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Education in Austria
A Comprehensive Guide About the Education System and International Schools
Education and international schools in Austria are generally of a very high level so you can be confident that you or your children will enjoy an excellent learning opportunity in the Alpine country. There are several reasons to choose Austria as a place to study. For example, the quality of life in Austria is excellent, the culture is rich, and several Nobel Prize winners have come from the country, such as physicist Erwin Schroedinger. With examples like his to follow, it should be easy to find inspiration in one of Austria’s many excellent public and private schools.
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The best schools for higher education can be found in various cities around Austria, so no matter where you decide to live, you should have some good educational options within a reasonable distance. Likewise, if you have young children, you can find good kindergarten and primary education options in Austria. The Austrian government has invested hundreds of millions of euros into its childcare system in recent years.
In 2018, seven of Austria’s universities made it on to the QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) top universities in the world rankings, and later in this guide you can find out their names and why they are so highly-regarded.
The University of Vienna is the highest-ranked university in Austria, and it is home to approximately 95,000 students. There are so many reasons why Austria has the potential to be a great place to study, but for EU students, there is one big reason: they do not have to pay tuition fees!
Austria also has excellent international schools that welcome children of all ages. However, these schools can be expensive, so make sure to do your research and find the most suitable one before you commit.
The Education System in Austria
The education system in Austria will be familiar with many of you who have attended school in other European countries, especially Germany, as the public school system is very similar. Children from a very early age can be taken care of at Kinderkrippens (also known as daycare and childcare) and then they graduate to daycare centers, known as kindergartens. After this, they can move on to primary school (Volksschule), then lower secondary school.
At this point, children will be separated depending on if they show more aptitude for vocational or academic work. At 17, more academic children head to university, while some students have another year at a vocational college, before graduating to a more advanced course based on their future work goals. At this stage, around 18 years old, the more practically-minded students can take on an advanced college course at the same time as holding down a job.
Then, at around 23 years old, individuals can take on a PhD at university.
What is the Education System Like? Education Facts about Austria
- Nine years of compulsory education, including four years in elementary school (Volksschule) and four years in lower secondary education (Hauptschule/ Neue Mittelschule), or grammar school (Gymnasium).
- Typical primary and secondary school hours are between 8:00 and 14:00.
- About 95% of 3-6-year-olds attend childcare facilities.
What is the School Year in Austria?
The academic year in Austria generally starts in September and ends in July. While exact holiday times may vary from school to school and province to province, the Christmas and the New Year holiday usually falls between December 24 to January 6 and the winter holiday/Carnival lasts from February 5 to February 10. The Spring holiday (called “spring break” in some countries) goes from March 24 to April 3 and the summer holiday stretches from June 30 to September 2.
The Grading System in Austrian Schools Follows A 5-Point Grading Scale:
The Austrian grading system is opposite to what most expats may expect. In Austria, the higher the number, the worse the score. For example, in this country a student with a 1 is considered excellent, while a 3 still needs improvement.
The Austrian Grading Scale
Score 1: Very good (sehr gut): the best possible grade, which rewards outstanding performance, showing few weaknesses or errors.
Score 2: Good (gut): the second level, rewarded for above-average performance, despite some areas needing improvement.
Score 3: Satisfactory (befriedigend): work that is acceptable with some clear errors.
Score 4: Adequate (genügend): this is the lowest possible pass.
Score 5: Unsatisfactory (nicht genügend): a failing grade.
What are the School Systems Like?
After lower secondary education or grammar school, students either choose the vocational route or a more academic pathway. Those who want to continue with a more practical subject will go to a vocational school (Berufsschule) for three years. You can either do five days a week for a total of four months, or one day a week for around 12 months. After the three years are up, students must take a Lehrabschlussprüfung examination.
On the other hand, pupils who are more academically inclined can go to an institute of higher education (Höhere Schule) for four or five years. At the end of their education there, they must take the matriculation (Matura) exam to get in to university.
Alternatively, academic children who enjoy vocational work or want to move into a related industry, can go to a vocational school (Berufsbildende Höhere Schule) before moving on to university.
School Age System
|Age group||School type|
|0 to 6||Kinderkrippen|
|3 to 6||Kindergarten|
|6 to 10||Primary school|
|10 to 14||Junior high school or secondary school (Hauptschule or Cooperative Mittelschule)|
|14 to 15||Polytechnische Schule|
|15 to 18||Students prepare for higher education with vocational training or academic studies|
Main Differences Between Public and Private Schools
One of the obvious differences between public and private schools in Austria is that you usually have to pay to attend a private school whereas public schools are free. Do not think that money necessarily equals quality though; many public schools in Austria provide their pupils with an excellent education. Some may even argue that Austrian public schools offer a much better education than found in other major European countries.
