The following contribution deals with events that occurred in Austria in 1996. At that time, Austrian academia was in a phase of transition into an audit culture. But at that moment it was afflicted by government measures which at first sight had nothing to do with the Austrian system of higher education, but rather conformed to the new standards of the European Union. However, the outcome was an experience of an audit 'regime', in which scholars, teachers and students felt they were marionettes in the iron grip of political and economic powers. Much of what had made one feel at unease with the introduction of auditing suddenly had become reality. The contribution is thus a reflection on (active participant) observations from the specific Austrian case and its relationship to transnationally negotiated standards.
Since the 1970s, Austrian academia could be characterized by certain democratic structures, conveying a right of co-determination in studying matters to assistant professors and students via chair-holding professors. Furthermore, no major pressures were imposed regarding research, publication and teaching performances, and once a job in academia was gained it could be easily transformed into a lifelong position. Students, on the other hand, had free access to any scientific discipline with no fees to pay; there were no rules regarding the duration of one's studies, and social support by the state was assured within certain limits. In short, academia in Austria constituted an overall liberal system with the three pillars of freedom of research, freedom of teaching and freedom of studying.
The major problems within Austrian academia concerned the scarcity of human resources in teaching and administration, and financial and material means. Other serious problems included the too lengthy studying times of students, high drop-out rates, and