Join the 87,000 international students currently studying in Austria, and enjoy a high standard of living, low tuition fees and embrace the country’s rich cultural history
The general cost of living in Austria is low when compared to other European Union (EU) countries, which is good news for students who want some spare cash to spend on discovering their new home.
Situated in the heart of Europe, Austria is famous for its culture, particularly in the arts. As a student you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of art exhibitions, concerts, theatre performances and festivals, usually at a discounted rate. If the great outdoors is more your thing, the country’s mountainous landscape caters for sporting types, particularly those with a taste for skiing, hiking and climbing.
Vienna is Austria’s capital and by far its biggest city, accounting for around a fifth of the country’s population. While it has a big student community, Vienna isn’t the only place you should look to continue your studies – other popular destinations include Graz, Innsbruck, Linz and Salzburg.
Five different types of institution offer postgraduate degrees in Austria. These include:
- Public universities offer a full range of higher education courses. Lecturers are continuously carrying out academic research.
- Private universities are more autonomous. Lecturers are free to design their own courses, and the institution is able to set its own fees and manage admissions.
- Teacher training colleges specifically offer postgraduate teaching courses, as the name suggests.
- Universities of applied sciences (UAS) offer students courses with a vocational focus, through work placements, internships and profession-based learning.
- Universities of the arts are for students who wish to study music, drama, film, fine arts or applied arts.
Five of Austria’s universities appear in the top 500 of the QS World University Rankings 2020. Austria’s oldest institution, the University of Vienna (154th), ranks the highest and is followed by:
- Vienna University of Technology (192nd)
- Universität Innsbruck (266th)
- Graz University of Technology (311th)
- Johannes Kepler University Linz (412th).
In Austria the academic year consists of two semesters, the winter semester (1 October to 30 January) and the summer semester (1 March to 30 September).
Degree courses in Austria
Most Austrian universities have now adopted the three-tier system of a Bachelors, Masters and PhD, but you’ll find that some institutions still offer the Diploma Programme or Magister qualification – especially in the fields of medicine and engineering.
The traditional two-tier structure combines undergraduate and Masters study meaning that a longer period of study is required – usually between four and six years.
However, it is being phased out in favour of courses that comply with the Bologna Process – an agreement between European countries to offer comparability in standards of teaching and quality of qualifications across Europe. This overhaul means Austrian qualifications are directly comparable to those gained in the UK.
To be admitted onto an undergraduate course in Austria, you’ll generally need a high school leaving certificate or equivalent, as well as proof of your proficiency in German – it’s the country’s official language, and you’ll find the majority of undergraduate courses are taught in German. You may be required to take a German language test and sit an entrance exam.
Visit studienwahl.at to search for Bachelors degrees in Austria.
Compared to undergraduate level, you’ll find a wider selection of Masters programmes taught in English.
They’re available in a range of subjects, measured in semesters and will usually take two to four semesters (two years) to complete. As part of your programme you’ll study a combination of core and optional modules and will be assessed through written assignments, practical projects, examinations and the completion of a dissertation, which you’ll likely need to provide a spoken defence for.
To be accepted onto a postgraduate course you’ll need a Bachelors degree in a relevant subject. In addition to this, you may also have to pass an entrance exam – contact your institution to find out more before applying. Deadlines may seem lenient – with some application posts opening a full academic year before the course starts – but the process can take months and it’s advisable to apply as soon as you’re sure you’d like to study here.
You can search for postgraduate courses in Austria at studienwahl.at.
The highest level of qualification available, PhDs are predominantly delivered at public universities and can be studied in both English and German.
You can expect to complete research towards a thesis over three years, which you’ll present to an examination committee before taking their questions. As part of the course, you’ll also receive training towards completing your thesis in areas such as research methods, completing a literature review and additional help with analysing statistics and applying them to your work.
To apply, you’ll need to submit a completed application form along with official transcripts of past qualifications, degree certificates, reference letters and an accompanying personal statement.
To search for Doctoral programmes, visit studienwahl.at.
