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Austria:Higher Education

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Overview Austria

Contents

Austria:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Austria:Historical Development

Austria:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Austria:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Austria:Political and Economic Situation

Austria:Organisation and Governance

Austria:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Austria:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Austria:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Austria:Organisation of Private Education

Austria:National Qualifications Framework

Austria:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Austria:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Austria:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Austria:Funding in Education

Austria:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Austria:Higher Education Funding

Austria:Adult Education and Training Funding

Austria:Early Childhood Education and Care

Austria:Organisation

Austria:Teaching and Learning

Austria:Assessment

Austria:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Austria:Primary Education

Austria:Organisation of Primary Education

Austria:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

Austria:Assessment in Primary Education

Austria:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

Austria:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Austria:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

Austria:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

Austria:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

Austria:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

Austria:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

Austria:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

Austria:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Austria:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Austria:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Austria:Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Austria:Higher Education

Austria:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Austria:First Cycle Programmes

Austria:Bachelor

Austria:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Austria:Second Cycle Programmes

Austria:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Austria:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Austria:Adult Education and Training

Austria:Distribution of Responsibilities

Austria:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Austria:Main Providers

Austria:Main Types of Provision

Austria:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Austria:Teachers and Education Staff

Austria:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Austria:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Austria:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Austria:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Austria:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Austria:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Austria:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Austria:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Austria: Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Austria:Management and Other Education Staff

Austria:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Austria:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Austria:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Austria:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Austria:Management Staff for Higher Education

Austria:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Austria:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Austria:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Austria:Quality Assurance

Austria:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Austria:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Austria:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Austria:Educational Support and Guidance

Austria:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Austria:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Austria:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Austria:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Austria:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Austria:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Austria:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Austria:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Austria:Mobility and Internationalisation

Austria:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Austria:Mobility in Higher Education

Austria:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Austria:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Austria:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Austria:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Austria:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Austria:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Austria:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Austria:National Reforms in School Education

Austria:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Austria:National Reforms in Higher Education

Austria:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Austria:European Perspective

Austria:Legislation

Austria:Institutions

Austria:Bibliography

Austria:Glossary



The educational institutions marked in the graph are dealt with in the text

Programme duration (years) ->
1 2  3  4 5  6ff 




ISCED 5 / 6
ISCED 7 / 8




Universität




Fachhochschule





Pädagogische Hochschule








Werkmeisterschule








Berufsbildende Höhere Schule








Kolleg








Tertiärer Lehrgang

Postgradualer Lehrgang



General higher education policy objectives and governance

Academic and scientific knowledge as well as research are vital pillars of Austria’s overall development and their potential needs to be secured in the long term. The challenge in the coming years is to design framework conditions and structural prerequisites with a view to competitiveness and future requirements. This also includes a strengthening of the tertiary sector and of research – the target is to make 2% of the GDP available for tertiary education establishments by 2020 (Work Programme of the Austrian Federal Government for 2013-2018).

Austria boasts a diversified range of higher education programmes, most of which are offered by the universities. In the past few years, a large number of coordinating measures (see also the 2014 University Report) have been introduced in terms of strategy, including:

The higher education plan (Hochschulplan):

A national development plan for public universities was completed in December 2011 as a planning instrument to implement an overall higher education policy scheme. The further development of the higher education plan has the following main focuses:

  • enhanced cooperation and coordination
  • improved use of available resources
  • coordinated specification of profiles and special focuses
  • coordinated further development of the range of subjects

Essentially, the higher education plan consists of four partial projects, which have meanwhile been operationalised:

  1. large research infrastructure
  2. infrastructure road map
  3. new university funding scheme
  4. coordination measures

The processes related to the partial projects “large research infrastructure” and “infrastructure road map” aim at implementing a coordinated procedure for research infrastructure and construction projects which is aligned with set priorities; these processes were taken into account for the first time in the performance agreements 2013–2015. For the new university funding scheme, the model of capacity-oriented, student-related university funding was elaborated. The first steps taken as part of the performance agreements involved the optimisation of study conditions; the scheme’s gradual introduction will depend, not least, on available funding. Currently discussions are ongoing on further developing the scheme.

