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by Daniela Proli, SCIENTER
original general and HE-related material by Theo Bastiaens

For university-related material see also Austria/DL

For entities in Austria see Category:Austria

Partners and Experts situated in Austria

Austria in a nutshell

Map of Austria

Austria (German: Österreich), officially the Republic of Austria (German: Republik Österreich), is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It borders both Germany and the Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The capital is the city of Vienna on the Danube River.

The population of Austria is around 8,415,000.

The origins of modern Austria date back to the ninth century, when the territory of Upper and Lower Austria became increasingly populated. The name "Ostarrichi" is first documented in an official document from 996. Since then this word has developed into the Österreich.

Austria is a parliamentary representative democracy comprising nine federal states and is one of six European countries that have declared permanent neutrality and one of the few countries that includes the concept of everlasting neutrality in its constitution. Austria has been a member of the United Nations since 1955 and joined the European Union in 1995.

Education in Austria

File:Austrian educational system.gif
Austrian educational system

The Republic of Austria has a free and public school system, and compulsory schooling last 9 years. Schools offer a series of vocational-technical and university preparatory tracks involving one to four additional years of education beyond the minimum mandatory level.

The legal basis for primary and secondary education in Austria is the School Act of 1962. The federal Ministry of Education is responsible for funding and supervising primary, secondary, and, since 2000, also tertiary education. Primary and secondary education is administered on the state level by the authorities of the respective states.


Education starts long before school attendance becomes compulsory. The lowest level of education (ISCED 0) includes various child-care facilities such as crèches, kindergardens or nurseries. Attendance at these facilities is voluntary.

Primatry level (years 1 to 4)

In Austria, as in most other countries, compulsory schooling begins at the age of six and primary level lasts four years. Most children attend primary school (Volskschule), cherged with imparting basic education for all. A small proportion of school-age children attend special schools (Sonderschule), which can be attended for the all period of compulsory education (age 6 to 15). School-age children who are not ready for school are taught in the pre-school level of primary schools.

Lower secondary education (years 5 to 8)

At the transition from the four-year primary level to the lower secondary level (ISCED 2), the general education system is divided into four types of schools:

  • lower secondary schools (Hauptschule). The lower secondary school [Hauptschule] is designed to provide all pupils with a basic general education within a four-year period. Its purpose is to prepare pupils for working life and to equip them with the necessary knowledge for transfer to upper-secondary schools
  • academic secondary schools, lower cycle (allegemeinbildende höhere Schule)
  • Special schools (Sonderschule')
  • new secondary school, pilot schools, recently introduced as a pilot scheems to create a new joint school for the 10-14 years age brackets which caters all pupils finishing year 4 of primary school

Upper secondary education (years 9 to 13)

The lower secondary level ends with the eighth school year and is followed by the upper secondary level (ISCED 3), which offers different options:

  • academic secondary schools, upper cycle, years 9-12
  • Polytecnique Schule (pre-vocational school), used as ninths school year by those students aged 14-15 who aim to enter working life as soon as they have completed compulsory schooling
  • Berufhschule part time compulsory vocational schools, years 10 to 13 maximum, parallel to in-company vocational training (dual system). A requirement for starting apprenticeship is completion of nine years of compulsory schooling; apprenticeship are at least 15 years old
  • intermediate technical and vocational schools (years 9 to 12 maximum)
  • Higher level technical and vocational schools 8 years 9 to 13)

Post-secondary non tertiary education (ISCED 4) includes:

  • the final year of the Higher Techical and vocational colleges
  • training schools for kindergarten teachers
  • Training schools for educators
  • Kollegs: Access to post-secondary courses [Kollegs] is conditional upon a "Reifeprüfung"-Certificate, a "Reifeprüfung"-Certificate and TVE-Diploma or the respective Higher Education Entrance Exam. Post-secondary courses run for four semesters (or six semesters for people under employment), provide students with the practical and theoretical education of a secondary technical and vocational college and end with a diploma exam. Such courses are offered in engineering, business and the social and services sector. It is also possible to attend training courses in the fields of nursery school teaching and social education. Post-secondary courses are designed to provide mainly graduates of secondary academic schools who do not want to take up studies at university or at a "Fachhochschul"-course with the opportunity to acquire initial vocational qualifications within a relatively short time.

