Higher education institutions in Austria
For a country with a population of just under nine million people, Austria offers a large and diverse range of higher education institutions which vary in size and structure. There are 22 independently-run public universities (öffentliche Universitäten) that regulate their own affairs, with some financial support from the State, with a general focus on humanities, law and economics.
There are also 21 Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen), which offer scientifically-founded and vocational-orientated courses. Graduates from these institutions will be expected to take up employment within their chosen fields of study. The main goal in the establishment of these institutions was to ensure practice-orientated training at university level, to communicate the skills needed for solving tasks and to promote graduation into subject-related fields. These universities are actively promoted by the state and are always looking for more female students.
There are 13 private universities (Privatuniversitäten) which receive no state funding whatsoever. They are regulated by the Accreditation Council (Akkreditierungsrat). Those who attend these institutions can expect innovative and high-quality education and there is a strong emphasis on the arts. Private universities are characterised by their continual internal and external evaluations of teaching and research.
A new concept of teacher training was created by the Education Act 2005. 17 colleges of Teacher Education (Pädagogische Hochschulen) were created to educate teachers for the schools. These higher education institutions are publicly regulated.
All these institutions offer a range of disciplines in many subjects.
Opportunities in higher education in Austria
Austria has a long tradition of higher education, using state-of-the-art research and an ever-growing number of degree programmes, offering many opportunities for would-be students. These higher education institutions are not just restricted to the capital, Vienna and can be found right across the country. The Universities of Applied Sciences have campuses in both Lower and Upper Austria and have world-renowned facilities amongst beautiful settings.
For Austrians, admission to the bachelor’s degree is given by the obtaining of a school leaving certificate (Reifezeugnis), or successful completion of a special university entrance exam. Students in lower schools who completed apprenticeships as skilled workers may get an equivalent certificate known as Berufsreifeprüfung. Admission to the University of Applied Sciences may take into consideration previous vocational or technical experience and this institution, along with the University Colleges of Teacher Education, can have a selective admission process.
If coming from outside Austria, applications are sent to the Higher Education institution to which you are applying. You will need to have proof of nationality, and necessary educational certificates. For many, proof of proficiency in German is required or proof that German lessons have been attended for at least four years. Documentation providing proof in languages other than German must be legally translated.
Also known as Diplomstudien, this qualification is provided by universities, Universities of Applied Sciences and private universities. The programmes are governed by the same provisions as applicable to bachelor’s and master’s programmes, and once completed, are concluded with an academic degree known as a Magister or Magistra. There are wide ranging areas of study with diplomas.
There is a wide array of different subjects that you can study depending on the type of higher education institution. For example, private universities tend to focus on the arts, medical health and social sciences – but this is not defined by statute.
An institution of higher education usually comes with its own expertise. The degree amounts to 180 ECTS credits.
After successfully completing a bachelor’s degree, a master’s can be taken to deepen previous studies or explore an additional topic and takes at least four semesters. In addition to lectures, there are seminars, exercises, practical workshops, field trips – depending on the subject. Long-distance study is permitted. Higher education institutions also offer more foreign language classes and courses.
After a master’s is obtained, a doctorate can take a further six semesters to obtain this qualification. Public universities and private universities are entitled to award doctoral degrees. Training is organised according to the academic discipline. The duration is usually three years at both types of institution.