Home Education Higher Education Studying in Austria
Last update on October 12, 2021
Gayatri Bhaumik Written by Gayatri Bhaumik

From degree programs and funding to student accommodation and support, here is all you need to know if you want to study in Austria.

If you plan to study in Austria at a local university, you will be pleased to know that the system is quite similar to other institutions in Europe. That said, it may differ slightly from other places like Australia or the United States. Austria has many universities that are either public or private. There are also many technical, specialized schools.

This guide covers everything you need to know to study in Austria, from degrees types, the admission process, costs, and student list, as well as:

Higher education in Austria

Austria’s higher education sector has a great international reputation. Because of this, many expats choose to undertake tertiary study in Austria. There are, in fact, over 600 universities in the country, and these are split between state-funded public universities, private universities, and highly specialized colleges that focus on particular disciplines or research. In addition, state universities are free for locals, and only charge nominal fees for EU students or very affordable fees for international students. That said, private universities are significantly more expensive.

The University of Vienna (Universitat Wien)
The University of Vienna (Universitat Wien)

Many locals start their tertiary education as soon as they finish high school, so around the age of 18. However, most universities deliver their programs in German, so students must be able to speak the language quite fluently. 

In Austria, the university year runs from approximately September to June. Additionally, the year is divided into two semesters, both of which also have breaks for Christmas and Easter. As in most of Europe, an Austrian Bachelor’s degree takes three years to complete. Additionally, a master’s program takes a year or two to finish, and a Ph.D. can take up to four years. 

In the 2019/2020 school year, there were 264,945 students enrolled in public universities. There were an additional 12,177 students attending the country’s private universities. Of these, 101,359 were foreign students

Degree programs in Austria

If you plan to study in Austria for a Bachelor’s degree, you should be aware that it will take six to eight semesters or three to four years. Of course, this depends on your course load each semester and your major. At this level, some of the most popular subjects are humanities, economics, engineering, and medicine. While public universities and specialized schools offer a comparatively narrow range of subjects, private schools offer over 62 different Bachelor’s degrees. 

University students

As in other countries, students hoping to study in Austria have to meet certain requirements to enter a Bachelor’s program. This includes having a high school degree or university entrance qualification, and knowledge of German. In addition, certain programs may have special entry requirements, such as auditions for artistic degrees or proof of aptitude for teacher training.

Postgraduate programs

Austria offers numerous postgraduate programs. However, most of the time, you will either be studying for a master’s degree or a Ph.D. 

Master’s degree 

To study in Austria for a master’s degree, you will need to commit to around two to four semesters or one or two years. However, this depends on what program you take and whether you do it full-time or part-time. In addition, you will have to undertake independent research and write a dissertation. As such, students who choose to do a master’s program in Austria study subjects that they require to further their careers.

Because of this, some of the most popular subjects at the master’s level include engineering (Meng), law (ML), and science (MSc). To apply, you will generally need to fill out an application form, prove your language skills, and show your previous relevant qualifications.

Ph.D. programs 

Students undertaking a Doctorate program need to commit to six to eight semesters or three to four years. Because it is a highly specialized degree, students choose subjects that they are very passionate about. As such, the most common Ph.D. programs in Austria include the following subjects: 

  • Arts
  • Economic Science
  • Natural Sciences
  • Psychotherapy Science
  • Technical Science

Ph.D.s are the most expensive degrees to get in Austria, but the fees are still cheaper than at universities overseas. While Austrians at public universities don’t have to pay tuition fees, international students only have to pay €726.72 per semester. In addition, while private universities can set their own fees, the average is about €7,500 per semester. Because of the low tuition fees, there are very few full Ph.D. scholarships available in Austria. 

The University of Vienna (Universitat Wien)
The University of Vienna (Universitat Wien)

Applying for a Ph.D. program in Austria is slightly different from other countries. You will apply for admission into a program that fits your research interests, rather than submitting a proposal for your topic or applying to work on an existing project. As such, you will have to have a Master’s degree in a related subject.

In addition, you might need to take an entrance exam and prove your German skills. When doing a Ph.D., students are usually given an employment contract that gives them staff status with a salary and benefits. However, in return, students are expected to teach, do lab demonstrations, or perhaps perform administrative tasks.

Other study programs in Austria

In Austria, many students choose to undertake tertiary education away from traditional universities. As such, the country has many specialized technical schools or vocational schools that are geared towards imparting professional skills. These are called Fachhochschulen, or Universities of Applied Sciences.

