Student protests spread in Germany and Austria

Student protests spread in Germany and Austria Berlin  - Protests by university students in Germany and Austria against overcrowding and overwork spread Thursday, with one university calling police to evict demonstrators from a main lecture hall.

The students are upset at pressure-cooker courses in which they are expected to race through three years of study and acquire new bachelor degrees. Formerly both nations spread the same study over four or more years before awarding students a "diploma."

German Education Minister Annette Schavan, who does not have any authority over universities, spoke in support of the students, calling on the 16 federal states to force professors to prune unnecessary topics from courses of study.

In Austria, where the student protests started three weeks ago, they spread to nine universities. In Germany, the protesters have so far occupied the principal lecture hall of universities in 20 German cities, preventing teaching.

The management of Tuebingen University in southern Germany called police, who escorted out 200 students who had held its hall for the past week. Outside an occupation at Humboldt University in Berlin, guards hired by management stopped more students joining in.

Professors have resisted reducing student workloads, contending that this would lower academic standards.

Students are also upset at the gradual introduction of tuition fees, although these are modest by international comparison.

Debating the issue in Austria's parliament, the ruling Social Democrats joining students in opposing tuition fees, which their coalition partners of the conservative People's Party want to introduce.(dpa)