Austrian Higher Education Advisory Board (Österreichische Hochschulkonferenz, HSK)

One of the major coordination measures was taken in May 2012 with the establishment of the Austrian Higher Education Advisory Board as an advisory body. Chaired by the Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy, the core group comprises the following members:

The Austrian Higher Education Advisory Board’s areas of focus are handled in working groups; the topics deal with areas that require cross-sectoral coordination, such as improving the social protection of students, permeability in the tertiary sector, strengthening the quality of HE-based teaching, developing profiles for the HE course contents, promoting non-traditional access pathways to the entire HE sector, and further developing the Austrian doctoral studies.

Performance agreements for the period 2016-2018

Performance agreements constitute the central control mechanism for public universities. At the end of April 2015, the universities submitted the draft versions of the performance agreements for the period 2016–2018. By the end of 2015, negotiations on the performance agreements between the universities and the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy have been concluded.
The objectives of higher education plan also act as guidelines for action for the performance agreement period 2016-2018:

  • to intensify cooperation between HE institutions and HE sectors to ensure a structured development of the Austrian HE area,
  • to improve the use of resources in research and teaching,
  • to further coordinate the development of profiles and the specification of focuses;
  • to enhance the visibility of the universities for society (“third mission”) such as academic communication, entrepreneurship or lifelong learning.


Other strategically important areas include: the staff structure, career models, and internationalisation. Similarly, mobility windows should be taken into account appropriately in the HE area and there should be more focus on aspects such as sustainability and efficiency. Regarding the funds specified in performance agreements it is planned to further develop the structural funds for the HE area.

National Union of Students Act: Amendment 2014

The amendment of the Union of Students Act 1998 (Hochschülerinnen- und Hochschülerschaftsgesetz) entered into force on 1 October 2014 and aims to create homogeneous representation structures for students in the heterogeneous educational landscape of the Austrian HE area. Major changes are:

  • the creation of new student unions as public-law bodies at educational establishments with more than 1,000 students,
  • the election of an HE representation and studies representations of students at educational establishments with fewer than 1,000 students,
  • the central implementation of postal voting by the electoral commission of the Austrian National Union of Students (ÖH) at all educational establishments,
  • the direct election of the ÖH’s federal representation.



Recent reforms in higher education



Structure and Role of Higher Education Institutions

Universities

Following on from general and vocational education and training courses, 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:
    • a 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

  • design/arts,
  • engineering,
  • social science,
  • economics,
  • military/security science,
  • natural science and
  • health 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 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 (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 a university of applied sciences master’s degree programme aims to qualify graduates to pursue a subject-related doctoral degree programme at a 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.

For details please see Chapter 9 Teachers and Education Staff.

Organisation of the Academic Year

At universities, the academic year starts on 1 October and ends on 30 September. It consists of a winter semester and a summer semester. 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.

For details see here.

Relevant higher education laws

Universities Act 2002 (Universitätsgesetz 2002)

Redefinition of the relationship between universities and the State; universities are state institutions, autonomous in terms of their statutes, internal affairs and curricula.

