Studying philosophy will make you smarter

University of Vienna: market for philosophy teachers is oversaturated

If you want to start studying psychology and philosophy in Vienna, you now have the last chance for the time being. As recently became known, the University of Vienna will no longer offer the bachelor's degree for the teaching profession Psychology and Philosophy (PP) from the coming winter semester. For all those who have already started, this decision of the rectorate has no direct consequences, they are allowed to finish their studies.

Nevertheless, the drastic measure creates uncertainty - the student council criticizes the fact that the students were not informed about the meetings, let alone heard. Compared to the access restrictions that have been introduced in more and more subjects in recent years, the closure of a popular course of study - around 400 people start PP every year in Vienna - is by no means an everyday step.

Demand forecast not very transparent

It is precisely the permanent large rush with which the Rectorate is now justifying the cut. There is a blatant gap between the number of students and the need for teachers, so it is practically impossible for graduates to find positions for PP classes in the next ten years. "It would be irresponsible to give the impression of being given lessons in PP at a school," says Vice Rector Christa Schnabl, who played a key role in stopping the course. It is based on a demand forecast by the Ministry of Science. A survey from 2018 is confirmed there, which shows that there will be little need for new PP teachers in the coming years. However, the ministry did not want to reveal details of the calculation and the variables included in the forecast to the STANDARD; the rectorate again referred to the ministry.

Not enough internship positions for prospective teachers

Those who are familiar with the situation, however, have little doubt about a disproportion between the supply and demand for PP teachers, especially since the subject is only taught in the last two years of the upper level. Some prospective teachers are currently unable to find an internship, although this is required in the curriculum of the new teacher training for successful graduation. There are delays, sometimes complicated alternative solutions have to be found in order to get the certificate for the internship. E-mails of complaints to the university are increasing. It was clear to everyone involved that things could not go on like this. Was it therefore inevitable that the degree should be abandoned?

"Universities are not production halls"

From the point of view of the ÖH, the university reacted too late to the grievances; better advice at the beginning of the course could have alleviated the overwhelming rush, she suspects. Those interested have been informed about the job opportunities, but this measure has had too little effect, replies Vice Rector Schnabl.

The decision, however, also touches on the more fundamental questions about the relationship between the choice of course and career prospects, between the university and the job market: "Universities are not production halls that merely deliver 'to order'", say student representatives about the STANDARD. Even a teacher training course is primarily about education, not just about training for the teaching job. The rectorate, however, will continue to orientate itself on the hypotheses of need. It is not clear whether and when the PP course will be offered again in Vienna in the future. In Graz and Salzburg, by the way, they do not want to endorse the decision in the federal capital: discontinuing the PP course is not up for discussion there, the rectorates say.

Philosophers hope to study ethics

For the Philosophy Institute in Vienna, where the PP course was previously offered, discontinuation without replacement would result in considerable financial losses in the medium term, because the budget depends on factors such as the number of graduates and examination activity. While the regular philosophy course is known for its extremely low examination activity, the teacher training students are well on their way here - and thus wash money into the coffers. It is hoped that the "future of teacher training courses with a philosophy component will soon become clearer", but do not expect it to "cease to exist without replacement," says the institute's board of directors.

In plain English, this means that hopes are directed towards ethics. The turquoise-green coalition has announced in the government program - like turquoise-blue - the introduction of compulsory ethics lessons for those who have not signed off from religion. Due to the turmoil after Ibiza, the decision in the National Council was delayed, and there is now talk of ethics classes starting in autumn 2021. This will create a massive need for ethics teachers in the years to come. Like other universities, the University of Vienna is working intensively on the rapid development of an ethics teacher training course in order to meet future demand.

Too Much Theology?

However, there is still a lot of guesswork about the specific design. The Philosophy Institute would prefer to be responsible for this itself, as it has a high level of competence in the area of ​​ethics. Some philosophers who are familiar with the current state of the discussion, however, fear behind closed doors that theology will have too strong an influence on the new course of study, even though ethics is an inherent discipline of philosophy. This should be emphasized more clearly in the negotiations between the universities.

At a higher level, however, one does not see this assignment so clearly: "Ethics is an interdisciplinary topic, so teaching from philosophy and theology, but also from biology, for example, will be incorporated," says Vice Rector Christa Schnabl, herself a professor of theology with a focus Social ethics. It is also questionable whether an uncomplicated switch from PP graduates to ethics teaching will be possible. That could more easily balance out the different job requirements. (Theo Anders, February 16, 2020)