If you dream of an education surrounded by stunning landscapes and a booming arts scene, look no further than Austria, one of Europe's happiest countries and a haven for international students

Austria at a glance

  • The country has a similar population to London with 50 times the space.
  • You can take all the time you need to graduate. There is no time limit, and your residence permit can be extended up to 12 months after graduation while you find a job.
  • Beer is cheap, but eating out is a bit more expensive.
  • Hiking and nature is a big part of life in Austria.
  • Learning some German, the official language of Austria, is highly advisable.

Living in Austria is ideal for international students looking for both affordability and an enriching study experience. Compared to other European countries, living costs are relatively low, freeing up extra cash to explore your interests. As a student, you'll have access to a vibrant cultural scene, particularly in the arts, with discounted tickets to exhibitions, concerts, theatre performances, and festivals available.

Austria's mountainous landscape attracts outdoor enthusiasts looking to hike, climb, or ski their way through stunning destinations like Innsbruck, Saint Anton am Arlberg, Soelden, and Schladming. The Alps also provide the perfect escape for unwinding between classes and are easily accessible from most cities.

While Vienna, the capital hosting a fifth of the country's population, boasts a large student community, it's not the only option. Consider smaller cities like Graz, Linz, and Salzburg for a unique study abroad experience.

Austrian universities

There are five different types of institutions that offer degree programmes in Austria. These are:

  • Public universities - these institutions offer a range of academic programmes, with each faculty engaged in ongoing research.
  • Private universities - these independent universities allow lecturers to design unique courses. They also have the flexibility to set their own fees and manage admissions.
  • Teacher training colleges - these institutions specialise in postgraduate programmes geared towards developing aspiring educators.
  • Universities of applied sciences (UAS) - with a focus on practical skills, UAS programmes integrate work placements, internships, and profession-specific learning into their curriculum.
  • Universities of the arts - aspiring musicians, dramatists, filmmakers, and visual artists will find their niche here, with programmes encompassing music, drama, film, fine arts, and applied arts.

Five of Austria's universities appear in the top 500 of the QS World University Rankings 2024, including:  

  • the University of Vienna (130th)
  • Technische Universität Wien (184th)
  • Universität Innsbruck (362nd)
  • Graz University of Technology (421st)
  • Johannes Kepler University Linz (446th).

The academic year in Austria runs from October to September of the following year and is divided into two semesters.

Degree courses in Austria

Austria has previously followed a two-tier system, combining undergraduate and postgraduate studies. This has now been replaced by a three-cycle system aligning with other qualifications in the Bologna Process - a European agreement that ensures standardised teaching and qualifications across member countries. Austrian universities now offer Bachelors, Masters, and PhD programmes, mirroring the UK system.

German, the official language of Austria, is the primary language of instruction for most undergraduate coursework. As such, you'll usually need A-levels (or equivalent) and proof of German proficiency for admission to an undergraduate programme. You might also need to take a language test to study at an Austrian university, so ensure you check with your institution for specific requirements before submitting an application.

To search for Bachelors degrees in Austria, visit Study in Austria - Find your programme.

Masters degrees

For international students, Masters programmes offer a wider selection of courses taught entirely in English, making them a more accessible option. These courses cover a broad range of subjects and are typically measured in semesters, taking two to four semesters (around two years) to complete.

Masters courses provide a well-rounded curriculum by combining mandatory modules with elective modules - subjects you choose to personalise your studies - to delve deeper into your interests. Assessment methods typically include written assignments, practical projects, exams, and a final dissertation. Your dissertation might also involve an oral defence, where you'll present your research findings to a panel of experts.

To be accepted onto a postgraduate programme, you'll need a Bachelors degree in a relevant subject. Some programmes may also require an entrance exam - contact the institution directly to confirm their specific requirements before applying.

You can search for postgraduate courses in Austria at studienwahl.at.


Primarily offered by public universities, PhDs can be pursued in both English and German. These programmes are research-intensive and typically demand three years of dedicated investigation before writing a final thesis, and you'll have to present and defend your thesis before a panel of experts to receive your degree.

PhD programmes train you in essential research skills to equip you for success. They help you master research methods, conduct in-depth literature reviews, and gather statistics to analyse your research data.

The application process for a PhD requires careful preparation. You'll need to provide:

  • a completed application form
  • official transcripts of your previous degrees
  • degree certificates
  • reference letters
  • a compelling personal statement that showcases your academic achievements and research goals.

