Funding Overview

Higher Education in Austria

The Austrian University system has undergone several decades of reform that has made it one of the most open and equal systems in Europe. Students leaving secondary schools are free to enter any program or course they wish – although there have been some restrictions recently imposed on a few high-demand programs. Medical Universities in particular are of a high standard, with several in the top 500 world university rankings. As a result of recent reforms all Universities are now more competitive and more independent than was previously the case, when state control was stronger. Although most training is done in the German language, some universities offer programmes taught entirely in English or in both German and English. These are typically programmes in fields such as international business, commerce or law. With many of the best schools being in Vienna, students have access to one of the great cultural capitals of Europe. Universities are however also found in Innsbruck, Salzburg, Linz and Graz, each of which offers a unique experience.
With no fees, Austria is a good university choice
With no fees, Austria is a good university choice

Educational system

A wide range of different tertiary institutions are found in Austria, offering various degrees and diplomas in many fields of study.

VET colleges

  • VET (Vocational Education and Training) colleges are part of a broad system of vocational training reaching back into the secondary school system. VET colleges offer courses in fields such as business administration, management and service industries, tourism, fashion, agriculture, forestry, nursery-school teaching, sport and many other vocations.
  • Students graduate with the Reifeprüfung certificate – a highly regarded general education certificate– and a vocation-specific VET diploma. Courses are typically four semesters long.
  • Health professionals such as nurses attend specific Akademien für Gesundheitsberufe training colleges for six semesters of courses.

University Colleges of Teacher Education

  • Teacher training is provided at the same level as general undergraduate degrees, but in special colleges called Pädagogische Hochschulen.
  • These colleges can also be a direct stepping-stone to Master’s degrees at full Universities.

Universities of Applied Sciences

  • Besides its traditional universities, Austria has a system of Universities of Applied Sciences, Fachhochschulen, which give degrees in professional skills. They provide practical professional training rather than simply academic learning.
  • Programmes include: Arts and Design; Business; Cultural Studies and Social Sciences; Police and Military Studies; Health Studies; Natural Sciences; and Engineering.

Universities of the Arts

  • Universitäten der Künste offer degrees in all areas of the arts, both for practising artists and for future teachers.
  • Degrees are offered in Fine Art, Graphic Design, Photography, Fashion, Textiles, Architecture, Industrial Design, Media and Arts Theory.
  • Arts Universities offer degrees at Undergraduate, Masters and Doctors levels.

Universities and Private Universities

  • There are 23 public and 13 private universities in Austria. The University of Vienna is both the oldest and the largest with a history stretching back to its founding in 1365.
  • Public Universities are funded by the state but enjoy a high level of autonomy. Private Universities are accredited by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science, and Cultural Affairs. Accreditation must be renewed regularly and some Private Universities have had their accreditation revoked in the past, so a high standard is enforced.

Admission Procedures

Austrian, EU and EEA students are admitted on the basis of their secondary school certification, which for non-Austrians must allow them admission to university in their own country. They will also require proof of nationality and of German language proficiency. This proficiency must usually be demonstrated by a minimum of four years language training or a German language diploma.

Non-EU/EEA students, in addition to these requirements, must have a certificate proving their entitlement to enter the same degree programme in their own country.

Some programmes, such as medicine, arts, architecture, biology and economics may have separate admission examinations which must be taken by all applicants for the programme. Universities of Applied Sciences also usually have admission examinations.

Although Austria has committed to the European standardization known as the Bologna Process, there is incomplete alignment between the existing system and the standard European system.

Bachelor’s Degree (first-cycle degrees)

  • These are intended to replace the traditional Magister which was the first degree in humanities, natural sciences, economic and social sciences, and law. First degrees in engineering and agriculture used to be called a Diplom-Ingenieur.
  • However some Universities are retaining the Magister and inserting the Bachelor Degree before it, turning it into a Master's degree. The Diplom-Ingenieur is similarly becoming a Master’s degree.
  • The most important degrees are the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BSc).
  • Bachelor Degrees take three or four years to complete.

Master’s Degree (second-cycle degrees)

  • Master’s degrees are offered by all the Universities, including Universities of the Arts and Universities of Applied Sciences.
  • Master’s degrees are typically of two years duration.
  • The Diplom-Ingenieur is now the Master’s degree for Engineering.
  • Doctors’ and Dentists’ qualifications are only at the Master’s level, as Doktor/Doktorin der gesamten Heilkunde and Doktor/Doktorin der Zahnheilkunde respectively. Medical degrees require a total of six years study as they include a preliminary component.
  • Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MSc) are also offered.

Doctor’s Diploma or Doctorate (third-cycle degrees)

  • These are offered in most fields, including art. They take two to four years to complete.
  • Relevant lower degrees – Bachelor’s and Master’s - are normally required for admission.
  • There is always a requirement for independent, original research and the submission of a thesis.