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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Bilateral agreements and worldwide cooperation


13.Mobility and internationalisation

13.7Bilateral agreements and worldwide cooperation

Last update: 12 October 2022

Bilateral agreements

In addition to European cooperation, the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) attaches great importance to cooperation with countries and regions outside the EU, but also outside Europe. This should lead to new perspectives, strengthen Austria’s position as a location for education, science and research, and contribute to solving global societal challenges.

To promote this cooperation, BMBWF is implementing numerous cooperation programmes and initiatives with countries and regions of strategic relevance for Austria and Europe. The strategic relevance results, among other things, from the geopolitical conditions, the thematic priorities in education, science and research as well as the historical context of the cooperation activities. BMBWF creates and supports framework conditions and platforms that enable successful cooperation between and with the actors in the countries concerned. Overall, international cooperation in the fields of education, science and research makes important contributions to the promotion of the EU integration process and the EU neighbourhood policy, to development cooperation and in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. 

Educational cooperation

Western Balkans

At the school level, since the 1990s BMBWF has focused on educational cooperation with the countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, especially in the Western Balkans. This region is of central interest to Austria and the EU due to foreign, economic, security and development policy priorities (cf. also 13.1).

This cooperation takes place in particular in the form of strategic networking and regional cooperation. Visits at the political level, an intensive exchange of experience by experts, institutional partnerships and joint projects provide valuable impulses for the education systems of the participating countries.

Within the framework of the so-called “Berlin Process”, which was initiated in 2014 with the aim of improving relations among the states of the Western Balkans and affirming the EU perspective of the countries, the “Western Balkan Alliance for Work-Based Learning” (WBA4WBL) was founded in 2016 on the initiative of Austria. The aim of this initiative is to promote regional dialogue between politics, VET institutions, private sector actors and civil society. The focus is on cooperations for the introduction of dual training programmes and other forms of in-company learning.

Intergovernmental agreements

Educational cooperation (e.g. with the Western Balkans) is supported by intergovernmental agreements in the form of cultural agreements or memoranda of understanding. While memoranda are often signed by the respective ministers on the occasion of high-ranking visits as a political declaration of cooperation, cultural agreements are state treaties that must be approved by the National Council and for whose negotiation the Federal President must have power of attorney. In the course of such cultural agreements, BMBWF is responsible for negotiating the topics of education and science and for their implementation within the framework of work programmes. Austria currently (as of 2022) has cultural agreements with 32 countries. Declarations of intent have been concluded with many more. An overview of all cooperations and agreements concluded by the BMBWF is provided by the Ministry's Bilateral Database

Teaching and learning about National Socialism and the Holocaust

International cooperation is also an essential prerequisite for a transnational remembrance policy that promotes learning and teaching about National Socialism and the Holocaust as well as the fight against anti-Semitism and other phenomena of social exclusion.

The “” programme, which was set up in 2000 and has been administered by the Agency for Education and Internationalisation (OeAD) since the beginning of 2022, plays a major role here. This programme promotes the transfer of historical and methodological-didactic knowledge as well as reflection on its significance for the present. The work takes place at the national level in the form of training events, lectures by contemporary witnesses, exhibitions, learning videos and learning materials, etc. On an international level, the programme enables teachers to participate in seminars in Israel, which are organised in cooperation with the International School for Holocaust Studies at the Israeli memorial site Yad Vasem. These offer the opportunity to familiarise oneself with the latest research findings and to engage with the Israeli narrative of the Holocaust. After completing the seminar, the participants become active as multipliers and pass on the acquired knowledge in their working environment.

International networking and the resulting co-operations are of particular importance. “” is a partner in many international projects and cooperates with various institutions and organisations worldwide (e.g. Mémorial de la Shoah/Paris, USC Shoah Foundation Institute/Los Angeles, Association of Holocaust Organizations (AHO) USA, OSCE/ODIHR, International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), Council of Europe, Anne Frank House/Amsterdam, UNESCO). 

Research cooperation

At the higher education level, BMBWF offers the higher education institutions numerous instruments and measures to expand international research cooperation and thus strengthen their position in the global research area. 

Contracts and agreements


International contracts and agreements are concluded to promote research cooperation with partner countries that are important for Austria. On the one hand, these form the basis for bilateral cooperation programmes with globally leading RTI nations (research, technology, innovation) in order to further develop the excellence of the Austrian research and innovation system. On the other hand, they also offer the opportunity to establish long-term cooperative relationships with less developed countries in order to support local capacity building in science and research and to reduce the outflow of qualified personnel. 

Central, South-Eastern and Eastern Europe

Due to the great importance of the Central, South-Eastern and Eastern European region for Austria, BMBWF has been implementing a large number of initiatives, programmes and projects to expand cross-border research cooperation since the 1990s. In recent years, numerous state treaties and agreements have been concluded with partner ministries in these countries, especially with the Western Balkan countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia and Serbia), which form the basis for bilateral cooperation projects.

