Education in Austria


  1. Key Country Statistics
  2. General Information and Key Indicators Relevant to Education
  3. Major Government Actors within the Educational System
  4. Education in Action: A Brief on Educational Projects

Accurate as of April 2013; unless indicated otherwise, the websites are all in English. Acknowledgement: Caroline Schmidt.


Key Country Statistics

Key statistics for Austria relevant to education are as follows:

  • Population: 8.47 million
  • Human Development Index: World ranking = 19th

Source: Eurypedia

Structure of the Educational System

A specific feature of the Austrian educational system is the four-year system of primary/elementary education, which is followed by secondary education that itself is split into two four-year periods. The division is made according to UNESCO’s ISCED (International Standard Classification of Education) classification.

The Austrian education system is comprised of the following levels:

Elementary level:

The elementary level (ISCED 0) refers to the following childcare institutions: crèches, kindergartens, after-school care facilities and childrens’ groups and pre-school (for children too young for primary school).

Primary level:

Compulsory education in Austria starts at the age of 6 and lasts nine years. The primary level (ISCED 1) lasts four years. Schools of this level are primary/elementary schools as well as special needs schools and integrative/inclusive education in regular schools.

Secondary level:

  1. After completion of the 4-year primary level and secondary level I (ISCED 2), starts 5th to 8th form. Pupils can choose between the following types of schools (where different admission requirements are accounted for): primary school upper cycle (Volksschul-Oberstufe), lower secondary school (Hauptschule), new secondary school (Neue Mittelschule), lower academic level secondary school (AHS Unterstufe) as well as special needs schools and inclusive education.
  2. Secondary level I is followed by secondary level II (9thschool year) (ISCED 3 & 4), which provides the following options: “polytechnic” schools (= schools preparing pupils for an apprenticeship or job), vocational schools and apprenticeships (dual system), vocational secondary schools, vocational colleges (excluding the 4th and 5th forms), upper level grammar schools (higher secondary schools of general education) as well as the vocational preparatory year and integrative vocational education.

Non-university Tertiary level:

After having completed a general or vocational education one can pursue education in the non-university tertiary sector (ISCED 5B): schools for mastercraftsmen, foremen and construction trades, midwife colleges, medical-technical colleges, or an education in cardio-technical service.

Tertiary level (university)

After completion of a general or vocational education you can study at university. Traditionally, students were free to enroll at any (public) university and in any subject they wished to. Recently, restrictions in a number of fields have been introduced: Biology, Human Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, Pharmacology, Psychology, Journalism and Economic Sciences.

A complete list of all Austrian universities can be found here. Having completed a university degree you can continue your studies to obtain the highest possible degree (ISCED 6), which is the doctoral or PhD degree.

For more detail on studying in Austria, go to OEAD website and you can also find information on private universities on the University of Vienna website.

Information on tuition fees and admission requirements for Austrian universities can be found on the site of OEAD.

Lifelong learning or adult education and training:

The Austrian government places special emphasis on life long learning. For an extensive list of adult learning centers, please click here.

Sources: OeADEurypediaFederal Ministry of Science and ResearchFederal Ministry of Education, Arts and CultureUniversity of Vienna

Major Government Actors within the Educational System

Competence for legislation in education and its implementation is divided between the Federation (Bund) and the States (Länder). The Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture is amongst others in charge of education, training of teachers and maintenance of schools. While the Federal Ministry of Science and Research assumes the governance of the university system.

The States are mainly responsible for the provision of teaching staff at public compulsory schools. Moreover, they support the municipalities in the construction and maintenance of these schools via dedicated school construction funds, which they administer. Nursury school (Kindergarten) fall under the responsibility of the States. Schools enjoy some autonomy in budgetary management and, up to a point, are free to adapt the curriculum to local needs. For further information, see here.


Education in Action: A Brief on Educational Projects

For details on regional cooperation, please visit the K-Education website.

For information on projects run jointly between traditional state schools with private projects, please click on the Waldorf School website [German] or on the website of the Graz International Bilingual School (GIBS).

Another project of note, is the “Weisse Feder” [German], which aims at reducing violence against and amongst children. The project makes outreach activities in schools and gives a platform to young people to talk about violence. It is split-up into 12 sub-projects, which deal for example with cyber bullying, gender aspects and peer meditation.

In addition, the Austrian Research Agency is looking for young talents in R&D and is offering young students interesting internships and mentoring programmes amongst others.

SPIN (Spracheninnovationsnetzwerk) [German] is fostering projects on multilingual education throughout schools in Austria.

For further information on other relevant projects, please visit the website of the Austrian Ministry of Education [German].