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Chapter 1: Higher Education System

Section 1.1: Schematic Description of the Higher Education System

Section 1.2: Description of Higher Education System

The higher education location of Austria unites three very important aspects: a great number of high quality tertiary education institutions in all nine federal provinces, a long academic tradition and an open-minded atmosphere for creativity and innovation. In many areas the Austrian institutions have accomplished outstanding achievements on an international level and gained high reputation.
Austria combines a long tradition in higher education with state-of-the-art research and offers six types of higher education institutions:

Structure and Role of Higher Education Institutions

Universities

the Austrian universities offer degree programmes in the

  • humanities, engineering and artistic studies,
  • programmes leading to qualified teaching credentials in upper secondary schools, as well as
  • medical, natural science, legal, social, economic, and theological studies.

Currently, three different types of degree programmes exist in Austria, but the diploma studies will be discontinued.

  • Diploma studies (Diplomstudien): Usually, these studies take 8 to 12 semesters (240 to 300 ECTS), they consist of two or three study sections, each of which is concluded with a degree examination. Those who successfully complete the programme are awarded a degree, such as:
    • master’s degree
    • a diploma, i.e. master’s degree in engineering (Diplom-Ingenieur/in)
    • exception: in medical studies, the degree Doctor of General Medicine (Doktor/in der gesamten Heilkunde) or the degree Doctor of Dentistry (Doktor/in der Zahnheilkunde) is awarded.
  • Bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes: According to the Bologna Declaration, the Austrian universities have already organised most of their study programmes in the form of bachelor’s degree programmes (3 to 4 years, 180 to 240 ECTS) and master’s degree programmes that build on the bachelor’s degree programmes (1 to 2 years, 60 to 120 ECTS).
    • The bachelor’s degree programmes provide scientific or artistic vocational education and training and a qualification in the corresponding specialist area and lead to the awarding of a bachelor’s degree.
    • Depending on the specialist area involved, master’s degree programmes lead to the awarding of a master’s degree (Master … or Diplom-Ingenieur/in).
  • Doctoral and PhD programmes: Doctoral programmes and PhD programmes (Doctor of Philosophy) build on diploma degree and master’s degree programmes at universities or universities of applied sciences and mainly provide further development of a student’s ability to carry out independent research.
    • Completion of the study programme (after 3 years) goes along with the awarding of the doctoral degree in the relevant field (Doctor or PhD).

Universities of Applied Sciences

Universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen) provide scientifically-based vocational education and training with strong occupational orientation (e.g. the bachelor’s degree programme includes at least one practical training semester). At present, degree programmes at universities of applied sciences are offered in:

  • engineering,
  • economics,
  • health sciences,
  • social sciences,
  • natural sciences,
  • design/arts and
  • military/security sciences.

The following types of programmes are offered: Bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes: Based on the Bologna Declaration, universities of applied sciences offer programmes in the form of bachelor’s degree programmes (3 years, 180 ECTS) and master’s degree programmes (1 to 2 years, 60 to 120 ECTS). The bachelor’s degree programmes provide a practice-oriented education at university level with a qualification in the corresponding specialist area and lead to the awarding of a bachelor’s degree (Bachelor of…). In certain subjects, mainly in the field of social work and healthcare, those who successfully complete the programmes are also authorised to practise in the corresponding profession (e.g. social worker, physiotherapist). Master’s degree programmes build on the bachelor’s degree programmes and, depending on the field involved, lead to the awarding of a master’s degree (Master of… or Diplom-Ingenieur/in). Successful completion of an university of applied sciences master’s degree programme aims to qualify graduates to pursue a subject-related doctoral degree programme at an university.

University Colleges of Teacher Education

University colleges of teacher education are legal entities under public law with restricted autonomy.

The following study programmes have to be offered and provided at university colleges of teacher education as part of initial teacher training:

  • bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes to obtain teaching credentials for the primary sector,
  • bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes to obtain teaching credentials for the secondary sector (general education as well as vocational education and training).

Continuing training programmes have to be offered for all occupational fields related to pedagogy.

The budget for public university colleges of teacher education is allocated by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research.

For details please see Chapter 9 Teachers and Education Staff.

