The governance and administration of the entire education system is divided in Austria. Overall, three levels exist:
- federal/central level: Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research. For schools, on the basis of the 2017 Education Reform Act and the Board of Education Establishment Act the since 1.1.2019 established boards of education – a joint authority of the Federation and provinces – undertake certain tasks.
- provincial level (9 provinces and 9 boards of education)
- local level (municipalities)
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) (Kindergartens and crèches)
- At federal level the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research is responsible for designing ECEC policies and the training of ECEC teachers.
- The governments of the provinces are responsible for kindergarten and crèche laws. Separate departments have been created in the offices of the province governments.
- Municipalities, churches and other private providers are responsible for the establishment and maintenance of kindergartens and crèches. Almost 60% of child care facilities are public services.
The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research is the supreme executive authority in all matters pertaining to school education.
The Federal Minister of Education, Science and Research is the political head of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research. The ministry is organised as follows:
- Directorate-General - Administrative Issues; Digitalisation
- Directorate-General I – General and Vocational Education
- Directorate-General II – Personnel Development; Teacher Training Colleges; School Maintenance & Legal Formality
- Directorate-General III – Education Development and Monitoring
- Directorate-General IV - Higher Education
- Directorate-General V - Scientific Research; International Relations
Every directorate is led by a director general. Directors general are civil servants, not political appointees. They remain in office when ministers change. Austria has no politically appointed civil servants. Under the provisions of the Service Code, directors general may be appointed for a defined term.
Concerning schooling the Federal Ministry is responsible for legislation and execution (in some cases together with the newly established ‘board of education’) of all matters pertaining to
- The entire system of higher-level secondary general education (age 10-18, grades 5-12) and the entire system of intermediate and higher-level technical and vocational education (age 15-19; grades 9-13)
- Structural set-up of the educational authorities
- Private schools
- Teacher education and training
- Grants and funding
With the 2017 Education Reform Act there was a rearrangement with regard to the responsibilities for school administration. So far this has been carried out at regional level by regional boards of education. Since 1.1.2019 for the implementation of school legislation and the governance of the school sector there is one single authority, the board of education. It is a joint authority of the Federation and the provinces and ensures maximum transparency with standardised regulations for all provinces.
The board of education consists of an executive committee (responsible in particular for personnel administration and accounting) and also the pedagogical service (responsible for school supervision). The allocation of resources for schools is also carried out by the board of education according to legally defined criteria.
Maintenance of the buildings is supported by the provinces with financial grants (e.g. province school construction funds).
The board of education is headed by a director of board of education. When fulfilling his/her tasks, he/she is bound by the instructions of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research or the respective provincial government.
The Education Reform Act 2017 has also brought changes at regional/local level.
Below the provincial level, 31 educational regions were established. The number of educational regions in the federal provinces is between 1 and 7 regions, depending on the number of pupils and topographical conditions. The educational regions are set up as branch offices of the Boards of Education. Please see here.
Since the school year 2018/2019, schoolclusters can be formed at regional/local level. (cf. chapter 2.7.).
Tertiary education at public universities, universities of applied sciences and at private HEIs is regulated by federal law, although all of these are organised as autonomous self-governing bodies. Universities are subject to legal supervision by the Federal Minister of Education, Science and Research. The Minister’s supervision is complemented by additional legal supervision of university councils, which also monitor financial management. The supreme state authority in the field of tertiary education is the Federal Minister of Education, Science and Research (he or she is also the political head of the ministry). There is no provincial competence in this area.
Under the provisions of the Federal Ministries’ Act, the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research is responsible for matters concerning
- universities of applied sciences,
- the student representative bodies,
- study grants and scholarships,
- the promotion of the construction of student hostels,
- and for the promotion of research at universities.
The Universities Act 2002 gave universities a new legal basis which combines organisational and study law. The Act has transformed universities from federal institutions into legal persons under public law, removing them from the scope of federal administration (decentralisation effort) and introduced full legal capacity (autonomy).
Universities of applied sciences studies
Universities of applied sciences are governed by federal law according to the Universities of Applied Sciences Studies Act. Universities of applied sciences may be maintained by the Federal Government, other corporate bodies and by private legal entities. The Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria is the central organisation responsible for accreditation in the universities of applied sciences sector. It is responsible for accreditation and for developing quality assurance guidelines for this sector. The administration of universities of applied sciences lies with the legal entities providing these study programmes and has to be exercised in accordance with legal regulations and with guidelines issued by AQ Austria.
University colleges of teacher education
University colleges of teacher education are either public establishments maintained by the Federal Government or private institutions. The Federal Government maintains eight university colleges of teacher education plus the University College of Agrarian and Environmental Pedagogy; private organisations maintain five university colleges of teacher education. Public university colleges of teacher education are funded by the Federal Government on the basis of a performance and resource plan drawn up by the establishment itself (cf. chapter 3.2.).
With the Federal Act on the New Teacher Training Scheme from 2013, teacher training was reformed (cf. chapter 9) starting from the academic year 2015/16. The providers of the new teacher training programmes are the university colleges of teacher education and universities. To ensure the best possible training conditions and also use of resources, university colleges of teacher education and universities cooperate in secondary-level education and training (general education) and have joined forces in regional development alliances. There are four development alliances: West, Centre, Southeast and Northeast.
Adult education and training
Governance and administration in adult education and training is a federal responsibility of the Department for Adult Education within the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research. Offices affiliated to the provincial governments deal with adult education at regional level. The Adult Education Initiative launched in 2011 is a joint cooperation project by the provinces and the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research to promote the acquisition of basic qualifications by adults. Along with the Austrian LLL:2020 Strategy, various actions are carried out to improve and manage adult education and training (cf. chapter 8).