Austria is one of the happiest countries in Europe. Whether this is down to the beautiful landscapes, high standard of living or low tuition fees (or all of the above) Austria is a hotspot 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.
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 facilitates your favourite hobbies including hiking, climbing and skiing. so why not check out locations such as Innsbruck, Saint Anton am Arlberg, Soelden and Schladming.
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.
Eight of Austria's universities appear in the top 500 of the QS World University Rankings 2022. Austria's oldest institution, the University of Vienna (151st), ranks the highest and is followed by:
- Vienna University of Technology (180th)
- Graz University of Technology (277th)
- Universität Innsbruck (281st)
- Johannes Kepler University Linz (354th).
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
The traditional two-cycle system that combined undergraduate and postgraduate study (necessitating a longer period of study, usually four to six years), followed by a Doctorate, has been phased out in favour of a three-cycle system that complies with the Bologna Process - an agreement between European countries to offer comparability in standards of teaching and quality of qualifications across Europe. Therefore most Austrian universities now offer Bachelors, Masters and PhD's like 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.
The UK government runs the Turing Scheme for students looking to secure overseas placements and study abroad at an overseas university.
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 Turing Scheme.
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 (£310) per semester as an EU or European Economic Area (EEA) citizen. There are also no tuition fees if you enrol for an exchange programme.
If you're from outside the EU or EEA, which now includes the UK, this fee rises to €726.72 (£621) per semester.
Universities of applied sciences, however, are entitled to charge fees of €363.36 (£310) 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 (£17) 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 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 the UK or outside of the 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 Study in Austria - Visa.
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. If this isn't possible, there are currently 312 courses taught entirely in English, and a further 93 partially in English.
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.
Comparison to UK qualifications
Thanks to the Bologna Process, any qualifications you obtain from the Austrian higher education system are directly comparable to their UK equivalents. Because of this, you should have no problem using your UK qualifications to apply for a university place in Austria and explaining the qualifications you've obtained in Austria to potential UK employers.
See ENIC-NARIC for more information on how your qualifications are recognised.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to work in Austria.
- Visit studyinaustria.at (Study in Austria) for further information on becoming a student in Austria.