Tertiary education

At tertiary level (ISCED 5) university, Fachhochschule or post-secondary college are available. The secondary school leaving certificate (MATURA) or other certificated gained through special examinations (i.e. the Berufsreifeprüfung) allow students to gain access to tertiary education. The tertiary level has been significantly expanded in recent years, partly as a result of the introduction of Fachhochschulen and also due to the Bologna Process. This entails degree programmes being divided into bachelor programmes, which generally last for 6-8 semesters, and master programmes, which follow on from bachelor programmes and last for 2-4 semesters. In all probability, conventional diploma programmes will be gradually replaced by bachelor and master programmes in future.

The highest formal academic qualification, the doctorate, can be attained at ISCED level 6.

Mainly sourced from Statistics Austria and Federal Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture

Schools in Austria

Further and Higher education

Higher education is offered at:

  • Public universities
  • Fachhochschulen, faculty of applied sciences (after accreditation of Fachhochschule study programmes)
  • The Krems University of Continuing Education (Danube University Krems)
  • Private universities (after accreditation)
  • University Colleges of Teacher Education
  • Medizinisch-technische Akademien und Hebammenakademien (colleges for higher-level paramedical professions and midwifery colleges)

Moreover, there are a number of educational institutions which offer university-type study programmes.

Admission to Fachhochschulen and universities as well as to the colleges for higher-level paramedical professions and midwifery colleges requires a Reifeprüfungszeugnis or a Reife- und Diplomprüfungszeugnis from a secondary higher school, or alternatively a Berufsreifeprüfungszeugnis or a Studienberechtigungsprüfungszeugnis, the latter being valid for a given study programme. Depending on the programme chosen, supplementary examinations may be required. Admission tests are required for students wishing to enrol in studies of human and dental medicine, veterinary medicine and psychology where study places are limited. Admission to the arts universities is conditional on the passing of an admission test. Applicants to Fachhochschule study programmes, which generally require admission tests, must either have a Reifeprüfungszeugnis or equivalent certificate or relevant vocational qualifications. Additional examinations may be required. Austrians and students from EU countries currently do not pay tuition fees.

Universities in Austria

Polytechnics in Austria

Colleges in Austria

Education reform


Austria is committed to implement an effective lifelong learning strategy by 2020, consistent with the european priorities. The action lines of a proposal for such a strategy cover all phases of life, from pre-school education to initial training at schools and universities and learning at a later stage in life. In view of fast growing life expectancy the important role of learning provess outside of traditional institutions is particularly emphasised; better recognition of non-formal and informally acquired learning is a priority.

Within this "lifelong learning" and "knowledge society" oriented framework, Austria has been paying growing attention to

  • the importance of pre-primary education, by reinforcing kindergarten and making half-day attendance in the last year before primary education compulsory and free of charge
  • the development of more competence-oriented education paths, including competence-driven curriculum and its assessment (through educational standards) and increased individualisation of learning paths in schools. In this context the 25+ initiative was launched for an individualisation of teaching by lowering class sizes, and the Ministry has been giving fresh inpetus to the joint furhter development of teaching practic at Austria's schools. Awareness is raised in this context on the potential of new media (i.e. Learning Platforms)

An important initiative in this context is the New Secondary School Pilot Scheme, which aimed to create a new joint school for the age 10-14, avoiding early choice of learning paths and widely oriented towards a learning culture based on individualisation and personalisation of learning processes. According to this approach, each child is supported to the best possible extent according to its individual talents and abilities, and pupils learn at their own pace, receiving early additional encouragement to unfold their specific talents. The "new secondary school reform" should in particular orient education towards key transversal competences, such as autonomy, responsibility, creativity, flexibility, communication, problem solving etc.

A great interest had been shown by both teachers and parents in this initiative. From school year 2008/2009 (lauch of the initiative) the number of New Secondary schools has quadrupled (244 in school year 2009/2010) and reached the statutory limits of 10% of compulsory school which may participate in the pilot scheme.


Administration and finance


Administration and responsibilities

The Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture is the supreme supervisory body for the whole of primary and secondary education, which includes academic secondary schools and technical and vocational schools, as well as colleges of teacher education. The work experience part of initial vocational education is the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth.