To search for Doctoral programmes, visit studienwahl.at.

Student exchanges

The Turing Scheme is a UK government programme that helps students find funding for overseas placements and studies at universities abroad.

To participate in the Turing Scheme for Austria, your university must have a partnership agreement with an Austrian university. Check with your institution about the Turing Scheme and application process.

Course fees

Tuition fees for students outside of the European Union (EU) are €726.72 (£624.47) per semester. On top of that, there is a compulsory student union membership fee and accident insurance fee of €20.20 (£17.36) per semester.

Private universities typically set their own fees, as do teacher education colleges. Be sure to research your chosen institution for specific details.

Funding to study in Austria

If you're an international student hoping to secure scholarships to study abroad, it's worth researching funding options on the websites of universities you're interested in. Many universities offer scholarships based on academic performance or financial need, so don't hesitate to reach out to the admissions office of your chosen university to inquire about scholarships that apply to international students.

For those heading to Austria, the OeAD database can be an excellent resource for finding scholarships and research grants. This database can help you discover scholarships that align perfectly with your specific circumstances.

It's important to note that your residence permit may allow you to work part time, but there may be restrictions for international students. Therefore, before applying for any jobs, make sure to check these restrictions with the relevant authorities.

Student visas

If you are a citizen of the EU, European Economic Area (EEA), or Switzerland, you do not need a visa to study in Austria. However, if you plan to stay for more than three months, it is mandatory to register your residence within four months of your arrival.

If you are a student from the UK or outside the EU and plan to study for more than six months, you will need a student 'Aufenthaltsbewilligung' entry or residence permit. Make sure to apply for this permit before you enter Austria for your studies.

While applying for the permit, you will need to show proof of valid health insurance and sufficient financial resources to cover your living expenses throughout your stay. Additionally, you must register your residence with the local registration office within three working days of your arrival.

The specific rules and the application process for the permit depend on the length of stay and the chosen programme. Entrance exams are common in competitive fields like medicine, law, or some engineering courses. You must pass the exam before you are granted a visa. Contact your chosen university to confirm if entrance exams are required and to find out application deadlines to ensure a smooth transition.

For more information, see Study in Austria - Visa.

How to apply

While application deadlines may appear flexible, with some opening a year in advance, the processing can take several months, so apply as soon as you've chosen your programme to secure your spot. Your institution may offer an online system for a faster and easier process, but some still require downloading a form and submitting it by post.

For Masters programmes, applying early is key. Ideally, aim to submit your application during the summer before the course starts, or even consider applying during your final year of undergraduate studies. This ensures you have ample time to gather the necessary documents and increases your chances of securing a spot.

To apply for a Masters programme in Austria, you'll typically need to provide:

  • your degree certificate
  • official transcripts of your coursework
  • proof of German language proficiency at the required level for your course
  • a copy of your passport.

Requirements can vary between universities. In addition to the main application documents, some programmes may require a personal statement, CV, portfolio, or entrance exams. Always check with your chosen university to ensure you have everything necessary for a complete application.

Language requirements

Most undergraduate programmes in Austria use German as the primary language of instruction. However, postgraduate courses in fields with a strong international focus, such as media, marketing, and business, often offer English-language options. This makes Austria an ideal destination for international students seeking advanced degrees in these subjects.

Though it's helpful to have some knowledge of German to fully immerse yourself in Austrian culture, it's not necessary. Austria offers 350 courses entirely in English, which means you can pursue your academic goals without fluency in German.

If you're interested in programmes taught in German, you'll likely need to demonstrate proficiency at a B2 or C1 level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Fortunately, the Österreichisches Sprachdiplom Deutsch (ÖSD), Austria's official German language exam for foreigners, is widely available at test centres in over 45 countries worldwide.

If you haven't reached the required language level yet, many universities offer intensive German courses as part of their University Preparation Programme (UPP). This allows you to improve your language skills while preparing for your academic studies in Austria.

Comparison to UK qualifications

Thanks to the Bologna Process, any qualifications you gain from the Austrian higher education system are directly comparable to their UK equivalents. This means that you can use your UK qualifications to apply for Austrian universities, and upon graduation, your Austrian qualifications will be recognised by potential UK employers.

See ENIC-NARIC for more information on how your qualifications are recognised.

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