UK students can study in Austria by taking part in Erasmus+ (confirmed for the 2020/21 year), the EU’s programme supporting education, training, youth and sport in Europe. The scheme offers study, training and work experience placements to help you develop personally and professionally.
Opportunities are open to students at Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate levels, and those who’ve graduated within the past year. Placements can last anywhere from three months to one academic year.
Financial support to help with travel and living costs is available through the Erasmus+ grant. You’ll apply for this through your university or college.
Your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in Austria. Check that your institution is involved in the programme and offers the Erasmus+ scheme in your subject. To learn more about the scheme and to apply for a placement, speak to the Erasmus+ coordinator at your university.
Compared to other European countries, international students enjoy incredibly low tuition fees in Austria – with some paying no tuition fees at all.
This is as long as you complete the course you’re enrolled on in its prescribed time, or within the buffer phase of two additional semesters. If you exceed this time frame, you’ll be required to pay €363.36 (£302) per semester as a UK, EU or European Economic Area (EEA) citizen.
If you’re from outside the UK, EU or EEA, this fee rises to €726.72 (£605) per semester.
Universities of applied sciences, however, are entitled to charge fees of €363.36 (£302) per year, while private universities and teacher education courses are able to stipulate their own fees. Check with your institution to see what fees may apply to you.
Wherever you opt to study in Austria, you’ll be liable to pay a small fee for students’ union membership, typically around €20 (£16.50) per semester. This compulsory fee also covers your student accident insurance.
Funding to study in Austria
While you’ll be hard pushed to find funding to cover your fees entirely, there are plenty of scholarships available to suit your needs and subsidise your living and study costs.
You might find funding opportunities with your chosen university. These are typically merit or needs-based – contact the university directly to see if they can help you.
Alternatively, visit the OeAD database – Austria’s leading resource for scholarships and research grants – to see what’s available for you.
Another way to fund your studies in Austria is to find a job. While your residence permit should allow for this, as an international student you may run into some restrictions, so it’s a good idea to double-check this before you start looking for work.
If you’re a student from the UK, EU, EEA or Switzerland, you won’t need a visa to study in Austria. As long as you have valid health insurance and can prove that you’ll have sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay, all you need is a valid travel document such as your passport or ID card.
As a student, it’s likely that you’ll be intending to stay for longer than three months. If this is the case, you’ll need to obtain a residence permit within four months of arrival.
If you’re from outside the UK, EU, EEA or Switzerland, you’ll need an entry or residence permit to enter Austria. For students, the rules and procedures differ depending on the length of your stay and whether you need to sit an entrance examination.
For more information, see OeAD – Nationals from third countries for stays of more than 6 months.
How to apply
You’ll submit your application directly to the university you’re hoping to join. Some institutions offer online applications, while for others you’ll have to download an application form and apply by post.
The application process can be lengthy, in some cases taking up to six months, so you’re encouraged to apply as early as possible to allow time for your application to be processed.
If you want to study for a Masters, you should aim to apply during the summer prior to your course – or even in the final year of undergraduate study.
Austrians are strict about administrative procedures – deadlines are non-negotiable and you should make sure you’ve supplied the correct documents.
For entry onto a Masters you’ll need:
- a degree certificate
- official transcripts of courses
- proof of German language proficiency to the course’s stipulated level
- a copy of your passport.
You may also have to supply a personal statement, CV or portfolio or sit entrance examinations, depending on where you study. Find out more from your chosen institution.
As it’s the country’s official language, it’s unsurprising that the majority of undergraduate university courses in Austria are taught in German. However there are more English-speaking courses available at postgraduate level, particularly on courses with the most international reach – such as media, marketing and business-related subjects.
Despite this, to fully integrate and participate in student life, it’s best to have some working knowledge of German.
You may be required to prove your competency in German to a B2 or C1 standard on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. You can do this by taking the Österreichisches Sprachdiplom Deutsch (ÖSD) – the country’s officially-recognised examination system for German as a foreign language. You can take the ÖSD at centres in more than 45 countries around the world.
There’s also the option to study an intensive German course as part of the University Preparation Programme, if you’ve not yet proven your proficiency in the language.
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.
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