As is the case with government administration in general, responsibilities for legislation and implementation in school education are split between federal and provincial governments. This split is based on the principles outlined below:

  • The federal government has exclusive responsibility for legislation and implementation: this applies particularly to the entire field of academic secondary education (secondary levels I and II), but also to medium level and higher level technical and vocational schools (secondary level II), training schools for educators and training schools for kindergarten teachers, and to the conditions of service and staff representation of teachers at these schools.
  • The federal government is responsible for legislation, whereas the provinces are responsible for implementation: this applies, among others, to the conditions of service and staff representation of teachers at public compulsory schools.
  • The federal government is responsible for fundamental legislation, while the provinces are responsible for issuing and implementing by-laws: this particularly applies to the organisational structure of federal education authorities or the external organisation of public compulsory schools. The term ‘external organisation’ refers to the development, construction, maintenance and closing of schools, but also to the fixing of pupil numbers per class and teaching periods. All fundamental legislation is in the nature of a framework which has to be filled in by implementing by-laws promulgated by the respective provincial parliaments, the legislative bodies at provincial level.
  • The provinces are responsible for legislation and implementation as, for example, with regard to kindergartens.

Separate federal bodies have been established wherever the federal government is responsible for implementation. These are:

  • Bezirksschulräte (district school boards) at the level of political districts;
  • Landesschulräte (provincial school boards) at the level of the provinces; and
  • the Federal Minister for all of Austria.

School autonomy. In the academic year 1993/94 Schulautonomie (school autonomy) entered the mainstream education system. Flexibility of Austrian schools has gradually increased since and was put on a new legal basis. (The following applies only to a limited extent to years 1 to 4 of primary schools, with only two weekly lessons and optional exercises under school autonomy.) Individual schools are now allowed to decide certain school matters independently. A school may develop a certain profile, e.g. by specialising in foreign languages, ecology, intercultural focal points, information technology or generally by extending or supplementing curricular content.


The Federal Ministry of education is responsible for funding primary and secondary education.

Schools of compulsory education (primary schools, general secondary schools, special schools, pre-vocational schools and vocational schools) are maintained by the provinces, municipalities or municipal associations. While most of the schools in general compulsory education are maintained by municipalities or municipal associations, part-time compulsory vocational schools are maintained by the provinces.

Maintaining and operating a school includes the establishment, maintenance and repair of the school buildings, payment of overheads, purchase of equipment and teaching aids, provisions for the school doctor, and the employment of the necessary auxiliary staff (caretakers, maintenance staff, etc.).

The employment of teachers at compulsory schools is exclusively the responsibility of the provinces. Teachers in public sector schools of compulsory education are employed by the provinces, which pay the cost of their salaries. However, the provinces are fully compensated for this cost by the Federation in the process of fiscal adjustment. (The sole exception being teachers at compulsory vocational schools, where this refund is granted only up to 50 %.)

Public sector schools of compulsory education are not allowed to charge tuition fees. Transport to and from school using public transport facilities is free. Textbooks are provided to pupils free of charge, and they are entitled to keep them. In recent years, a contribution of 10 % from the pupils has been introduced both for transport to and from school and for textbooks.

Medium level and higher secondary schools are established and maintained by the Federation, which bears the full cost, including teachers' salaries. Teachers do not enter into an employment contract with the school in this case either, but with the Federation. The same is true for medium level and higher secondary schools with respect to the absence of tuition fees, free transport and textbooks as for compulsory education.

In 1996 the legal basis for extending the financial autonomy of schools was established. On certain conditions laid down by law, schools can rent out school rooms or parts of school property (e.g. gymnasium or sports grounds) to third parties and allocate the respective income at their own discretion as long as it is used for school purposes. The same applies to external funding received from sponsoring or commercial activities at school. Since 1998 federal schools have been entitled to establish quasi legal bodies which are authorised to perform certain activities in their own name (e.g. organisation and staging of certain events for third parties).

Austrian schools may, in a limited way, also choose how to use the funds allocated to them by the school authorities. For medium and higher level technical and vocational schools this can facilitate the procurement of computers and technical equipment (financial autonomy). This makes it easier to implement occupation-oriented forms of education centred on students (e.g. training firms).


Quality assurance, inspection and accreditation


The Federal Institute for Research on Education, Innovation and Development of the Austrian School System (Bundesinstitut für Bildungsforschung, Innovation und Entwicklung des österreichischen Schulwesens, BIFIE) is responsible for the following areas:

  • Applied research on education,
  • Education monitoring,
  • Quality development,
  • Regular reports on Austrian education.

In addition, the BIFIE is responsible for advising, on the basis of evidence collected, the decision-makers of Austrian education policy.