Since the academic year of 2016 joint teacher training programmes of universities and university colleges of teacher training were offered. The new teacher training scheme (“Pädagoginnen-und Pädagogenbildung NEU”) was followed by an amendment of study law in the Universities Act and the Act on the Organisation of University Colleges of Teacher Education in the year 2017.

Section 1.3: Number of Higher Education Institutions

Across our four higher education sectors, a total of over 350.000 students registered to study here in Austria for the winter semester 2017. The majority of these enrolled at one of the 22 public universities. The number of students at the 21 universities of applied sciences is increasing constantly, as you can see from the overview. The same can be said of numbers opting for one of the 16 accredited private universities.

Our universities vary according to their legal basis and funding models, as well as the subjects they offer. This is particularly the case with the fourth sector, the 14 university colleges of teacher education. Together with the public universities, these colleges are responsible for the initial and continued training and development of teaching staff (teacher education).

Section 1.4: Number of Students in Higher Education

Public universities

268,586

Degree programme students of which 143,650 were women (winter semester 2018, counted on 28.02.2019)(1)
38,519

Newly-enrolled degree programme students of which 21,661 were women (academic year 2018/19, provisional)(1)
36,655

Degree programme graduates of which 19,548 were women (academic year 2017/18)(1)

Universities of applied sciences

53,401

Degree programme students of which 26,616 were women (winter semester 2018, counted on 15.11.2018)(1)
21,424

Newly-enrolled degree programme students of which 10,772 were women (academic year 2018/19, provisional)(1)
14,380

Degree programme graduates of which 7,400 were women (academic year 2017/18)(1)

Private universities

13,656

Degree programme students of which 8,265 were women (winter semester 2018)(1)
3,986

Newly-enrolled degree programme students of which 2,448 were women (winter semester 2018)(1)
2,247

Degree programme graduates of which 1,452 were women (academic year 2017/18)(1)

University colleges of teacher education

14,595

Degree programme students of which 10,734 were women (winter semester 2018)(2)
4,411

Newly-enrolled degree programme students of which 3,286 were women (winter semester 2018)(2)
2,268

Degree programme graduates of which 1,580 were women (academic year 2017/18) (2)

Student Mobility & Student Beneficiaries

4,280

Number of students in public university mobility programmes – incoming (winter semester 2018, reporting date 28 February 2019) (1)
3,960

Number of students in public university mobility programmes – outgoing (winter semester 2018, reporting date 28 February 2019) (1)
45,000

Number of students in the higher education sector receiving a study grant (2018/19 academic year)

Section 1.5: Structure of Academic Year

Organisation of the Academic Year

At universities the academic year in Austria, as a rule, begins on October 1st and ends on September 30th of the following year. It consists of two semesters:

  • Winter semester (October 1st to January 30th),
  • Summer semester (March 1st to September 30th)

There are also periods during in which no lectures are held (Christmas, semester and summer breaks). Exceptions to this schedule are possible. Detailed arrangements are laid down by the university senate.

Also at universities of applied sciences, the academic year starts around 1 October. Again, detailed regulations are laid down by the individual providers.

Section 1.6: National Qualifications Framework (or Similar)

National Qualification Framework:
(Nationaler Qualifikationsrahmen)

Bachelor: Level 6
Master: Level 7
PhD: Level 8

See also:

Section 1.7: Learning Outcomes in Higher Education

Yes, the curricula of public universities are obligatory related to a degree qualification profile. The curricula shall contain a qualification profile (§ 51 para. 2 subpara. 29 of the Universities Act 2002: A qualification profile is that part of the curriculum that describes which scientific, artistic and professional qualifications the students acquire in the course of the study programme).

University of applied sciences degree programmes may be provided by the federal authorities and other legal entities under public and private law. A provider may maintain one or several institutions which are in charge of operating the degree programmes. The Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (AQ Austria) has to accredit the implementation of university of applied sciences degree programmes (“programme accreditation”). The curricula have to contain a qualification profile.

The HE curricula are recognized/accredited by Austrian law (public universities) or the AQ Austria for other HEIs (institutional accreditation for private universities and program accreditation for universities of applied sciences.
The so accredited qualifications are included in the Austrian National Qualifications Framework (NQF) from level 6 to 8 (§ 3 para. 2 of the Federal law on the National Qualifications Framework – NQR-Gesetz).

