It might be a fairly small country, but Austria has had a very big impact on the world. It gave us the revolutionary works of Sigmund Freud, the philosophical musings of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the rousing symphonies Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. (And let's not forget action hero-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger!) Austria is also home to stunning landscapes, vibrant cities, and some of the best universities in the world. And with zero tuition fees for EU nationals and financial support for those coming from further afield, it's unsurprising that Austria is becoming a hot spot for international students looking for an academic adventure. So here are seven reasons why you should study in Austria.
Quality of life
Austria is widely recognized as one of the most livable countries in the world. In 2018, the Institute for Management Development (IMD) awarded Austria the number one spot in terms of quality of life. The IMD uses a wide range of metrics to identify the world's most livable countries, including economic growth, innovation, and cultural heritage, as well as important indicators of individual well-being such as community spirit, mental health, and job satisfaction.
Austrians scored high across all the metrics, but the highest levels of happiness came from people living in its capital. Vienna was recently named as the most liveable city in the world for the second year running by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Vienna scored top marks in economic stability, infrastructure, and education -- making this beautiful European capital the ideal place to start an academic career.
A rich intellectual history
Despite its small size, Austria has had an enormous impact on European culture. Austria was home to some of Europe's most influential intellectuals of the 20th century, including Sigmund Freud. Young Sigmund graduated from the University of Vienna, which has a remarkable list of alumni. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Erwin Schroedinger did much of his early research in Vienna and would go on to formulate revolutionary new theories in the fields of quantum theory, general relativity, and thermodynamics. Fellow Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek studied economics at the University of Vienna before going on to positions at the London School of Economics and the hugely influential Chicago School of Economics. Hayek's seminal work The Road to Serfdom has now sold over two million copies and is still regarded as one of the best arguments for economic and political liberalism. In 2004, the novelist Elfriede Jelinek became the 15th graduate of the University of Vienna to be awarded a Nobel peace prize.
Austria has some of the best universities in the world. In 2018, seven Austrian universities were included in the QS World University Rankings, with five institutions making it into the top 500. The University of Vienna, Austria's oldest and most famous university, ranked the highest (154th.) With a student body of around 94,000, it's one of the largest universities in Europe and attracts undergraduate and postgraduate students from all over the world. Like many Austrian universities, the majority of courses are taught in German, although there are many English-only programs, especially at master's level.
You will save a lot of money
Austria is one of several countries in Europe where university education is free for EU students. This means that if you are an EU or EEA citizen, you do not pay university tuition at public universities in Austria. You will still have to cover living and study expenses.
Fees for students outside the EU vary depending on where you study. However, they're still considerably less than in many other countries. On average, non-EU students pay around €726 (around $800) per semester. There are various scholarship opportunities and financial assistance programs for international students. Again, these vary depending on where and what you study, so it is advised to research and contact individual institutions.
It welcomes applications from international students
Always research the specific entry requirements of whatever course you're interested in before applying. But, generally speaking, people looking to study abroad in Austria need a secondary school leaving certificate that qualifies for admission to university in your home country. You will also need evidence of Germany language proficiency. This can be a school certificate confirming at least four years of German lessons or a German-language diploma. If you decide to take a diploma independently, make sure you find a school or college that award certificates recognized by your desired university.
Students from inside the EU do not need a visa, although they must register with the local authorities three months after entering Austria. All other international students require a residence permit for stays above six months. You should start your visa application as early as possible and certainly no later than three months before the start of your course. Without a valid student visa, you will not be allowed to enroll.
Settling in is easy
With a large and diverse student body and a metropolitan, forward-thinking approach, Austria is the perfect place for international students from all over the world. Universities in the country run special introductory programs for international students, giving students a chance to learn about the local customs, make new friends, and find your bearings in your new host country. Eerika Kivelä spent a semester as an exchange student studying Business and Administration at the University of Vienna. She says, “The experience was unbelievable. I can highly recommend the city and the country for an exchange, if you don’t want to have a big culture shock, want to learn German and see beautiful places. Vienna was my number one choice when applying for exchange so it was like a dream come true.”
Austria also has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, meaning you are safe to explore all corners of whatever city you decide to study in. And like their close neighbors the Germans and the Swiss, Austrian's have a well-earned reputation for their efficient and pragmatic approach to civic life. In other words, Austria is one of those countries where everything just seems to work! The public transport networks are fast, safe, and reliable, while a streamlined approach to public administration and social services means you won't get bogged down in bureaucratic matters when it comes to things like opening a bank account or registering with a local doctor.
It's the center of Europe
Recent political developments across Europe have led many to seriously ponder what direction the continent is heading in. But whatever direction it takes, Austria is set to play a very important role. Uniquely situated in the center of Europe with borders on eight different countries, Austria is both a physical and metaphorical bridge between nations with very different outlooks on the European project. Former Austrian Foreign Minister Erhard Busek writes in the book Central Europe Revisited recently co-authored, "It is important that the civil society of Central European countries strikes up the conversation about those topics. It has an impact on the functioning of the EU; on the future ideas of national identity and patriotism." So if you're interested in the future of European politics, studying in Austria can give a unique perspective on where it may be headed.
Also geographically, basically anywhere you are studying in Austria you will not only be amidst amazing cityscapes and landscapes as it is, you will be a mere hour or two's trip from many other nations (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Germany). And anyone below the age of 28 can take advantage of an Interrail pass, which, with just one pass, gives you unlimited and flexible train travel not just in these countries but all over Europe.
Now you know everything about studying in Austria, you can start searching for the perfect course and then get that application in for the start of the next academic year. Viel glück!