BIFIE has three different centres in Austria:

  1. The BIFIE is headquartered in Salzburg where it focuses on education monitoring and education standards. The Salzburg centre mainly conducts international assessments such as PISA, PIRLS, TIMSS, etc. and reviews education standards. Furthermore the BIFIE’s central service areas, i.e. the central management and the centre for data management and statistics, are located in Salzburg.
  2. The Graz location mainly deals with educational research and evaluation, carrying out specific projects such as the evaluation of the ‘new secondary school’ and research-based projects on topics such as ‘early language support’.
  3. The BIFIE Vienna location (‘innovation & quality development’) concentrates particularly on the development and implementation of innovations in the school area. Model projects are the development and implementation of a standardised Reifeprüfung (matriculation examination) and further development and implementation of education standards.

Tasks are coordinated between the Ministry for Education and BIFIE based on a revolving three-year plan. A two-member board of management, a nine-member supervisory board and the scientific board consisting of renowned Austrian and international scientists and scholars are the bodies of the BIFIE, which is a legal entity under public law.

Specific initiatives

Introduction of national education standards into the general education system The Austrian government has been working at introducing national education standards into the general education system in order to improve the pupils’/students’ core competences in selected subjects and to secure returns to education in the long run. This is to be achieved especially through:

  • changing didactics and focussing on results in the planning and performance of school instruction (standards serve as orientation);
  • improving teachers’ capabilities in diagnostics and remedial instruction (remedial function), as well as feedback concerning the proficiency level and targeted site-related quality development (evaluation function).

An amendment of the School Instruction Act of August 2008 provided the legal basis for the introduction of education standards: The pertinent statutory regulation sets out the subject-specific proficiency pupils/students are expected to acquire upon completion of the 4th and the 8th grades. The standards were introduced in primary and general secondary (level I) schools on 1/1/2009: Baseline surveys were conducted in spring 2009 (8th grade) and/or 2010 (4th grade). The first reassessments at grade 8 are scheduled to start as of 2012, at grade 4 as of 2013. The periodic reappraisal of the standards both guarantees and optimises the quality of classroom work, and provides feedback for teachers on the learning outcomes of pupils/students.

Introduction of a standardised, competence-oriented Reifeprüfung (matriculation examination) The new matriculation examination, which will be launched for academic secondary schools in the academic year 2013/14 and for the vocational and technical schools in the following year, consists of three pillars: standardised written examinations, compulsory pre-scientific paper and oral examinations. Standardised written examinations: all students in Austria take these standardised competence-oriented written examinations at the same time. Examinations in German, mathematics (taking account of curricular differences), English and foreign languages (Italian, French, Spanish, Latin and Greek) are centrally defined. Teachers’ corrections and assessments are carried out locally at the school location in compliance with a set formula. The results are therefore comparable throughout Austria.

Quality assurance at schools The Quality in Schools (Q.I.S.) initiative was launched by the Federal Ministry for Education to promote school development and quality assurance within the respective schools. Individual schools are stimulated and encouraged to monitor, check and further develop their quality standards themselves. The concept centres around preparing and implementing a school programme, which contains a model policy and development plans (actual situation, targets, actions, evaluation) for the school’s specific projects. The background consists of four quality areas:

  • teaching and learning,
  • classroom and school as living environment,
  • school management,
  • school partnership and external relations,
  • professionalism and human resources development.

The initiative addresses all school types and highlights the importance of cooperation between teachers, pupils/students and parents. Internet:

The Quality Initiative for Vocational Education and Training (Qualitätsinitiative Berufsbildung, QIBB) is a further development, extending the concept to cover all levels of the education system ( In 2009 the first National Education report prepared by the Austrian Federal Institute for Education Research, Innovation and Development of the Austrian School System was published.


Information society

Some up-to-date information on this issue can be retrieved at Statistic Austria, a national agency which carries out regular survey on the use of ICT among householders and in enterprises in the country.

ICT in education initiatives

eFit Initiative

Between 2000 and 2006 the Ministry of Education took an initiative of consolidating and specifically funding the implementation of new media in education and culture with the eFit initiative. An important basis for eFit Austria was special funding by the federal government which financed significant improvements, particularly in the IT infrastructure for the education system. Under the auspices of eFit Austria, the Ministry has activated the enormous potential of those involved in the fields of education and culture and has helped to launch innovative ideas and projects. Numerous eFit targets, e.g. the comprehensive internet connectivity of Austrian schools, were achieved.