One of the key features of public schools in Austria is the range of education options for students at all levels, which supports different needs. For example, the way secondary school is divided into academic and more vocational routes to give children equal opportunities. Some 82% of 15 to 19-year-olds in Austrian schools are enrolled in vocational pathways.
General compulsory schooling lasts until students are 15 years old, however, since the 2016/17 school year, all individuals are required to continue with some form of education or training.
In addition, Austrian employers help out with educating the country’s youngsters. They offer students opportunities to work with them and “learn while doing.”
Only around 8% of schools in Austria are private and many of them follow religious guidelines or they follow a particular educational system, which differs from the mainstream.
As mentioned, many private schools have religious roots, and most private primary and secondary schools in Austria are in fact managed by the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholic schools have a reputation for being more strict than other schools, but they are also known for their excellent academic standards.
In terms of universities, private institutions are rare, but have become more common in recent years.
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Daycare and Kindergarten
Is daycare, preschool, and kindergarten mandatory in Austria? In 2010, pre-school education became compulsory in Austria. Once children reach the age of six it is compulsory to attend school for nine years until they are approximately 15 years of age.
What Age Do You Start Kindergarten?
Children start kindergarten around three years old and usually attend until they are approximately six years old.
Daycare And Kindergarten Fees and School Costs
The Austrian government invested 442.5 million EUR (488.9 million USD) to expand childcare services from 2008 to 2018. It is generally the responsibility of the individual provinces to fund childcare in their area. So, the regional governments spent an additional 252.75 million EUR (279.25 million USD) on childcare.
Part-time daycare, for up to 20 hours a week, is completely free for five-year-olds in Austria. Otherwise, the only cost concerning public kindergartens is for food, and around 60 EUR (66 USD) per month. Private kindergartens cost around 250 EUR (276 USD) per month for full days.
This is how childcare subsidies work in different parts of Austria:
- Burgenland: reimbursement up to 45 EUR (50 USD) per month on parents’ fees (kinderkrippen) or up to 90 EUR (100 USD) for crèches.
- Carinthia: Some 66% of the average parental contributions for children up to six years old is subsidised; As of 2020/21 all-day care is free of charge for children up to six years old
- Lower and Upper Austria: part-time daycare is free of charge for children between two, five, and six years old
- Tyrol: part-time daycare is free of charge for children between four and six years old
- Vienna: all day care is free of charge for children under six years old
Attending preschool or kindergarten accounts for 20 hours a week of development time and occurs between the months of September and June, except during school holidays. In Austria, preschools do not tend to separate years into junior and senior kindergarten.
In contrast, the educational approach in Austria involves supplementary developmental facilities, such as Kindergruppen or children’s groups, where around five to ten children attend, and parents have the opportunity to offer a high degree of input compared to usual. Childminders and special needs education are also commonplace.
Primary and Secondary Schools
Primary school (or elementary school) in Austria is divided into three main stages:
- One-year long and caters to children who have reached compulsory school age but need more development before they start primary school.
- Primary School
- Starts on the 1st of September after the child’s sixth birthday. However, early admission is an option if they child is ready.
- Special Needs Education
- Tutoring by specially-trained teachers. These institutions prepare children for the next stage of education and additional forms of education.
Best Primary and Secondary Schools
- Carolinum Augusteum, Graz
- Jesuitengymnasium – Taubenkobel, Graz
- MEDIENHAK, Graz
- Berufsschule Linz
- Schul- und Gemeindehaus (Kleinmünchen)
- Akademisches Gymnasium
- Gymnasium Stubenbastei
- Camillo Sitte Lehranstalt
Secondary School & High Schools
The are no school costs involved to attend secondary schools in Austria. Secondary school is separated into lower and upper stages, and it is divided to cater to children with different educational needs and interests.
Students can go to a New Secondary School, an Academic Secondary School, or a Special Needs Education school. This is how they differ:
- New Secondary School: at a school like this, individualization for students is a key characteristic. Moreover, all-day education is an option here.
- Academic Secondary School (lower cycle): to attend, you need to show aptitude for academic secondary school.
- Special Needs Education: this type of schooling offers tutoring from specially-trained teachers. The goal of this type of development is to prepare children for the next stage of education and additional forms of education.
In Austria, the second stage of secondary school is divided into several different layers so as to provide for students with different needs and goals. The different pathways students can take are:
- Integrative Education
- Pre-Vocational Year
- Pre-Vocational School
- Part-Time Vocational School and Apprenticeship
- School for Intermediate Vocational Education
- College for Higher Vocational Education
- Academic Secondary School Upper Cycle
When comparing schools in Austria, international schools can be very expensive. However, they generally offer excellent teaching and positive environments in which to learn and develop.