  • Amendment of the Universities Act in 2009: Implementation of the Bologna structure by measures such as:
    • the implementation of the bachelor’s and master’s degree structure in all study programmes (including teacher accreditation programmes and medicine),
    • promotion of student mobility,
    • provision of an introductory and orientation phase in the first and second semesters since winter semester 2011/12,
    • setting of measures in order to reduce the number of students dropping out, to improve the student-teacher ratio, to increase social permeability, and to increase the ratio of women in executive positions,
    • the possibility to use selective admission procedures for programmes that go along with the German numerus clausus system (medical disciplines and psychology).
  • Amendment of the Universities Act in 2011:
This amendment entered into force in the winter semester 2012/13 and contains new regulations that govern the admission periods for diploma and bachelor’s programmes which are not subject to particular admission or entry procedures. Admission periods end on 5 September for the winter semester, and on 5 February for the summer semester. The amendment also provides for a speedier nostrification (recognition) of foreign certificates; decisions on applications for nostrification must be made and issued within three months of receipt of the respective application.
This amendment implemented two reforms of university funding: On the one hand, the original funding concept for universities was modified, which stipulated that the budget of a university consisted of a basic budget and a formula-based budget. Replacing the formula-based budget, higher education area structural funds were introduced, thus ensuring the competitive distribution of funds based on a few, easily understandable indicators. In the performance agreement period 2013-2015, 60% of the higher education area structural funds were assessed based on the student-related indicator “number of regular students admitted to bachelor’s, diploma and master’s degree courses with weighting based on subject groups”, in this way the future funding in the field of teaching was partly introduced. On the other hand, the Universities Act now lays down that access regulations according to § 14h of the Universities Act are included in fields of study which are in great demand (Federal Law Gazette BGBl. I No. 52/2013). The objective of the access regulation according to § 14h was to counteract the unsatisfactory study conditions in the programmes that these fields of study comprise. At the same time, another objective – that is the improvement of student-teacher ratios – was achieved by raising the number of staff active in these programmes as part of the performance agreements. The section § 14h of the Universities Act legally stipulated the number of study places nationwide for study beginners in first degree studies (bachelor’s and diploma studies) in the ISCED study fields of architecture and town planning; biology and biochemistry; computer science; management and administration; business and administration; business, economics and statistics; and pharmacy. In these programmes, the university has been authorised to arrange a multi-stage admission or selection procedure.
The amendment of the 2002 Universities Act in 2014 came into force at the beginning of the year 2015. It included, among other measures, the adjustment from the 40% to the 50% women’s quota of the Equal Treatment Act (Gleichbehandlungsgesetz, B-GlBG), an improved mechanism to penalise plagiarism and other academic misconduct, the establishment of compatibility of study programmes or professions for all university members with care responsibilities for children and other dependent persons, clarifications regarding the introductory and orientation period, and the assignation to the scientific staff of doctors who are undergoing training to become medical specialists.
This amendment has led to changes in terms of organisational regulations, such as the further development of regulatory contents in the development plan as a strategic planning document for developing the individual university and as the basis for the performance agreement. In addition, existing access regulations (see also the 2013 Amendment to the Universities Act) and the introductory and orientation period (which is now regulated more clearly, among other things concerning the minimum and maximum number of ECTS credits awarded for it) have been prolonged until 2021 based on evaluations and recommendations of the Austrian Court of Audit. In the field of personnel legislation, the career paths for associate and associated professors based on international standards have been developed further to ensure that a tenure track system is implemented gradually. Existing regulations on the limited duration of contracts of employees who change to a new employment group (especially third party-funded personnel) have been defined more clearly.


Federal Act on the University for Continuing Education Danube University Krems (Bundesgesetz über die Universität für Weiterbildung Krems)

This act entered into force on 1 April 2004. Based on relevant provisions, Danube University Krems adapted its structures to the Universities Act 2002, focusing on post-graduate education.

Private University Act (Privatuniversitätengesetz, PUG)

Based on this act, which entered into force in 2012, private institutions can obtain accreditation as a private university by the accreditation council; study programmes can be offered either in accordance with state programmes and degrees or without reference to them.

University of Applied Sciences Studies Act (Fachhochschul-Studiengesetz, FHStG)

Based on this act which was adopted in 1993, public and private institutions can obtain accreditation as a university of applied sciences (“Fachhochschule”, FH) by the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria.

Teacher Education Act (Hochschulgesetz 2005)

Establishment of public and private university colleges of teacher education (“Pädagogische Hochschulen”, PHs)

Act on Quality Assurance in Higher Education (Hochschul-Qualitätssicherungsgesetz, HS-QSG 2004)

Provision of the following elements:

  • a cross-sectoral law on external quality assurance; establishment of the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria, integrating the former agencies (AQA, FH Council, Accreditation Council) in 2012,
  • framework for quality assurance procedures across sectors (e.g. obligation to publish outcome of procedures, possibility of certification or accreditation, etc.),
  • audit areas outlined by law, details defined by the Agency,
  • quality assurance procedures for audit or accreditation,
  • installation of a student ombudsman office as an information and service centre for all students at higher education institutions,
  • registration regulations for programmes provided by foreign higher education establishments in Austria.

According to the Act on Quality Assurance in Higher Education, universities must be evaluated through external audits, whether by an agency listed in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) or another internationally recognised and independent quality assurance agency.

Data available at the data warehouse of the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy.

Legislation References

Higher Education - as amended