Section 1.8: Admission Requirements to Higher Education

Possession of the general university entrance qualification for bachelor and diploma degree studies shall be certified by the following documents:

  • Austrian upper secondary-school leaving certificate (Reifezeugnis/Maturazeugnis), including the lateral A-.level exam for graduates of the dual training system (Zeugnis über die Berufsreifeprüfung);
  • university entrance qualification certificate (Studienberechtigungszeugnis) for the respective degree programme;
  • a foreign certificate which on the basis of an agreement under international law, of a nostrification, or a decision taken by the rectorate on a case-by-case basis is equivalent to one of the aforementioned Austrian certificates;
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma;
  • European Baccalaureate (EB) diploma (Europäisches Abiturzeugnis);
  • a document certifying the completion of studies of at least three years (180 ECTS credits) at a recognised domestic or foreign post-secondary educational institution.

The admission requirement for art studies is the successful passing of an admission examination, as proof of the artistic aptitude; the upper secondary school-leaving examination is required for only a few studies. A minimum age of 17 years is required for enrolling as a degree programme student, or 15 years in exceptional cases when studying instruments.

Proof of the general university entrance qualification for master degree programmes is to have completed a relevant bachelor degree programme or an equivalent to it. Each university shall ensure that a person completing a bachelor degree programme is entitled to enrol in at least one relevant master degree programme without additional admission requirements; for the admission to other master degree programmes, the university may, as required, request additional qualitative requirements.

For doctoral programmes it is necessary to have completed a relevant master degree programme or diploma programme or an equivalent.

Whenever an applicant has obtained a foreign admission title (ausländischer Zugangstitel), its equivalence to one of the aforementioned Austrian admission titles must be reviewed. In many cases, equivalence has been determined by multilateral and/or bilateral agreements, such as, for example, for a major part of the secondary school-leaving certificates of European states on the basis of the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications Concerning Higher Education in the European Region (“Lisbon Recognition Convention”) of 1997. In all other cases, equivalence must be decided on a case by case basis; if necessary, supplementary examinations may be required as an admission condition.

Specific university qualification means that in addition to the general university entrance qualification, proof must be given that the study-specific admission requirements are met, including the right to immediate admission to a degree programme, as they exist in the country issuing the document that is proof of the general university entrance qualification. If, for example, the existence of a limit on the number of students (numerus clausus) is an admission requirement for a specific degree programme, an applicant having a secondary school-leaving certificate from that state must prove the existence of a limit on the number of students in order to be admitted to the respective degree programme in Austria. EU citizens require no special university entrance qualification.

As far as Austrian secondary school-leaving certificates are concerned, supplementary examinations may have to be taken for specific subjects in the degree programme, in accordance with the University Entrance Qualification Degree (Universitätsberechtigungsverordnung, UBVO). This shall also apply by analogy to university entrance certificates not issued in Austria.

Language skills requirements:
In general German is the language of instruction and therefor the HEIs require proof of German language proficiency. Besides several programmes and courses are taught in English (which requires English language proficiency). Finally, course material may be in any language

Section 1.9: Grading System

The positive results at examinations and regarding scientific or artistic theses are graded

  • “excellent” (sehr gut) (1);
  • “good” (gut) (2);
  • “satisfactory” (befriedigend) (3) or;
  • “sufficient” (genügend) (4);

The negative result is graded “insufficient” (nicht genügend) (5).

Section 1.10: Tuition Fee System for International Students

Generally, students, who are Austrian nationals or nationals of an EU or EEA country or of Switzerland, pay no tuition fee. If they exceed the prescribed duration of a programme by more than two semesters (there are specific exemptions), they too shall pay tuition fees in an amount of EUR 363.36 per semester. The tuition fee is raised by 10% if it is paid during the additional period (ending on 30 November for the winter semester and on 30 April for the summer semester).

Students from third countries must pay a tuition fee of EUR 726.72 per semester.

Students, who have been admitted to follow several programmes at several universities, only have to pay their tuition fee once.

