PhD in Austria for international students
If you are an international student interested in doing your PhD in Austria, you might be wondering how PhD programmes in Austria are structured, and which institutions offer them?
Austria has 56 higher educational institutions granting PhDs. They are divided into the following three categories:
- 22 public universities (öffentliche Universitäten)
- 21 Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen)
- 13 private universities (Privatuniversitäten)
Instead of advertising specific doctoral research projects, Austrian universities generally offer PhD programmes focusing on specific areas. As a PhD student in Austria, you can expect to take courses regarding your topic and methodology in addition to performing original research, typically under the supervision of a faculty member. While Universities of Applied Sciences do not award PhDs, some may offer professional doctorate programmes in partnership with universities.
Most institutions will want you to submit a completed application form along with official transcripts of past qualifications, degree certificates, reference letters and an accompanying personal statement. You can apply to most universities simply by submitting an application form online along with all necessary application documents. It is a good idea to check with your university, however, since you may need to submit some documents by post. You should also inquire after specifications regarding translations of application documents. Bear in mind that most Austrian PhD programmes will have set application deadlines owing to their curricula.
A PhD programme in Austria will normally require you to have a master’s degree in an appropriate subject that is worth 180 ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) or equivalent. In certain cases, it might be possible to study a PhD with just a bachelor’s degree, however this is likely to make your PhD longer and will require more coursework. Some PhD programmes may also set entrance examinations to ensure applicants have the right skills and experience to tackle more specific research.
Most students attend public university programmes offered in German or English. You may need to prove your competency in German at the B2 or C1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. You can do this by taking the Österreichisches Sprachdiplom Deutsch, Austria’s officially-recognised examination for German as a foreign language.
Once you have been accepted, you may need to organise a visa to begin your studies. If you are from an EU/EEA country, you will not need a visa but must register with the local authorities within three months of arrival. If you are from a non-EU/EEA country, you will need to apply for a Residence Visa D (Aufenthaltsvisum D), which allows you to enter Austria for up to six months and apply for a Residence Permit – Student (Aufenthaltsbewilligung – Studierender) during that time.
PhD programmes in Austria
Austrian universities differentiate between doctorates (Doktorate) and PhDs. PhD programmes are often targeted at a university’s own research associates while doctorate programmes are also open to students who are not employed at the university. These are the most common PhD qualifications in Austria:
- Doctor of Arts
- Doctor of Economic Sciences
- Doctor of Medical Science
- Doctor of Natural Sciences
- Doctor of Psychotherapy Science
- Doctor of Technical Sciences
Students have at least one academic advisor who guides and mentors them during their PhDs and typically complete research towards their thesis over the course of three years. The Austrian academic year runs from October to September and is made up of a winter semester (1 October to 30 January) and a summer semester (1 March to 30 September).
Austrian PhD programmes typically follow a set curriculum involving organised study and training as well as independent research. For the first part, you will complete courses designed to advance your subject knowledge and develop practical research skills. These will be assigned a credit value and organised in a similar way to the classes and seminars that make up bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Towards the end of your first year, you will decide upon an original research topic suited to your programme. This will need to be formally proposed to your supervisor and/or other senior researchers. This process may also involve an examination to confirm you are ready to make the step up to the independent research stage of your PhD.
Austrian PhDs use the ECTS credit system in accordance with the Bologna Process. A doctorate is worth 180 credits, all of which must be earned in order to gain the PhD qualification. Once your thesis is finished, you must present it to an examination committee before defending it in a process known as the Rigorosum.