To gain admission to a Fachhochschulen, you will need to have University Entrance Qualifications (Allgemeine Universitätsreife) or the relevant vocational qualifications. You may also be required to take special entrance exams for specific programs. Generally, students at these schools study applied arts, engineering, technology, or business. Unlike public universities, you do have to pay to attend a Fachhochschulen, but the fees are usually around €300 per semester. 

General requirements for studying in Austria

In order to study in Austria, you will have to meet certain requirements. As such, you should make sure that you meet the language, visa, and qualification requirements before you move to the country to begin your studies. 

Visa requirements

If you are a citizen of an EU country, you can freely study and work in Austria without a visa. However, if you’re a student from a non-EU country, you must get a student visa. However, there are several types available. 

passport and visa

For short-term or exchange students, you need a Visa C or D. The first allows you to study in Austria for up to three months; the latter gives you up to six months. However, if you plan to study in Austria for longer than that, you need a Resident Permit – Student visa. 

To get this visa, you should submit an application to the local Austrian embassy in your country of residence and wait for a decision before you move to Austria. However, if you are able to enter Austria without a visa under normal circumstances, it is possible to apply for your student visa once you arrive in the country. That said, be aware that your application can take up to 90 days to process.

To get your student visa, you have to submit the following documents along with a signed application form: 

  • Passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Photo
  • Confirmation of admission to an Austrian university
  • Proof of sufficient funds to cover living costs for 12 months (between €533.85 and €1,524.99 per month)
  • Declaration of loans, maintenance payments, or other debts
  • Proof of accommodation in Austria for at least three months
  • Police clearance certificate from your country of residence
  • Travel medical insurance
  • Health insurance (Austrian student health insurance)

In addition, all foreign documents should be accompanied by a legal German translation. Companies such as lingoking can provide a fast and flexible translation service. You will also have to pay a total of €160 to get your visa and resident card.

Language requirements

As a foreign student, you will likely have to prove your German language skills if you want to study in Austria at the university level. This is because most programs are delivered in German and most universities require knowledge of German as part of the admissions program. As such, you might need to prove your skills with existing qualifications or take a German exam. 

Learning German in Austria

If you don’t meet the requirements, however, you can take a language course to brush up on your skills. There are many ways to do this, including online platforms, apps, and language schools. 

Getting overseas qualifications recognized

Some university programs may need to see your previous qualifications to allow you to study in Austria. This particularly applies to Master’s degrees and Ph.D. programs. If your previous qualifications are from an EU university, you should be fine. However, other overseas qualifications may need to be translated into German to be approved as part of your application. You can read more about Degree equivalency and transferring foreign qualifications in Austria in our helpful guide.

Costs of studying in Austria

As previously mentioned, public universities in Austria are free for locals and EU students. For international students, the fees are usually around €726.72 per semester. This applies to nearly any degree program. 

Students doing groceries at a Vienna market

However, fees at private universities are far higher because these institutions are free to set their own rates. Nevertheless, they are still usually cheaper than in other countries. Depending on your university and course, you should expect to pay anywhere from €3,000 to €25,000 a year.

On top of tuition fees, your university may require you to pay additional charges to study in Austria. For example, you may need to pay a registration fee and €20 per semester for the student union.

Funding available for studying in Austria

While there are many scholarships and grants available for students wanting to study in Austria, you should be aware of two important caveats. Firstly, there is far less funding available for Bachelor’s degrees than for Master’s or Ph.D. programs. Secondly, most scholarships only offer partial funding and will therefore not cover your entire tuition or living expenses. 

Nevertheless, if you want funding for your studies, you should do your research. This is because there are many options available, and you need to find one that suits your circumstances. For example, some are only granted to women, for particular subjects, or even for nationals of certain countries. In general, funding might be available from the Austrian government (through the OeAD), your chosen university, or private organizations and foundations. 

To apply for funding, you will need to present numerous documents, which might include: 

  • An application form
  • A statement of your educational goals
  • Proof of admission into a university and program
  • Any available academic transcripts and previous qualifications
  • Completed thesis or abstract of proposed thesis
  • Proof of English or German skills
  • Letters of recommendation from teachers or lecturers
  • Passport copy
Passport

You may also have to do an interview for certain funding programs. 