Section 1.11: Graduation Requirements and/or Qualification Awarding Requirements

Universities:

The denomination of the academic degrees shall be laid down in the curriculum. The most important examples are:

Bachelor’s degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts BA
  • Bachelor of Science BSc

Master’s degrees:

  • Diplom Ingenieur/Diplom Ingenieurin DI or Dipl.-Ing.
  • Master of Arts MA
  • Master of Science MSc

Diploma degrees (to be discontinued):

  • Diplom Ingenieur/Diplom Ingenieurin DI or Dipl.-Ing.
  • Doktor/Doktorin der gesamten Heilkunde Dr. med. univ.
  • Doktor/Doktorin der Zahnheilkunde Dr. med. dent.
  • Magister/Magistra … Mag.

Doctoral degrees:

  • Doktor/Doktorin … Dr. …
  • Doctor of Philosophy PhD

Master’s degrees of continuing education:

  • Master of Arts MA
  • Master of Science MSc

If a degree programme is completed on the basis of a jointly offered diploma programme, such as joint, double or multiple degree programmes (gemeinsame Studienprogramme), it is admissible under certain conditions that the academic degree is awarded in one joint document, together with the partner university (universities).

Universities of Applied Sciences:

Studies are established as university of applied sciences bachelor degree programmes (180 ECTS credits) and university of applied sciences master degree programme (60 to 120 ECTS credits); in few cases university of applied sciences diploma programmes (240 to 300 ECTS credits) are still offered. There are no doctoral degree programmes in the university of applied sciences sector.

After completing the requirements of every curriculum, the respective academic degree is awarded. AQ Austria defines by decree the denomination of the academic degrees.
Academic degrees awarded are currently the following:

Group of studies
Academic degree followed by a reference to the respective group of disciplines
Abbreviations
Artistic studies
Bachelor of Arts in Arts and Design
BA or B.A.
Master of Arts in Arts and Design
MA or M.A.
Studies in Engineering Sciences
Bachelor of Science in Engineering
BSc or B.Sc.
Master of Science in Engineering
MSc or M.Sc.
Diplom‑Ingenieur / Diplom‑Ingenieurin für technisch‑wissenschaftliche Berufe
DI or Dipl.‑Ing.
Studies in Social Sciences
Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences
BA or B.A.
Master of Arts in Social Sciences
MA or M.A.
Studies in Economic Sciences
Bachelor of Arts in Business
BA or B.A.
Master of Arts in Business
MA or M.A.
Studies in Military and Police Sciences
Bachelor of Arts in Military Services
BA or B.A.
Master of Arts in Military Services
MA or M.A.
Bachelor of Arts in Police Leadership
BA or B.A.
Master of Arts in Security Management
MA or M.A.
Studies in Cultural Studies
Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Studies
BA or B.A.
Master of Arts in Cultural Studies
MA or M.A.
Studies in Natural Sciences
Bachelor of Science in Natural Sciences
BSc or B.Sc.
Master of Science in Natural Sciences
MSc or M.Sc.
Health Studies
Bachelor of Science in Health Studies
BSc or B.Sc.
Master of Science in Health Studies
MSc or M.Sc.
Law Studies
Bachelor of Laws
LLB or LL.B
Master of Laws
LLM or LL.M.

University of applied sciences providers may establish master degrees on the basis of completed certificate university of applied sciences programme for further education, in line with international customs, for example:

  • Master of Arts MA or M.A.
  • Master of Science MSc or M.Sc.

University of applied sciences degree programmes may be offered as joint study programmes, such as joint, double or multiple degree programmes (gemeinsame Studienprogramme), with one or several Austrian or foreign higher education institutions.

Section 1.12: Relevant Current and Prospective Reforms in Higher Education

https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/%23_en

 

Chapter 2: Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Section 2.1: Quality Assurance Body in Higher Education

In 2012, the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (AQ Austria) was established as an agency for quality assurance for Austrian higher education institutions on the basis of the Act on Quality Assurance in Higher Education (HS-QSG).

According to AQ Austria’s legal remit, AQ Austria is responsible for the entire higher education sector in Austria (with the exception of university colleges of teacher education). In carrying out its responsibilities, AQ Austria follows these basic principles:

  • The higher education institutions (HEIs) bear the main responsibility for the quality of their activities and for quality assurance and improvement.
  • AQ Austria understands its procedures as supplementary to an HEI’s internal quality assurance. It is independent in what it does and not bound by any instructions Decisions in quality assurance procedures are made exclusively in accordance with quality criteria.
  • Quality assurance procedures are modelled on international good practice standards, especially the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG).
  • Cooperation with HEIs and other interested parties is the basis for the development of procedure rules and standards or criteria.

