Higher Education in Austria
Austria offers postsecondary education overseen and funded by the federal Ministry for Science and Research. Austria's 11 private universities and 23 public universities provide students with a comprehensive list of degree programs and a higher educational system that now serves the masses rather than the elite, as it did prior to the 1960s. All students at one time were free to apply to a public university and major in any field of study they wished, a procedure that has recently experienced several changes. Although Austria still allows eligible students to major in several subjects concurrently, the government sector responsible for the educational system has now put restrictions in place for several areas of study. Currently, these subjects include: Psychology, Biology, Dentistry, Human Medicine, Economic Sciences, Journalism and Veterinary Medicine.
Starting from 2001, students attending an Austrian university no longer enjoy free education. However, students from the European Union or European Economic Area (EEA) who finish their degree progam in the minimum amount of time (three years) do not need to pay for their education. Other students must pay a tuition of €370 ($500) per term if they are Austrian citizens and €700 ($950) if they are not Austrian citizens.
Obtaining a bachelor's degree in Austria usually takes three years. Earning a Masters degree or PhD generally takes another two to three years, depending on the type of subject and specifications in which the student enrolls.
Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen)
Universities of Applied Sciences differ from traditional Austrian universities in that they are tailored to accommodate students seeking to learn a practical skill over academic knowledge. As a student attending a Fachhochschule, you will not be allowed to choose your courses as freely as you might be at an academic-oriented university. This is to ensure that all students entering a University of Applied Science graduate within the recommended three years.
Austrian Private Universities
Since 2001, all private universities must be accredited before they are legally permitted to give academic degrees. The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Cultural Affairs has the authority to provide accreditation. Currently, 13 private universities operating in Austria are fully accredited. Some of these include the European Peace University, the Sigmund Freud University (Vienna) and the Paracelsus Medizinische Privatuniversität (Salzburg).
A Magister degree is the first degree given to students who complete a four to six year course in the social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, law or economics. Students majoring in agriculture or engineering will receive a Diplom-Ingenieur upon finishing a degree program. Recently, some Austrian universities have started to issue Bachelor's degrees prior to the Magister, or Master's degree.
Medicine is the only area of study in which a student may earn a doctorate degree after at least six years of attending a university. Many fields of study, including medicine, demand that students write and deliver a research paper called a Diplomarbeit, which usually averages at least 100 pages.
Prominent Austrian Universities
Founded in 1365, the University of Vienna is the most famous of Austria's universities and offers three centers and 15 faculties that include Faculties of Computer Science, Psychology, Business and Economics, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. There are also Centers for Molecular Biology, Translation Studies and Sport Science. Two other top Austrian universities are the University of Innsbruck and the Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz.
Applying to an Austrian University
To apply as an undergraduate (called the "first cycle"), a student should have a valid certificate from their previous school stating that they possess the qualifications to enter a higher education institution. Students who are members of the EEA must have completed upper secondary school before qualifying to attend an Austrian university. You will also be asked to prove you can speak German and English as well as take additional qualifying classes if necessary.
Before students can apply to a Master's program in Austria, they must have earned a Bachelor's degree or other degree equivalent to a Bachelor's diploma in accordance with Austrian educational requirements.
Some of the more competitive degree programs in Austria accept students according to grade point averages culled from previous school work. EU students can convert their GPA to the Austrian system using the EGC (European Grade Converter). Non-European students can access the standard grades comparison chart used by European students to calculate their Austrian GPA.
German is the language of instruction in Austria. Students are required to submit proof of their knowledge of the German language by providing results received from previous examinations or diplomas earned from taking German language courses.
Health Insurance Coverage
European Union and EEA students will need to have their European Health Insurance card with them while attending an Austrian university. Overseas students can either obtain Austrian public assistance medical insurance or purchase health insurance from a private carrier.
Why Study in Austria?
Offering an exceptionally developed social market economy, diverse employment opportunities and one of the highest standards of living in the world, Austria is among the top 15 richest countries in the world. With a thriving tourism industry, fascinating historical landmarks and beautiful mountainous scenery, Austria remains popular with European and overseas vacationers as well as students wanting to pursue higher educational degrees from a prestigious Austrian university.
Austria includes much of the mountainous territory of the eastern Alps (about 75% of the area). The country contains many snowfields, glaciers, and snowcapped peaks, the highest being the Grossglockner (12,530 ft; 3,819 m). The Danube is the principal river. Forests and woodlands cover about 40% of the land. Today, Austria is a parliamentary representative democracy comprising nine federal states. The capital and largest city, with a population exceeding 1.7 million, is Vienna. Austria is one of the richest countries in the world, with a nominal per capita GDP of $46,330.
Austria is officially referred to as the Republic of Austria, a country that is politically considered a federal republic and has a population of over eight million people citizens. Austria is bordered on its north side by Germany and the Czech Republic; Slovakia and Hungary on its east side; Italy and Slovenia to the south and Liechtenstein and Switzerland to the west. Nine federal states subdivided into districts comprise Austria's 84,000 square kilometers of land (33,000 square miles), with Vienna being its capital and largest city. A member of the United Nations and the European Union, Austria adopted the Euro as its official currency in 1999.
Most of Austria lies in a temperate to cool zone influenced in the summer by warm winds coming from the west. Because the majority of Austria is overshadowed by the Alps, the climate is predominately an "alpine" climate--rather cold during the winter months (0 to -10 Celsius or 32 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit) and relatively warm in the summer (25 to 40 Celsius or 77 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit). On average, Austria recieves around 660 mm (26 inches) of rain, snow or ice each year, with an average monthly rainfall amount of 55 mm, or around two inches.
Essential Facts About Austria
- Nearly 90 percent of Austria's citizens speak German, followed by Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian (four percent); Turkish (two percent); Hungarian (one-half percent) and Polish (one-half percent)
- Most Austrians who are religious are Roman Catholic
- Nineteen Austrians have been given the Nobel Prize for Medicine, Physiology, Chemistry or Physics. This currently stands as one of the highest award numbers per capita for any country in the world.
- Renewable resources supply Austria with over 60 precent of its power, primarily solar and wind power.
- At nearly 650 years old, the University of Vienna is Austria's largest and oldest university.
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