Republik Österreich (The Republic of Austria) is a land-locked country in central Europe and is bordered by Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, and Switzerland. The population is 8,205,533 and the literacy rate is
98%. German is the official language and language of instruction, with Croatian and Hungarian as official languages in the state of Burgenland.
Celtic tribes were the first inhabitants of present-day Austria. In 788 AC, Charlemagne conquered the region. By 1156, the area had become the Duchy of Austria and, in 1278, became part of the Hapsburg Dynasty which ruled the Duchy until just after World
War I. In 1867, the Austro-Hungarian Compromise (Ausgleich) gave Emperor Franz Joseph I sovereignty over both Austria and Hungary. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand 1914 led to World War I and, in turn, the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire. In 1919, the monarchy was dissolved and a parliamentary democracy was established.
In 1938, German troops invaded, Austria was annexed to Germany, and was no longer an independent nation. On May 15, 1955, Austria gained independence from Germany. Austria joined the European Union in 1995.
Empress Maria Teresa introduced a system of state schools and 6 years of compulsory education in 1774. In 1869, compulsory education was extended to 8 years, and in 1962, it was extended to 9 years beginning at age 6. As of the 2003-04 academic year,
foreign language instruction (Croatian, Czech, English, French, Hungarian, Italian, Slovak or Slovenian) now begins in the first year of primary school.
Education is free and compulsory from ages 6 to 15. 90% of students are in public schools and 10% are in private schools, the majority of which are run by the Roman Catholic Church. Currently, the Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung overses Austria's education system.
Volksschule/Grundschule (Primary school) encompasses grades 1-4 and begins at age 6. No credential is awarded upon completion of primary school.
Following primary school, students have the choice of attending a Hauptschule (general lower secondary school) or Allgemeinbildende höhere Schule (AHS) (academic secondary school). Hauptschule (grades 5-8) is run by local authorities.
Students can transfer to an academic secondary school at the completion of each year provided they are ranked in the top of their class in German, math, and foreign language. Upon completion of grade 8, students are awarded a Abschlusszeugnis der Hauptschule.
Allgemeinbildende höhere Schule (AHS) (Academic secondary School) is 8 years and is divided into 2, 4-year cycles. Unlike general lower secondary schools, academic secondary schools are run by federal authorities. Admission requires grades
of sehr gut or gut in German, math and reading in Grade 4 of primary school. The first cycle is 4 years (grades 5-8). No credential is awarded upon completion of Grade 8. The difference between AHS and Hauptschule is that
the core curriculum and electives are different at each type of school.
Following Hauptschule (general lower secondary school) or the first cycle of allgemeinbildende höhere Schule (AHS) (academic secondary school), students have the choice of continuing in the 2nd cycle of academic secondary school or
in a vocational/technical upper secondary school program.
The second cycle of academic secondary school is 4 years (grades 9-12). Upon completion of Grade 12, students in the academic track sit for the Reifeprüfung, while students in the vocational track may choose to sit for the Reife -und Diplomprüfung (matriculation and diploma examination). Upon passing the Reifeprüfung (matriculation examination) or the Reife -und Diplomprüfung (matriculation and diploma examination), students are awarded a Reifeprüfungszeugnis.
Students who possess the Reifeprüfungszeugnis are entitled to enroll at an Austrian higher education institution.
There are three general types of academic secondary schools: the Gymnasium focuses on Latin and/or one or more modern languages. The Realgymnasium concentrates on mathematics, biology, environmental science, chemistry, and physics. The wirtschaftliches Realgymnasium emphasizes home economics and nutritional science, geography and economics, psychology and philosophy. Additionally, there are special types of Gymnasia which focus on music, sports, or foreign-language concentrations.
Vocational/technical upper secondary school programs are offered at Berufsbildende Pflichtschulen (compulsory upper secondary vocational schools), Berufsbildende mittlere Schulen (mid-level vocational/technical upper secondary schools),
Berufsbildende höhere Schulen (higher vocational/technical upper secondary schools). Admission to the Berufsbildende Pflichtschule is typically completion of grade 8. Programs range from 2-4 years, with 3-year programs being the
most common. Students complete an abbreviated academic curriculum at the Berufsschule (vocational school) plus industry apprenticeship training. This system is commonly known as the “dual system. ” Upon successful completion of
the program of study and training, students receive a regulated vocational title which qualifies them for skilled employment. Students may also opt sit for the Berufsreifeprüfung (Vocational Maturity Examination), which allows them access
to enroll at higher education institutions.
Berufsbildende mittlere Schulen (mid-level vocational/technical upper secondary schools) are 1-4 year programs after grade 8. Upon completion, students sit for the Reife -und Diplomprüfung (matriculation and diploma examination) examination.
They are awarded the Berufsreifezeugnis (Vocational Education Maturity Certificate) if they pass the examination, which allows them access to enroll at higher education institutions. Schools in this category are Technische, Gewerbliche and Kunstgewerbliche Fachschule (technical, industrial and trade and craft school), Handelsschulen (commercial school), Fachschule für wirtschaftliche Berufe (school for commercial vocations), Fachschule für Mode und Bekleidungstechnik (school for fashion and the clothing trade), Schule für Sozialberufe (school for social occupations), Land- und Forstwirtschaftliche Fachschule (agricultural and forestry schools), and Schule für Gesundheits- und Krankenpflege (school for health occupations and nursing).