Section 2.2: Quality Assurance System

Public universities:
Audits of the quality management system   
Study Programme
Institution
 Further explanation
 Voluntary
X
 Several programmes for continuing education are accredited
 Compulsory
X
 Regularity (years)
 Voluntary or as prescribed by the accrediting agency
7
Especially in case of MBA programmes
External
X X
Internal X X Usually for preparing the external audit
Further information:
Public Universities are free to choose an in EQAR registered Agency for their Audit and they are obliged to publish the results on their websites.

See also:

Private universities:
Accreditation + Audit
Study Programme Institution Further explanation
Voluntary
Compulsory X X
Regularity (years)
6
6
After 12 years accreditation a reaccreditation for 12 years is
possible
External
X
X
Internal
X
X
Usually preparing an external accreditation
Further information:
Private universities have to undergo the accreditation with the national agency. https://www.aq.ac.at/en/accreditation/
Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS):
Accreditation + Audit
Study programme
Institution
Further explanation
Voluntary
Compulsory
X
X
Regularity (years)
6
6
After 12 years UAS can undergo an institutional audit
External
X
X
Internal
X
X
Usually for preparing an external accreditation
Further information:
Universities of Applied Sciences have to undergo the accreditation with the national agency. https://www.aq.ac.at/en/accreditation/

Public universities conduct their programmes with the Ministry of Education, Science and Research with performance agreements for 3 years. Quality Assurance see above. Programme accreditation or programme evaluation is voluntary and are published at the websites of universities.

Universities of Applied Sciences and Private Universities need an accreditation for their programmes and a permission by the Minister of Education, Science and Research that there is a kind demand for the programmes.

For further information: https://www.aq.ac.at/en/ 

 

Chapter 3: Credit System in Higher Education

Section 3.1: Description of Credit System

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) http://ec.europa.eu/education/ects/users-guide/index_en.htm

National legislation (§ 54 para 2 Universities Act 2002):
The extent of degree programmes, with the exception of doctoral degree programmes, shall be defined in accordance with the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS, Decision No. 253/2000/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, Official Journal No. L 28, February 3, 2000) and shall be expressed in ECTS credits. With these credits the share of the workload of the students related to the individual studies shall be determined in relation to the entire degree programme, with an amount of 1,500 hours for one year of studies and 60 credits being assigned to this workload.

Similar regulations within the Universities of Applied Sciences Studies Act:
The scope of a degree programme must be indicated in terms of the credits established under the European Course Credit Transfer System (ECTS). Studies are established as university of applied sciences bachelor degree programmes (180 ECTS credits) and university of applied sciences master degree programme (60 to 120 ECTS credits); in few cases university of applied sciences diploma programmes (240 to 300 ECTS credits) are still offered. There are no doctoral degree programmes in the university of applied sciences sector.

Section 3.2: Credit Transfer System(s)

ECTS – European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System.

Section 3.3: Additional Information

Not applicable.

Section 3.4: Application of Credit System in Higher Education Institutions Obligatory?

Yes.

Section 3.5: Number of Credits per Academic Year/Semester

Number of credits per academic year: 60 ECTS credits (standard).

Section 3.6: Number of Credits per Higher Education Cycle

Essential components of ECTS are the information package, i.e. a precise break-down of the range of courses, the credits
(1 academic year = 60 credits, with the decisive factor being the workload of an average student with hours in attendance and all other work items in connection with a course, 1 credit being equivalent to 25 hours of study), and the transcript of records, which is a confirmation of the courses and examinations taken and the credits earned.

The workload must comprise:

  • for bachelor degree programmes – 180 or 240 ECTS credits;
  • for master degree programmes – a minimum of 60 credits;
  • for diploma programmes – 240 to 360 ECTS credits;

for doctoral studies the duration is uniformly three years without the allocation of ECTS.

Section 3.7: Description of Credit Unit

1 credit comprises 25 hours of student workload.

course syllabus is required for each course within the first and second cycle and a programme syllabus for each study programme. The course syllabus specifies degree cycle, number of credits, and intended learning outcomes.

Last updated in 2020.

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