Higher Education in Austria
Strong opportunities at world-class, accessible universities offering excellence
In Austria, there are many higher education institutions offering superb education in multiple fields to cater to all areas of different expertise. What are the different higher education institutions and what are they offering? What are the costs and is working in higher education in Austria a positive experience?
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.
Higher education institutions in numbers
Public Universities (öffentliche Universitäten)
Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen)
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.
Expenses in Austria for higher education
Unlike many countries in Europe, Austria offers free higher education for EU citizens. This is in part possible due to generous government spending. According to Statistics Austria (Statistik Austria), 10 per cent of the country’s federal budget is spent on education and of that, 32 per cent goes on higher education. 83 per cent of its young people enrol in higher education.
Cost of higher education in Austria
One of the biggest bonuses to the higher education system in Austria is that citizens and students who have EU/EEA nationality pay no regular tuition fees. They do pay a token membership fee to the student union of €18 per semester. For all other students this is €726.27. Fees must be paid for in advance.
There are exemptions from paying these fees – for example, participants in exchange programmes, university partnerships and students from less developed countries.
For those studying at Universities of Applied Sciences, these institutions are entitled to charge fees of €363 per year.
Quality of higher education in Austria
The state of higher education has changed dramatically since the 1960s when attending a university was considered only for the elite of society. As a result of reform, the university system is one that now serves the general population. The differing institutions started in the 1990s with the creation of the Universities of Applied Sciences, and private universities came into being in 2001.
Austria is considered to have a very high quality of education. The University of Vienna is ranked 143 according to the Times Higher Education world rankings and boasts nine institutions in the top 1,000. These include the medical and technical universities related to the study of sciences.
Higher education figures
Enrolled in studies
Number of people at Higher Education institutions in Austria
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Working in higher education in Austria
For staff working in higher education in Austria, their work is considered professional and desirable.
The standard working time at universities is 40 hours a week. Lecturers have separate agreements regulating working hours. Holiday entitlement varies according to whether they are employed under private law, but this is between 25 and 30 days. Holiday entitlement increases depending on age and length of service. The Universities of Applied Sciences are stipulated under private contract law which makes it more generous – 30 business days, increasing to 36 after 25 years of service.
Financial remuneration for employment in higher education in Austria does vary depending upon the type of institution one is employed at. At universities, higher-end pay for professors can be of a maximum of €6,817.90 a month. A lecturer can expect to be paid between €2,731 and €4,228 whilst a teacher at a College of Teacher Education can expect to receive between €2,239 and €2,615.