Study exchange programs in Austria

Most universities in Austria offer international exchange programs with top-tier universities around the world. As such, it would be very easy to do a semester or year abroad in far-flung places like Australia, India, the United States, and China. There are also a plethora of independent exchange programs such as: 

  • IES Abroad
  • Forum-Nexus Study Abroad
  • Erasmus
  • Rhodes
  • Fulbright

Qualifications awarded in Austria

Universities in Austria specifically follow the Bologna or European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). This is a Europe-wide scheme for recording students’ past and future achievements. Therefore, if you complete your studies in Austria and wish to live and work abroad in other European countries, your qualifications will be recognized. You can read more about Degree equivalency and transferring foreign qualifications in Austria in our helpful guide.

How to apply to study in Austria

When you apply to study in Austria, you will need to apply directly to the university or universities you are interested in. As such, you should check the university’s website for their particular admission process. In general, though, you will need to show the following documents: 

  • Admission form
  • Your most recent qualifications and academic transcripts
  • Proof of language skills in German and English
  • Copy of passport 

You may also need to take an entrance exam or do an interview. 

Once you have been admitted to a program, you will have a host of formalities to complete. For example, you will have to complete the enrollment process, which includes confirming your place and paying your registration fees and first tuition installment. You will also have to pay your student union fees. Once this is all done, you can apply for your Austrian student visa. 

Student accommodation in Austria

Austrian universities generally don’t provide student accommodation. However, of course, they can point you in the right direction to find some. In general, students choose to live in private housing or independent halls of residence.

Student accommodation in Vienna
Student accommodation in Vienna

The OeAD provides accommodation for some 12,000 students throughout Austria. This can be useful for international students, although you may be more comfortable in a private flat. Luckily, there is plenty of affordable private accommodation available, which you can either rent alone or with others.

Halls of residence are the equivalent of dormitories. Usually, these are individual apartments that offer private rooms for groups of two, three, or four students with a shared bathroom and kitchen. 

Working while studying in Austria

EU students at university in Austria are free to work as much as they want. However, international students from non-EU countries can only work up to about 20 hours a week during the semester, or full-time during the holidays. To do this, you will need an additional work permit, which your employer will obtain on your behalf. You should be sure to mention this while looking for a job in Austria

Conversely, internships don’t have any hourly limits and don’t require a visa. Therefore, if they are able, this might be an easier option for international students. 

Volunteering while studying in Austria

Most Austrian universities offer volunteering opportunities within their local communities. As such, these are great opportunities for foreign students to engage with those in their local surroundings. For example, WU in Vienna offers study buddy volunteering, outdoor volunteering, and more at Caritas locations in the city. Some universities also offer the opportunity to volunteer abroad during the holidays. If you want to volunteer, you should apply for the relevant opportunities directly through your university.

Student healthcare in Austria

Austria has great public healthcare, and students from EU countries can use this for free. However, foreign students are usually not able to access this. As part of the requirements of getting a student visa, you will have to prove that you have the funds to buy private health insurance, which is required. 

Student life in Austria

If you choose to study in Austria, you can look forward to enjoying a vibrant student life. When it comes to studying, you should expect to attend a combination of lectures and seminars. However, students generally create their own course loads, so the exact amount of time they spend studying each week is very individual.

Student lifestyle

Social life at university is very important in Austria. All universities have a range of sports clubs, social clubs, intellectual clubs, and music clubs. In addition, the student union will host a series of events throughout the year, including parties and balls. As such, you will be able to explore the country, its culture, and its varied food and drink.

Cost of living in Austria

The cost of living in Austria is generally lower than in other major developed cities (such as London, Paris, or New York) but still reasonably expensive. And, of course, where you live in the country will affect the cost of living. For example, living in Vienna is more expensive than in other parts of the country. 

To give you a general overview, you should budget about €800 to €1,500 a month for living expenses. This might include up to €500 for rent, €250 for food, and perhaps €50 for transport.

After studying in Austria

Many foreign students in Austria choose to stay on when they finish their degrees. This is because they are often able to find jobs with their Austrian qualifications. As such, most universities have career departments and job fairs to help with this. 

In addition, to assist with this, foreign students are given one year to find a job after they graduate. As such, once you finish university, you are given a one-year residence permit to look for a job or start your own business. After this, if you successfully meet the requirements, you can apply for a permanent Red-White-Red Card or Graduates residency card. 

Start up

Because Austrian universities offer Bologna qualifications, you should also have no trouble having your degree recognized overseas. As such, this will not hamper your job search in other countries.

Useful resources

  • OeAD – a government site about student visas
  • Grants – a government database for funding for tertiary studies
  • Study in Austria – a website about universities and student life in Austria