of German when submitting their application - otherwise their application will be rejected immediately at every university in Austria. With level A2, the so-called extraordinary students have four semesters to pass the C1 exam.
Only then are they full students. The official preparatory courses at universities (VWUs), which prepare international students in Graz, Leoben and Vienna for the required language exams, are intended to provide support. The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research wants the "best minds" to be admitted to study in Austria, says STANDARD at the request.
Not a suitable means
"The GER is not a suitable means for admission practice at universities, because its descriptions were not developed for studying aptitude," says Vetter. According to the linguist, however, the new regulations make it a hurdle for foreign students: "None of the levels guarantees success, not even C1. When studying, I need special technical skills, such as relating complex content to one another of the studies." She believes it is right to learn German while studying and, for example, only prove that you have a bachelor's degree.
For Adrijana Novakovic, clerk in the department for anti-racist work at the ÖH, there is a language-related disadvantage: "Most applicants currently complain about the A2 level, because not everyone can already take a German course in their home country before coming to Austria. " In addition to the initial hurdle, there are the high costs for the language courses within the framework of the VWU. "People from developing countries pay 470 euros instead of 1200 euros per semester. Foreign students are only allowed to work twenty hours a week. That is complete madness," says Novakovic.
Vetter is also of the opinion that this means that applicants from non-EU countries are excluded to an above-average extent: "I see this development in contradiction to the idea of internationalization at Austrian universities. From now on we will be addressing other international students." She suspects that anyone who has the opportunity to study anywhere in Europe will turn away from Austria.
The Ministry of Education, on the other hand, expects the number of graduates from third countries to remain the same and that these students will even complete their studies more quickly, as they would now start with better quality language skills.
No studies in Vienna
The ÖH's hands are tied here, says Novakovic: "It would be desirable if the students had more than four semesters for the C1 exam. They should also be allowed to attend more courses."
Stolar has meanwhile decided against studying in Vienna: "To learn a language you need a certain amount of motivation, but also a lot of time and money. I think it's a shame that a city like Vienna of all places is closing down." He doesn't yet know where his path will lead him. He will have his room in a shared flat until April. Until then, he actually wanted to be enrolled. (Allegra Mercedes Pirker, 9.3.2019)
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