With its long held reputation for educational excellence, low tuition fees and rich cultural history Austria is the perfect place for international students to broaden their horizons
Austria is one of the world's richest countries and also enjoys one of the highest standards of living. Despite this the general cost of living is low when compared to other European Union (EU) countries, which is useful 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 cultural history, particularly in the arts. As a result art exhibitions, concerts, theatre performances and festivals are all entertainments students can enjoy with a discount. If the outdoors is more your thing then the country's mountainous landscape caters for sporting types and popular activities include skiing, hiking and climbing.
Vienna is the capital city and the biggest by far, accounting for around a third of the landlocked country's population. Other popular student cities include Graz, Innsbruck, Linz and Salzburg. After all that exploring don't forget to pay a visit to one of Austria's famous coffee houses.
There are five types of higher education institution in Austria:
- Universities offer a broad spectrum of study options for students.
- Universities of the arts are for those students who want to study music, drama, film, fine arts or applied arts.
- Universities of applied sciences offer their students profession-oriented higher education through practical work and internships in areas such as technology, health, media, tourism and design.
- Private universities offer innovative and high quality education.
- University Colleges of Teacher Education train teachers, with extra emphasis placed on practical training in schools.
These institutions combine a long history of educational excellence with state of the art research and provide a broad range of educational opportunities to their students; unsurprisingly international numbers at Austrian universities are growing.
Seven of Austria's universities appear in the 2015/16 QS World University Rankings. The country's oldest institution, the University of Vienna, tops the list in 153rd place followed by:
- the Vienna University of Technology;
- Universität Innsbruck;
- Karl-Franzens-Universitaet Graz;
- Johannes Kepler University Linz;
- Alpen-Adria-Universitaet Klagenfurt;
- Paris Lodron University of Salzburg.
In Austria the academic year consists of two semesters, the Winter Semester (1 October-30 January) and the Summer Semester (1 March- 30 September).
UK students can study in Austria by taking part in the EU's education, training and youth support programme Erasmus+. The scheme offers study, training and work experience placements to help you develop personally and professionally. Opportunities are open to students at Bachelor, Masters and Doctorate level. Placements can last from three months to one academic year.
Financial support is available through the Erasmus+ grant, which can help with travel and living costs.
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.
Degree courses in Austria
Austrian universities also offer a wide selection of Bachelor programmes in areas such as arts and humanities, science and technology, medicine, engineering and business. Courses follow a similar structure to their UK counterparts and usually take three to four years, or six to eight semesters, to complete.
To be admitted onto an undergraduate course you will generally need a high school leaver's certificate or equivalent and proof of proficiency in German as the majority of Bachelors courses are taught in this language. You may be required to take a German language test and sit an entrance exam.
To gain a place on a Bachelors programme you will need to apply directly to your chosen university. Contact the admissions/international office at your institution for further application advice.
To search for a Bachelors course in Austria visit Studienwahl.at.
Austria's traditional equivalent to a Masters qualification is the Diploma Program, which combines both undergraduate and postgraduate work. Some institutions still offer these courses but they are gradually being phased out in line with the Bologna Process and replaced by the more modern Masters degree, similar in structure to those in the UK.
Courses are available in a range of subjects and are measured in semesters. Each course will usually take two to four semesters (two years) to complete. As part of your programme you will study a combination of core and optional modules and will be assessed through written assignments, practical projects, examinations and the completion of a dissertation.
To be accepted onto a postgraduate course you will need a Bachelors degree in a relevant subject. Some popular courses may include an entrance exam.
To search for postgraduate courses in Austria see Studienwahl.at.
Additional postgraduate qualifications on offer in the country include Doctorate degrees.
If you decide to study for a Doctorate degree in Austria you can expect to carry out individual and independent research and work towards a thesis. You will receive training in areas such as research methods and techniques, statistics and literature reviews.
In most cases PhDs last three years and entry requirements include a relevant Masters degree. If the course is taught wholly or partially in German you will also need to prove your proficiency in the language.
To apply for a place on a PhD programme you will need to contact your chosen institution to find out about their particular application process and to obtain an application form. As well as a completed application form you will also need to submit:
- degree certificates;
- official transcripts of courses passed;
- information about past degree courses;
- reference letters;
- a personal statement.
Tuition fees at public universities in Austria are low compared to other European countries and for some international students fees are non-existent.
If you are a UK, EU or European Economic Area (EEA) national you can study for a Bachelors or Masters degree for free provided that you complete your course in the minimum timeframe allowed, plus a further two semesters. For example, a Masters takes four semesters to complete, so as long as you completed your degree in six you would still qualify for free fees. Any additional semesters would incur a tuition fee of €363.
While fees are free for UK, EU and EEA students you will still be required to pay a student union membership fee of around €18 per semester.
If you are a student from outside the UK, EU or EEA tuition fees are usually set at around €726 per semester, plus the additional students' union fee.
Private universities, universities of applied sciences and university colleges for teacher education set their own tuition fees so if you're studying at one of these institutions check with them what fees may apply to you.
Funding to study in Austria
Whether you are seeking help with tuition fees or living costs there are a number of scholarships available to international students studying at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. In order to live and study in Austria you will need to be able to support yourself financially so be aware that not all scholarships will cover the full amount of living or tuition expenses.
Funding opportunities include:
- Institutional scholarships, which are usually merit or needs-based. To see if your university can help you contact them directly;
- OeAD scholarships.
You can search for available funding opportunities by using Austria’s leading funding database - OeAD - Austrian database for scholarships and research grants.
How to apply
To study in Austria you will need to apply directly to your chosen institution as there is no central applications system. Application forms can be downloaded from your university's website.
International students are advised to apply as early as possible to enable applications to be processed on time.
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 your undergraduate study.
Austrians are strict about administrative procedures so make sure that you supply the correct documents.
For entry onto a Masters you will need:
- a degree certificate;
- official transcripts of courses;
- proof of German language proficiency;
- 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.
While English is widely spoken, especially in the bigger cities and among the young, German is the country's official language. Masters programmes are available in English but you'll have to carefully check which institutions offer these. To fully participate in Austrian student life it's best to have some working knowledge of German.
For many courses you will have to prove your proficiency in German. Exact language requirements will vary between courses and institutions. Some require you to demonstrate proficiency corresponding to level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, while others ask for proficiency corresponding to level C1.
Foreign students who have been admitted to an Austrian university can also study University Preparation Programmes, which offer intensive German language instruction.
If you are a student from the UK, EU, EEA or Switzerland then you do not need a visa to study in Austria. As long as you have valid health insurance and sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay all you need is a valid travel document such as your passport or ID card.
You will need to keep your passport/ID card close at hand at all times during your stay as proof that you are entitled to reside in Austria.
If you intend to stay for longer than three months you'll need to register with the authorities within four months.
Students from outside the EU/EEA will 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 of third countries.
Comparison to UK qualifications
Thanks to the Bologna Process Austrian courses and higher education qualifications are directly comparable to those gained in the UK. It's always best to check with employers before applying for jobs but degrees gained in Austria should be recognised in the UK.