Higher Education in Austria
Austria offers postsecondary education overseen and funded by the federal Ministry for Science and Research. Austria's 11 private universities and 23 public universities provide students with a comprehensive list of degree programs and a higher educational system that now serves the masses rather than the elite, as it did prior to the 1960s. All students at one time were free to apply to a public university and major in any field of study they wished, a procedure that has recently experienced several changes. Although Austria still allows eligible students to major in several subjects concurrently, the government sector responsible for the educational system has now put restrictions in place for several areas of study. Currently, these subjects include: Psychology, Biology, Dentistry, Human Medicine, Economic Sciences, Journalism and Veterinary Medicine.
Starting from 2001, students attending an Austrian university no longer enjoy free education. However, students from the European Union or European Economic Area (EEA) who finish their degree progam in the minimum amount of time (three years) do not need to pay for their education. Other students must pay a tuition of €370 ($500) per term if they are Austrian citizens and €700 ($950) if they are not Austrian citizens.
Obtaining a bachelor's degree in Austria usually takes three years. Earning a Masters degree or PhD generally takes another two to three years, depending on the type of subject and specifications in which the student enrolls.
Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen)
Universities of Applied Sciences differ from traditional Austrian universities in that they are tailored to accommodate students seeking to learn a practical skill over academic knowledge. As a student attending a Fachhochschule, you will not be allowed to choose your courses as freely as you might be at an academic-oriented university. This is to ensure that all students entering a University of Applied Science graduate within the recommended three years.
Austrian Private Universities
Since 2001, all private universities must be accredited before they are legally permitted to give academic degrees. The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Cultural Affairs has the authority to provide accreditation. Currently, 13 private universities operating in Austria are fully accredited. Some of these include the European Peace University, the Sigmund Freud University (Vienna) and the Paracelsus Medizinische Privatuniversität (Salzburg).
A Magister degree is the first degree given to students who complete a four to six year course in the social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, law or economics. Students majoring in agriculture or engineering will receive a Diplom-Ingenieur upon finishing a degree program. Recently, some Austrian universities have started to issue Bachelor's degrees prior to the Magister, or Master's degree.
Medicine is the only area of study in which a student may earn a doctorate degree after at least six years of attending a university. Many fields of study, including medicine, demand that students write and deliver a research paper called a Diplomarbeit, which usually averages at least 100 pages.
Prominent Austrian Universities
Founded in 1365, the University of Vienna is the most famous of Austria's universities and offers three centers and 15 faculties that include Faculties of Computer Science, Psychology, Business and Economics, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. There are also Centers for Molecular Biology, Translation Studies and Sport Science. Two other top Austrian universities are the University of Innsbruck and the Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz.
Applying to an Austrian University
To apply as an undergraduate (called the "first cycle"), a student should have a valid certificate from their previous school stating that they possess the qualifications to enter a higher education institution. Students who are members of the EEA must have completed upper secondary school before qualifying to attend an Austrian university. You will also be asked to prove you can speak German and English as well as take additional qualifying classes if necessary.
Before students can apply to a Master's program in Austria, they must have earned a Bachelor's degree or other degree equivalent to a Bachelor's diploma in accordance with Austrian educational requirements.
Some of the more competitive degree programs in Austria accept students according to grade point averages culled from previous school work. EU students can convert their GPA to the Austrian system using the EGC (European Grade Converter). Non-European students can access the standard grades comparison chart used by European students to calculate their Austrian GPA.
German is the language of instruction in Austria. Students are required to submit proof of their knowledge of the German language by providing results received from previous examinations or diplomas earned from taking German language courses.
Health Insurance Coverage
European Union and EEA students will need to have their European Health Insurance card with them while attending an Austrian university. Overseas students can either obtain Austrian public assistance medical insurance or purchase health insurance from a private carrier.
Why Study in Austria?
Offering an exceptionally developed social market economy, diverse employment opportunities and one of the highest standards of living in the world, Austria is among the top 15 richest countries in the world. With a thriving tourism industry, fascinating historical landmarks and beautiful mountainous scenery, Austria remains popular with European and overseas vacationers as well as students wanting to pursue higher educational degrees from a prestigious Austrian university.