Immigration. Travel. Living.

Austria: education guide for expats

Student with books

The cities are modern, developed, and have a favorable economic scene for investors. While the countryside is filled with amazing scenery and entertainment for people interested in skiing, climbing, or hiking.

Austria offers one of the best high quality of education in all of Europe. The University of Vienna is ranked 143 in the top 1,000 Times Higher Education world rankings. There are also nine other institutions in this list that specialized in medical and scientific studies.

Unlike many countries in Europe, all EU citizens get to study at any university of their choice for free. Yes, there’s free tertiary education for EU nationals in Austria. According to Statistik Austria (Statistics Austria), 10% of the country’s federal budget is spent on academic growth and education. If you are interested in knowing more about the academic system in Austria, we’ve made an in-depth guide for an ex-pat like you.

Austrian academic system

The Republic of Austria has one of the most advanced academic systems in the world. It allows resident students and certain foreigners to enjoy free education. The Federal Ministry of Education is charged with the duty of funding and supervising primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions in the country.

With less than nine million populaces, Austria has a diverse range of tertiary institutions that vary in size and structure. There are currently 22 public universities (öffentliche Universitäten), 13 private universities, 21 universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen), and 17 Teacher Education Colleges (Pädagogische Hochschulen).

There was a major reform of the academic administrative structure in the country making schools in the country have a unitary structure with free access to many avenues of basic, higher, and vocational education. Most high schools offer a student series of intensive vocational-technical training and prepare students for university education, teacher’s colleges, commercial colleges, and other specialized institutions.

The academic system in the country evolved from medieval monastic schools to what it is today. The oldest tertiary institution in Austria, the University of Vienna founded in 1365 is over 500 years old but still very much active. This very institution has produced some of the finest intellectuals including Sigmund Freud, Kurt Adler, and Pope Pius III.

The primary language in Austria is German, but there are emphases to train students in other foreign languages. More than 63% of students in the country are trained in at least one foreign language in both primary and secondary schools.

Pupils pursuing a degree in the university must complete 4-5 years at any college (Höhere Schule) or a vocational school with higher education entrance exam (Berufsbildende Höhere Schule). Students interested in an apprenticeship are required to get a degree in any polytechnic institute (Polytechnische Schule) for a year.

You must pass the entrance examination listed by the school or perform excellently on your last school certificate before you can be admitted. There are also private schools that provide both primary, secondary, and teacher training. These institutions are usually controlled by the Roman Catholic Church but the federal government keeps absolute control of higher education.

Primary education (Volksschule)

colored pencil lined up on top of white surface

The first nine years of academic training [age 6-15] are free throughout the country, it begins with four years of primary school either public or private, before proceeding to secondary school.

Middle education (Hauptschule)

After completing their primary education, students proceed to any general or academic middle schools in the country for four years of intensive training. This is the academic level where students are taught to make career choices and decisive academic decisions.

Secondary education (Oberstufenrealgymnasium)

assorted books on wooden table

After completing their studies in any middle school of their choice, students interested in tertiary education opt for secondary school to attain superior knowledge of their career path. Pupils at this phase have to complete the academic training needed before they can proceed to the university.

The secondary school is generally divided into a lower and upper level, they give the pupil a different aptitude and interest in their curricula, length of study, and certification. In an attempt to provide a valuable secondary educational system for students, The Austrian government continues to tweak the system to derive alternative measures to develop the necessary qualifications for students in secondary schools.

Vocational Education

Most practically-minded students opt for higher vocational schools instead of tertiary institutions [some students may choose to attend both vocational schools and university]. In these institutions, they engage in active experiments that prepare them for their chosen profession.

Tertiary Education

Austria has a good number of universities, fine arts colleges, and educational institutes. The University of Vienna (1365), The University of Graz (1585), and the universities of Innsbruck and Salzburg (sometime in the 17th century) are all among the finest in Europe. There are also technical universities and institutes for adult studies available all over the nation.

Cost of schooling in Austria

One of the biggest advantages of schooling in Austria is that citizens and students from EU/EEA member states do not need to pay the regular tuition fees. They only pay a small membership token of €18 per semester to the student union. International students from countries outside the EU pay about €734.83 to study here.

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