PhD in Austria
Austria is an attractive country for international PhD students
Austria is home to over 50 institutions of higher education. Given its strong cultural scene, natural beauty and low living expenses, it is not surprising that Austria attracts international students seeking to do their PhDs.
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.
Austria PhD scholarships
International students enjoy low tuition fees at many institutions in Austria compared to other European countries; some pay no tuition fees at all, provided they complete their degrees on time (within six to eight semesters). Be that as it may, you will still need funding to cover your costs of living. It can take the form of a scholarship, an employment contract, or a fellowship.
Scholarships are available for international students who want to earn their PhDs in Austria. However, there are almost no scholarships for complete degree programmes in Austria, which of course includes PhDs. The Austrian Exchange Service (Österreichischer Austauschdienst, OeAD) runs a database, which contains an overview of funding opportunities for PhDs in Austria for international students and provides all relevant information concerning the application process.
If you are awarded a position at a university, you will be expected to assist with teaching, lab demonstrations and some administrative responsibilities according to the terms of contract. These tasks will increase your PhD workload, but they also provide excellent experience and additional material for your CV.
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PhD salary in Austria
Your salary as a PhD student depends on how many hours you work, the type of work you perform, and your university. The best source of precise and current information is your prospective university. You can contact your prospective department and inquire after employment and salaries, and human resources websites may provide general information for your specific institution.
As a PhD student working at a university or research institution in Austria, your salary will fall within the B1 bracket, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement of sections 98 and 99 of the 2002 Universities Act.
Academic salary brackets in Austria
Academic staff with whom a qualification agreement was concluded
University assistants (known as assistant professors), senior scientists, senior lecturers and project staff who have completed masters or diplomas
Student staff and project staff who have not completed a masters or diploma scheme
The gross monthly salary of the B1 salary bracket amounts to €2,794.60. The figure offered will vary from institution to institution, but this is a typical salary offer for people with qualifications that PhD students also possess. Permanent staff members of institutions in this band can expect that figure to increase over time.