There are many British schools or English-speaking schools in Austria, and you can easily find German-speaking schools as German is the local language. There are even French schools or lycées, as they are often called.
Even Austrian parents consider enrolling their children in foreign-speaking international schools, to give their child’s language skills a boost, and give them a different perspective on education and the world itself.
International schools tend to focus on certain cultural values that you might not see so much in regular public schools. For example, themes, such as nurture, inclusion, challenges, and respect are fundamental aspects of The American International School’s vision.
International schools offer a wide array of subjects to study. Vienna International School (VIS) offers a diverse curriculum, with numerous taught languages, including Swedish, Russian, Indonesian, and Portuguese. At VIS, you can also learn Theatre, Computer Science, and Visual Arts, among other subjects.
International School Tuition Fees
Fees can range from 5,000 to 40,000 EUR (5,500 to 44,000 USD) per year just for standard Monday to Friday classes. However, if you would like to board your child, costs can reach 60,000 EUR (66,000 USD) or higher.
International School Requirements and Admission
As most international schools are private and have the freedom to set their own entry requirements, admission expectations will vary depending on the school. For example, take a look at how some Austrian international schools admit pupils.
Some schools in Austria have different requirements, or “statutes”, that help them divide children into different priority groups, which gives the children either a better or worse chance of being accepted.
Examples of different priority groups schools use are:
- Children of officials working for international organizations in Austria, which are specified by the Austrian Foreign Ministry. Also included are children of members of a diplomatic or consular service, regardless of their nationality.
- Children who are not Austrian citizens but whose parents are employed in the international business sector.
- Other children.
After using these groups to divide applicants, schools may use further criteria to rank prospective students. This includes: children whose parents have lived and worked for at least two years abroad within the last five years while their children attended an English language school.
Also taken into account are children whose parents can show that they plan to move to a non-German speaking country in the next two years. In addition, children who are not native German speakers, or were born outside of Austria, or whose parents have different nationalities are given priority.
After that, children whose parents can show for another reason that they have a specific need for their child to have an international education in the English language are given priority.
For “other children,” the above criteria are also used, however, it is only to help the admissions coordinator assess children, and each criterion is not given a different importance.
Nevertheless, other children will be given priority if they are applying to re-enter the school (no more than two years after leaving) or if they have siblings already at the school. After these criteria, the date of the application is also taken into consideration.
Best International Schools in Austria
Danube International School (DANUBE)
Annual Tuition Fees: 9,600 to 17,300 EUR (10,600 to 19,200 USD)
Vienna International School (VIS)
Annual Tuition Fees: 8,904 to 1,598 EUR (9,900 to 1,770 USD)
Vienna Elementary School (VES)
Annual Tuition Fees: 6,830 EUR (7,600 USD)
Graz International Bilingual School (GIBS)
Annual Tuition Fees: Inquire at school
Bilingual Primary School (BIPS)
Annual Tuition Fees: Inquire at school
St Gilgen International School (ISGILG)
Annual Tuition Fees: Day only: 33,500 to 42,500 EUR (37,100 to 47,000 USD), Boarding 54,500 to 63,500 EUR (60,400 to 70,300 USD)
COLE International School
Annual Tuition Fees: Approx. 5,300 EUR per year (5,900 USD)
Lycée Français de Vienne (LFV)
Annual Tuition Fees: 5,196 to 7,707 EUR (5,800 to 8,500 USD)
Religion-Based Schools (Christian and Catholic Schools)
International Christian School of Vienna
Annual Tuition Rates: Inquire at school
Mayflower Christian Academy
Annual Tuition Fees: 7,200 EUR (8,000 USD)
British and American (English Language) Schools
American International School Salzburg (SALZBU)
Annual Tuition Fees: Day only: 15,120 to 17,680 EUR (16,750 to 19,590 USD); Boarding 26,500 to 30,500 EUR (29,380 USD to 33,800 USD)
American International School Vienna (AISV)
Annual Tuition Fees: 9,714 to 17,767 EUR (10,760 to 19,682 USD)
Linz International School Auhof
Annual Tuition Fees: 500 to 2,400 EUR (554 to 2,660 USD)
Choosing the best universities in Austria is not as simple as looking at university rankings. There is a wide range of higher education centers across the country, and many of them specialize in different subjects. You can find fantastic technology universities, excellent centers for studying medicine, as well as superb locations for studying law.
Best Universities for International Students in Austria
- University of Vienna:
One of the most prestigious education centers in Austria, the University of Vienna has around 200 undergraduate and postgraduate programs that international students can take part in.
