• 1977: The University Organization Act and the Resignation of the Constitutional Court President

      The 1975 university reform was upheld by the Constitutional Court. The decision coincided with President Antoniolli’s resignation.

      When Walter Antoniolli, who had been President of the Constitutional Court since 1958, announced his resignation on 3 October 1977, he referred to “severe differences of opinion with the majority of the members of the Constitutional Court” and the “position taken by the Court in a fundamental issue of jurisprudence”, without giving further specifics. However, rumours were circulating that President Antoniolli did not want to have a part in the Court’s decision, pronounced on the same day, on the 1975 University Organization Act and the end of the traditional university with full professors in control of all university matters.

      With the adoption of the 1975 University Organization Act, prepared by then Minister of Science Hertha Firnberg (Socialist Party of Austria), full professors, who previously were the sole decision-makers in university affairs, lost their predominant position. From then on, junior faculty and students also had a say on the basis of a one-third-parity model.

      University professors were vehemently opposed to the 1975 University Organization Act. When several of them filed a complaint with the Administrative Court against administrative decisions taken by the newly appointed bodies, the Administrative Court submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court in April 1976 to repeal the provisions of the 1975 University Organization Act regarding the tripartite composition of the Study Commissions (sect. 57ff) on the grounds of anti-constitutionality.

      In its decision of 3 October 1977 (VfSlg 8136), the Constitutional Court did not follow the Administrative Court’s line of argumentation. The Constitutional Court maintained that tripartite participation conflicted neither with the freedom of teaching nor with the principle of self-government of the universities. In the Court’s opinion, the further development of the autonomous sphere of action of the universities through the assignment of new tasks on the basis of a simple-majority act was permissible, as was the extension of the group of persons participating in academic affairs. This decision on the 1975 University Organization Act was one of the most severely criticized after 1945. 

      In the perception of the public and the media, there was an obvious connection between the decision on the University Organization Act and the resignation of President Antoniolli, who was a full professor at the Universities of Innsbruck and Vienna. His term of office would have ended on 31 December 1977, but he stepped down three months before the end of his mandate. 

    • Präsident des VfGH Univ.Prof. Dr. Walter Antoniolli 

      Walter Antoniolli, President of the Constitutional Court. 
      (Photo: VfGH/Pauser)

      Eine Textausgabe des UOG 1975 

      The 1975 University Organization Act. 
      (Photo: VfGH/Pauser)

      Wissenschaftsministerin Hertha Firnberg 

      Federal Minister of Science and Research Hertha Firnberg. 
      (Photo: ÖNB Bildarchiv)

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