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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Why Study in Austria?
Austria is a wonderful country. Its special location makes it a desired destination and a beautiful place to travel to and to study it as it is located in the center of Europe. Its location makes it has a rich history of art, literature, and culture. It has many reasons that the international students choose it.
1- High Education System:
Austria has more than 39 public, private and teacher training schools. Studying in Austria gives you a unique study experience. International students have the opportunity to study in specialized universities.
2- Low Study Fees:
Studying in Austria is cheap compared to other countries but it is also very good. Therefore, you pay less for more. It is amazing really.
3- Easy Admission Procedures:
Austria has easy admission procedures. State universities do not require the international students to take any entrance exams. In addition, they do not require them to know the German language. English is enough.
4- Chances to work while Studying:
Studying in Austria gives the international students the chance to work while they are studying which helps them in the study cost and the living expenses. As after the applicant has been admitted to a course, the international student receives a student visa with a work permit, which enables them to work while studying.
10 Other Reasons to Study Abroad in Austria
1. It’s in the center of Europe
You don’t get a more conveniently located country to explore central and eastern Europe from. Eight different countries share Austria’s border and thanks to the efficient and well-connected rail network, they are all incredibly easy to get to. Bus travel is also an option for those budget conscious students among us, with companies like Flixbus getting people from Vienna to Berlin from around €22. I actually managed to get from Munich, to Berlin, to Cologne and back for under €30! I also took full advantage of the opportunity to visit Budapest and Prague, with both cities reachable in under four hours from Vienna by train.
2. Education is inexpensive and (reasonably!) relaxed
Now, let me explain myself. I’m not saying you won’t have to do any work while studying abroad. That is completely your choice! However, a benefit of studying in Austria is the relaxed mentality Austrians have towards university. Generally, degree programs take from three to five years to complete but technically there’s no limit to how long you can take to finish studying. This means students in Austria are considerably less stressed than students in the UK, which is where I studied the majority of my undergraduate degree. In addition to this, course fees at universities in Austria are miniscule, especially if you come from an EU country. Plus, you can apply for Erasmus funding to help out while you’re there. This takes the pressure off financially, making for an all-round chilled out experience.
3. The alpine scenery is beautiful all year round
Mountains, lakes and forests are hard to avoid in Austria. Even if you’re studying in central Vienna, mother nature is on your doorstep. And thanks to the previously mentioned approach to studying, you’ll find yourself with plenty of time to explore and make the most of the stunning Austrian landscape. In the summer, you can swim in the picturesque lakes or spend your weekends like I did, hiking in the Alps. If you find yourself in Austria during the winter, you could learn to ski alongside your studies. With second-hand ski gear, it’s possible to do this even on a student budget.
4. You get the chance to learn German
Admittedly, German is not the most widely spoken language in the world. However, when it comes to finding a job, having German in your back pocket is only going to help. Especially those of you in the mechanical, engineering, automotive, financial and textile industries. It opens up the opportunity of working in Austria and Germany and makes you more attractive to employers from your home country. Most universities in Austria will expect you to take a German class as part of your semester credits which makes the language even easier to pick up.
5. …But many courses are taught in English
Thank goodness, right? I wanted to take advantage of the chance to learn German, but having all my lectures in a foreign language might have been a step too far. International students make up a huge percentage of those enrolled at universities in Austria, especially in comparison to other European countries. So, it makes sense for the universities to teach in English and it’s even more common at masters level.
6. Vienna has the highest quality of living in Europe
For the 10th year running Vienna took the top spot in Mercer’s Quality of Living survey. They consider a variety of factors including standards of schools, crime levels, recreation options and climate! All of potential importance when picking a city to study abroad in. There are also over 130,000 students in Vienna, making it an amazing place to study and live, and it came 11th in the most recent QS Best Student Cities index. However, the rest of Austria is great for students too. I can personally vouch for Salzburg being an incredible place to live as a student! The universities there hosted a variety of educational and recreational events all semester which made meeting people really easy.
7. The variety of local and international food on offer will keep you happy
No, this doesn’t just mean schnitzel and apple strudel. Although both are delicious (vegetarian/vegan schnitzel is also an option!). The International Food Festival in Vienna’s Der Garten is a great example of how popular and available all cuisines are in the country. I challenged myself to test as many new cuisines as possible while in the capital and Salzburg wasn’t bad for variety either. Syrian and Lebanese were two of my favorites. Of course, the traditional Austrian cuisine is also a draw especially as it modernises and adapts to suit all dietary requirements. As a foodie, Austria was the perfect place for me to explore!
8. Architecture, art, music and literature – what more could you want?
Before Salzburg I had never been to the opera but I took full advantage of cheap student tickets when I was there! And what an incredible experience it was, to enjoy Bizet and Mozart in the Felsenreitschule (AKA the theater from The Sound of Music). I ended up in classical music recitals and countless galleries, and marveled at the impressive Baroque cathedrals. The Old Town in Salzburg is a UNESCO World Heritage site and I actually lived there! Viennese architecture was equally as impressive and since finishing my studies I have been back multiple times to enjoy it. Surrounding yourself in such a rich and historical culture is an education in itself.
9. The cost of living is surprisingly cheap
Saving money during my semester studying abroad in Austria came as a surprise. But lucky for me, the rent was cheaper there despite living in the most expensive city in the country. My bills were included and public transport was next to nothing. I got a bike a few weeks into my stay, which is the norm in Salzburg, saving myself even more money. Food and alcohol were also much cheaper than I expected. It was great, the cost of being a student in the UK suffering in comparison. And considering Austria is one of the nicest countries to live in central Europe, I really had nothing to complain about!
10. Austrian beer festivals and Christmas markets are amazing
I was spoilt for choice when it came to Christmas markets in Salzburg, with more than six to explore. I collected the mulled wine mugs unique to each market I visited, including the ones in Vienna and Innsbruck. This meant a lot of mulled wine drinking and inevitably lots of amazing festive memories made with my friends! You can’t beat the vibe in the markets, people are jolly and extra social. Likewise, with beer festivals. They were highlights of my Erasmus in Austria. Wearing dirndls (I now own three) and spending whole days in the sunshine, eating and drinking. The entire experience was perfect!
HOW TO APPLY
APPLY FOR THE FOLLOWING SCHOLARSHIPS TO STUDY ABROAD
1. SCHOLARSHIP TO STUDY IN VIETNAM 2020-2021
2. SCHOLARSHIP TO STUDY IN TURKEY 2020-2021
3. SCHOLARSHIP TO STUDY IN VENEZUELA 2020-2021