- Medical University of Graz:
As this is one of the best universities in the country to study medicine, it is ideal for expats wanting to become a doctor, nurse, or other health scientist. The university prides itself on thinking of innovative teaching concepts, practical teaching in small groups, and creating new ways of instructing and learning.
- Medical University of Vienna:
This is one of the most iconic medical universities in the world and has a partnership with the University of Vienna. It has access to over 30 hospitals and clinical centers, where medical students can learn and develop. The only undergraduate degrees on offer are in medicine and dentistry. All other programs are aimed at postgraduates.
- Vienna University of Technology:
This technology university focuses on research. One of their taglines that they identify with is, “A university for all.”
The university has even signed a ‘diversity strategy’ and plans to promote women and equal opportunities for all.
- University of Innsbruck:
This institution has an illustrious past and has seen some of its former professors and students earn Nobel prizes. However, students from third countries have to pay around 730 EUR (800 USD) per semester, which is about 360 EUR (400 USD) more than EU and EEA nationals have to pay. Currently, the university’s main research areas are: Alpine Space – Man and Environment, Cultural Encounters – Cultural Conflicts, Molecular Biosciences, Physics, and Scientific Computing.
- Graz University of Technology:
One of the country’s leading universities for computer science and engineering, it also has strong courses for science and math students. Some of the university’s nine key objectives include: having a high proportion of women and diversity at all levels, strong entrepreneurial thinking, and excellent teaching.
- Johannes Kepler University Linz
This university prides itself in having a close-knit campus where students are given more attention than in other institutions. Students from more than 100 countries study here. The university offers degree programs in: Medicine, Natural Sciences, Engineering, Education, Social Sciences, Business, and Law.
The Best 5 Universities in Austria for All Students
- University of Vienna
- Medical University of Vienna
- University of Innsbruck
- Vienna University of Technology
- Medical University of Innsbruck
University Tuition Fees Austria
If you are from an EU country and you want to study in Austria, it might not come as a surprise that you will face a more attractive situation regarding university fees in Austria than students from outside of the EU.
How Much Does It Cost to Study in Austria For International Students
Public universities are generally cheaper than private universities. In fact, for the most part, public universities in Austria are free to attend for students from European Union countries. You just have to pay approximately 18 EUR (20 USD) per semester in student union and student insurance fees.
For non-EU students, the payment situation is different. They have to pay around 1,450 EUR (1,600 USD) per year in tuition fees at public institutions.
There are exceptions to these rules though. For example, the University of Vienna charges everyone tuition fees for certain postgraduate courses, such as Law and International Relations.
Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS)
It is a different situation at UAS institutions. They individually decide if they will charge tuition fees. At the time of writing, 17 of the 20 UAS in Austria ask EU students to pay around 360 EUR (400 USD) per semester, plus student union and student insurance fees.
For private universities, it is a totally different matter regarding tuition fees. EU and non-EU students can expect to pay anything from 1,000 to 40,000 EUR per year (1,100 to 44,000 USD).
Tuition Free Universities in Austria
If you are from an EU or EEA country and are specifically looking for universities that do not demand you pay tuition fees, the following institutions could be perfect for you:
- WU (Vienna University of Economics and Business)
- Johannes Kepler University Linz
- University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria
- FH Joanneum University of Applied Sciences
Average Annual Tuition Fees for the Top Universities
- University of Vienna: 1,500 to 11,000 EUR (1,655 to 12,100 USD)
- Vienna University of Technology: 1,500 EUR (1,655 USD)
- University of Innsbruck: 1,450 EUR (1,600 USD)
- Graz University of Technology: 1,450 EUR (1,600 USD)
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Because there is a large expat community in Austria, there are many schools where the main language of instruction is in English or another foreign language. This might be great news if you are hoping to find compatriots in Austria as it could make getting to know people easier.
However, you should learn German if you want to really feel at home. For instance, you might find that advancing in a career in Austria, or even getting a job at all, will be more difficult if you do not have a good level of German. Thus, those planning on staying in Austria for a while would do well to learn the language.
Here are some of the best language schools in Austria:
- Innes Institute, Vienna
- ActiLingua Academy, Vienna
- InLingua, Salzburg
- Sprachenzentrum Universität, Innsbruck
- Universität Klagenfurt, Carinthia
- Deutsch in Österreich, Carinthia
- Sprachinstitut UNA e.U, Linz
Language School Fees
Expect language classes to cost at least 250 EUR (276 USD) for 25 hours over approximately 11 weeks and cost as much as 3,000 EUR (3,300 USD) for a long-term intensive course over a year.
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