Berufsbildende höhere Schulen (higher vocational/technical upper secondary schools) offer 5-year programs after grade 8. Upon completion, students may opt to sit for the Reife -und Diplomprüfung (matriculation and diploma examination)
examination. They are awarded the Berufsreifezeugnis (Vocational Education Certificate) if they pass the examination, which allows them access to enroll at higher education institutions. Schools in this category include Höhere technische und Gewerbliche Lehranstalt (higher technical and industrial institute), Höhere Lehranstalt für Mode und Bekleidungstechnik (higher fashion and textiles institute), Höhere Lehranstalt für Tourismus (higher tourism institute), Handelsakademie (commercial academy), Höhere Lehranstalt für wirtschaftliche Berufe (higher institute for business and economics vocations), Höhere Lehranstalt für Land- und Forstwirtschaft (higher agricultural and forestry institute),
Bildungsanstalt für Kindergartenpädagogik (institute for kindergarten teaching), Bildungsanstalt für Sozialpädagogik (institute for social pedagogy).
Austria has a long history of higher education. The University of Vienna was founded in 1365 and the University of Graz was founded in 1585. Admission to post-secondary study requires a Reifeprüfungzeugnis, Berufsreifezeugnis, or the
studienberechtigungsprüfung which is a university entrance examination for students who do not hold a Reifeprüfungzeugnis or Berufsreifezeugnis. Universities of art and music, as well as Fachhochschulen (universities
of applied science), require entrance examinations in addition to a Reifeprüfungzeugnis. Some university programs, notably medicine, also require entrance examinations.
There are 4 types of post-secondary institutions:
- Fachhochschulen (universities of applied science)
- Pädagogische Hochschulen (universities of education); prior to the 2007-08 academic year, they were known as Pädagogische Akademien and Berufspädagogische Akademien (general and vocational teacher training colleges)
- Akademien für gesundheitsdienste (academies for medical/technical professions); as of the 2007-08 academic year, these programs are also offered at Fachhochschulen (universities of applied science
Universities are public, research-based and are granted recognition by the federal ministry of science and research; thus, they do not require external accreditation. They offer programs in humanities and cultural studies, engineering, music and arts,
secondary school teaching, medicine, natural sciences, law, social sciences and economics, and theology. There are 211 bachelors, 278 masters, 179 diploma, 67 doctoral, and 375 non-degree programs at Austrian universities.
Fachhochschulen were developed in 1993. Almost 7% of students are enrolled in Fachhochschulen. Most are private and must be accredited by the Austrian Accreditation Council. Fachhochschulen are more practical and less scientifically-oriented
than universities, and have fewer electives than universities. Most programs include an internship in industry. Fachhochschulen have more selective admission standards because, unlike universities, there are a set number of places in each program.
In addition, students must complete their program of study in the timeframe set for each program. Fachhochschulen do not offer doctoral programs. They offer programs in information systems and technology, engineering, media and design, social
and health occupations, tourism, and economics.
Medizinisch-technische (Paramedical) programs are offered at Akademien (academies). They offer programs in physical therapy, medical technology, x-ray technology, dietetics, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and audiology. These programs
are increasingly being incorporated into the Fachhochschulen.
All private universities in Austria, as well as degree programs at Fachhochschulen, must be accredited by the Austrian Accreditation Council to grant degrees. As of 2007, 11 private universities had received accreditation.
Prior to 2002, higher education was in a two-tier system in both universities and Fachhochschulen. The first-level program in the old system at universities were the Magister and the Diplom-Ingenieur which were both awarded after
4-5 years of study. Both required a Reifezeugnis for admission. The second-level program was the Doktor which was at least 2 years of study and required defense of a dissertation. Doktor programs required a Magister or
a Diplom-Ingenieur for admission.
In the old system, Fachhochschulen offered only first-level programs: the Magister (FH) and the Diplom-Ingenieur (FH), both typically 8-semester programs of study, including a practical component.
The 2002 Universities Act established new academic degrees to follow the Bologna Accord three-tier system. A few universities still offer old system programs along side the new system.
The first-level university degree under the new system is the Bakkalaureaus/Bakkalaurea which requires at least 180 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credits (approximately 6 semesters). The first Bakkalaureaus/Bakkalaurea degrees were
awarded in 2003. There is no time limit to complete a Bakkalaureaus/Bakkalaurea program and most students take longer than 6 semesters to complete the program.
The second-level university degree is the Magister/Magistra which was first awarded in 2004. Magister/Magistra programs require a Bakkalaureaus/Bakkalaurea for admission. They require 120 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credits
(approximately 3-4 semesters).
Third-level university programs are doctoral programs leading to the Doktor/Doktorin. They require at least 240 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credits of coursework, passing Rigorosen (comprehensive) examinations, and defense of
a dissertation. Doctoral programs require a Magister/Magistra for admission.