Why study in Austria
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Austria, located at the heart of Europe by the beautiful and impressive Alps, has greatly contributed to enrich the European culture with renowned thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein or Franz Kafka, or musicians such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Austrian cities like Vienna, Salzburg or Innsbruck are ideal places to meet Austrias history, literature, philosophy and art. In addition to its historical and cultural appeal, you would like to study in Austria because of the high quality of its universities and institutions of higher education, its low tuition fees or the possibility of learning one of the worlds most important languages: German.
Come study in Austria!
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Today, higher education in Austria has a very similar structure to the rest of Europe with the introduction of the Bologna Declaration. With the reform to the new European system, degree structures are much the same as in the UK where a bachelor degree is earned in 3 years, and an additional master degree can be earned in a further one to two years of study.
Although most courses last between three and five years, it is very common for students to be enrolled at university for far longer. Many students stay at university for up to six or seven years before completing their studies. It has, therefore, become more common for employers in Austria to look at the rate at which you completed your degree rather than the grades you obtained.
The last stage of higher education
The Doctoral degrees or PhD courses in Austria still differ from most other countries. Doctoral degrees generally last two years and include only little if any course work. Focus is instead placed on the doctoral thesis – 150 to 300 pages long, publishable as a book or in a refereed journal. This too is changing, and more coursework is being added to conform to the Bologna Declaration within the EU.
School education in Austria
Compulsory education lasts for nine years including primary and lower secondary education plus a year of pre-school or a year of pre-vocational school. Primary education lasts for four years. Secondary education is divided into academic secondary schools, which lasts for 8 years and lower secondary school, which lasts for four years, and upper secondary school, which lasts for four years. Vocational secondary education lasts for five years. All streams lead to the Reifeprüfung Certificate, which gives access to higher education.
Higher education is provided by universities and universities of applied sciences (introduced in 1994). There are also Academies (e.g. Teacher Training Colleges). The 2002 University Reform redefined the relationship between the universities and the State. The universities remain State institutions and the State continues to finance them. Universities are fully autonomous to handle their internal affairs and formulate their statutes. The law provides for the establishment of a university board (Universitätsrat) at each institution which comprises leading figures from public life and the private sector. It is also responsible for providing the Federal Minister of Education, Science and Culture with an expert opinion on issues of the given university and launching evaluation measures. The University Assembly elects the rector. The Ministry assumes a supervisory function only in legal affairs and continues to be responsible for strategic planning and research. The law establishes which groups of degree programmes may be introduced at universities and lays general rules concerning admissions and the award of academic degrees. In 1999, the University Accreditation Act was enacted which allows private institutions to obtain accreditation as a Private University by the Accreditation Council which works under the supervision of the Ministry. At private universities, study programmes can be offered either in accordance with state programmes and degrees or without reference to them.
International students who aim to attend higher education in Austria need to provide proof of completed secondary education lasting at least 3 years, and equivalent to that of the Austrian Matura. Most secondary school systems will qualify you for entry provided that they qualify you for your course of study in the country where you completed your qualifications. It can be wise to apply well in advance in order to leave time for the extra processing of your papers. This applies especially to students applying from outside the EU.
Good command of German is generally a prerequisite for entry into higher education programs in Austria as most programs and degrees are taught exclusively in German. At the postgraduate level, however, especially at private institutions who cater to international students, classes are given in English. Choices in Austrian Higher Education
Austria has a wide range of choices within higher education. Beyond the state-run universities where you can study almost anything, you will find both private universities and “Fachhochschulen” which are specialized schools within the technology sector generally equivalent to polytechnics in the rest of Europe.
Private universities in Austria are still small in comparison to their public counterparts but steadily growing. Before applying to a private university it can be well worth checking their accreditation status with the Austrian Accreditation Council. Private universities are often strongly based on the American system in degree structure and regulations. As private universities have higher fees, make sure to research the school and its curriculum thoroughly to assess whether it is truly worth the extra money. A final attribute of some private universities in Austria is that they offer education in English if you do not feel that your German skills are quite up to par.
Stages of studies:
Non-university level post-secondary studies (technical/vocational type):
The following schools offer courses to holders of the Reifeprüfung: Speziallehrgänge (Technology, Economics, Tourism and Catering), Kollegs (Tourism and Catering, Commerce and Technology), Medizinisch-Technische Akademien (Technical Medical Colleges, Midwifery Colleges). These institutions are administered by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, the latter category, however, by the Federal Ministry of Health and Women. The Academy of Administration for the Training of Public Servants falls within the jurisdiction of the Federal Chancellery. The Diplomatic Academy is a special educational institution under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Some intermediate and higher vocational schools also provide evening classes for working people.
University level studies:
University level first stage-Bachelor: Bachelor programmes have been introduced recently by universities or universities of applied sciences by splitting their old diploma programmes into Bachelor and Master programmes. Access to Bachelor programmes is normally based on the Reifeprüfung Certificate.
University level second stage-Master:
Access to Master programmes is based on a completed Bachelor programme. Master programmes last for 1-2 years and require a master thesis and end with a Master examination (Magisterprüfung). They lead to the academic degree of Master, in Engineering to the Diplom-Ingenieur/Diplom-Ingenieurin.
University level third stage-Doktoratstudien:
Doctoral studies, which are only offered by universities, generally require a minimum of four semesters. Access is based on a completed Master programme at a university or a university of applied sciences. Doctoral programmes demand greater independence from students in their scientific work. Doctoral candidates are required to present a thesis approved by at least two professors and an examining Commission, and pass the final oral examination (Rigorosum). They are then awarded the title of Doktor/Doktorin. The universities are free to offer, in some scientific fields, PhD programmes which last for at least 8 semesters and which are subdivided into a more study-oriented and a purely scientific stage.
University level fourth stage-Habilitation:
The Habilitation is acquired within the university system and is based on special research achievements after the Doctorate and production of a research monograph. It is awarded the title Universitätsdozent/in or Privatsdozent/in respectively. This is not an academic degree, but a special university qualification.
Want to study in Austria?
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