Future Learning

In 2007 the Ministry of Education launched the Futur( e)Learning initiative to support new forms of teaching and learning using ICT in education. Futur( e)Learning supports modern approaches to learning, moving away from the traditional teacher-centred classroom and promoting individual learning pathways. In order to allow schools to concentrate on pedagogy rather than technology, central services were provided, such as education portals, central services for learning platforms (Moodle, dotLRN, Ilias) and the collation and distribution of resources and software (both commercial and open source). The development of the “Edumoodle” programme, the central service to provide a free Moodle instance for all school locations, has shown that such offers are in great demand at the school locations. Successful ICT Projects already underway in schools served as the basis for Futur(e)Learning:

  • eContent Initiative

Subject oriented Portals Within the scope of the Austrian ICT policy, teaching/ learning software and eLearning materials are being developed specifically for teaching and are being offered not only via provider structures such as education servers in the federal provinces but also via independent subject servers and school servers (eContent clusters). Subject portals allow online access according to subject matter. As a result, it is important to involve all authors from publishing houses, school locations and education server editors among others and develop teaching materials for a wide range of subjects. The e-Content initiative (2007) aimed to supply approximately half the classes in Austrian schools with e-learning material in all subjects by the end of 2010. The Salzburg Research study (Salzburg 2006) on the use of e-Content materials established that approximately 20% of classrooms used e-learning resources (

  • Bildungspool Austria

The Ministry’s education portal ( offers a one-stop-shop for all eLearning activities within the framework of the Ministry and it will undergo further development to become an eContent clearing house which offers an interesting range of quality web-based educational contents for Austria’s teachers and pupils. A defined metadata specification is the base on whichthe distributed commercial and non-commercial content- servers are consolidated to form a logical eLearning Education Pool for all available elementary learning objects and resources. Metadata and permission rights are stored in the central repository.

  • Virtuelle Schule

Virtuelle Schule (Virtual school project) was initially established as an intermediary (interface) between Austria and the European Schoolnet (EUN). As part of this initial phase, pages of the Virtual School were set up nationally to present via the Internet an overview of the Austrian educational contribution and its involvement with ICT projects. Goals of ViS:AT:

  1. Further develop ViS:AT as a centre for interdisciplinary IT projects nationwide by disseminating information about EU initiatives and possible cooperation partners.
  2. That ViS:AT further contributes to e-content development and classification and takes an active and leading role in the development of the Austrian educational content pool.
  3. Continue ViS:AT role in collecting, developing and presenting quality IT applications in education. Part of this role will also see ViS:AT initiate and enable projects with a thematic focus. These projects are designed to show how interdisciplinary teaching with the use of ICT can be implemented in class as well as in open learning environments.

An video introducing to Virtuelle Schule can be found at

Virtual initiatives in schools

eLSA eLearning Project

ELSA eLearning Project – is a project launched by the Austrian Ministry of Education, Science and Culture to exemplarily test the nationwide introduction of e-learning and blended learning in secondary schools. the task of eLSA is, that all pupils in an eLSA-school in lower secondary education gain experience with eLearning in all subjects.

In 2002 eLSA started as a pilot project with nine schools, each located in one of the nine Austrian provinces. Teachers tried to implement E-teaching and E-Learning in the everyday teaching situation by offering the students E-learning sequences in very different and creative variations. Each of the participating schools established at least one core “eLSA class”. This class had the focus to implement eLearning in all subjects; teachers had to act as a teaching team. One of the objectives of eLSA pilot project (as well as ELSA II) consists of the teachers’ in-depth investigation of the learning platform (Blackboard in the pilot projects, different platforms in eLSA II as Moodle, WeLearn…) and the possible ways of using it in the everyday school routine (developing and testing e-learning teaching sequences).

eLSA Schools have an innovative reputation (seen by school partners, such as parents, school environment) and schools’ equipment is always up to date and there is a certain interest in a functioning infrastructure. This can be found among teachers and students. Teachers’ new media competence has grown considerably due to the project. Students appreciate new methods of learning, they are motivated and see their knowledge grow concerning new media as an important part of their future vocational development. eLearning benefits (such as being able to study whenever and wherever) are seen and accepted by students and teachers. eLSA supports collaboration in teams among teachers and strengthens students’ ability to study under their own responsibility.

see also and report on eLearning im Schulalltag (eLSA)

Virtual initiatives in post-secondary education

Lessons learnt

General lessons

Notable practices


  1. Eurydice, National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms, Austria, 2010
  2. Eurydice, Structures of Education and Training Systems in Europe, Austria, 2009/10
  3. Eurybase, The Information Database on Education Systems in Europe: The Education System in Austria, 2008/09
  4. EUN, Austria, Country Report on ICT in Education, 2009/2010

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