In addition, BMBWF participates in relevant multilateral strategic network projects in the EU Research Framework Programmes and participates in the research policy dialogues and initiatives of the EU with the region, such as the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, the “Western Balkans Steering Platform on Research and Innovation” or the “Eastern Partnership Panel on Research & Innovation”. 

North and South America

Research cooperation with North America mainly takes place directly between Austrian and North American research institutions. To support the further expansion of cooperation and the strategic internationalisation of Austrian higher education and research institutions, BMBWF and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been operating an Office of Science and Technology Austria (OSTA) in Washington, D.C. since 2001. This office organises the annual Austrian Research and Innovation Talk (ARIT) as a central networking event for Austrian researchers in North America. The ARIT is funded by BMBWF together with the Council for Research and Technology Development. It also provides the framework for the annual presentation of the ASciNA Awards by BMBWF for excellent research achievements by Austrian young researchers in North America.

Furthermore, BMBWF participates in the initiative of the “EU-LAC Interest Group” (EU-Latin America and Carribean) for the joint funding of multinational research projects with European and Latin American/Caribbean funding institutions. The funding of travel, accommodation and material costs enables Austrian researchers to participate in multilateral research projects in the entire Latin American region. Participation in the EU-LAC Call 2022 took place in cooperation with OeAD


Due to the enormous development dynamics in some Asian countries in research, technology and innovation, BMBWF is carrying out priority measures with selected countries and regions in Asia on a bilateral and multilateral level:

  • China: BMBWF attaches great importance to cooperation with China in the field of science and research. In addition to a large number of direct cooperation relationships between Austrian and Chinese universities and research institutions, such as the Academies of Sciences and Humanities, BMBWF is implementing a bilateral funding programme with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of the People's Republic of China within the framework of bilateral scientific and technological cooperation (STC) to further stimulate research cooperation (cf. chap. 13.2), which is handled by the Agency for Education and Internationalisation (OeAD). In addition, BMBWF, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, operates an OSTA at the Austrian Embassy in Beijing. The OSTA Beijing, in cooperation with the OeAD Cooperation Office in Shanghai, supports the expansion of cooperation in education, science, research and technology between China and Austria and the internationalisation of Austrian higher education and research institutions through local know-how and high-ranking local contacts.
  • South Korea: South Korea is one of the world’s leading nations in the field of research and innovation. In order to further promote cooperation between Austrian and South Korean research institutions through a bilateral cooperation programme, BMBWF concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT in February 2019. Within this MoU, Austrian and Korean researchers fundings are provided for travel and accommodation expenses as well as material costs for the implementation of bilateral research projects.
  • India: Due to the increasing importance of Indian institutions in the field of science and research, BMBWF is taking strategic measures to intensify bilateral and multilateral research cooperation with this country. In order to make it easier for Austrian researchers to establish contacts and project partnerships with Indian research institutions, a bilateral scientific and technical agreement between Austria and India was signed in 2007. Within the framework of this agreement, joint research priorities are defined in multi-year work programmes and calls for bilateral research projects are carried out.
  • Vietnam: On the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), BMBWF and the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) regularly invite tenders for bilateral research projects in order to strengthen cooperation between Austrian and Vietnamese research teams and, in particular, to offer young researchers the opportunity to establish international contacts and build networks. 


Since 2013, BMBWF has been continuously expanding its cooperation with African countries in science and research. On the one hand, bilateral and multilateral cooperation projects with leading African countries in the field of research, technology and innovation (e.g. South Africa) are supported, and on the other hand, capacity development and know-how transfermeasures are carried out with countries that have few resources in science and research. The aim is to support the solution of local problems in these countries and to contribute to reducing the brain drain from Africa.

In addition to implementing programmes to support bilateral research projects (S&T Cooperation, cf. 13.5) and participating in multilateral EU initiatives, BMBWF launched two new initiatives to support research cooperation with African researchers at the 2018 EU-Africa High Level Forum in Vienna: the “Cooperation in Development Research” programme (cf. 13.5) and the Austrian-African research network “Africa-UniNet”

Cooperation and participation in worldwide programmes and organisations

Internationalisation also takes place through participation in international organisations: 

Cooperation with the OECD

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which has its headquarters in Paris, promotes economic policy cooperation among its member states from Europe, North and South America and the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, it deals with a variety of policy areas that are closely related to economic development, including educational policy. In particular, it aims to support member countries in improving the performance of their education systems through qualitative (comparative policy analyses and recommendations) and quantitative studies (international statistical surveys).

The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) is represented in a number of OECD committees and working groups, including the

  • Education Policy Committee,
  • Steering Committee of CERI (Centre for Educational Research and Innovation),
  • Steering Committee of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment),
  • Steering Committee of TALIS (Teaching and Learning International Study).

Austria additionally takes part in the following OECD educational programmes/international comparative studies:

Cooperation with UNESCO

The aim of the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), one of 17 legally independent specialised agencies of the United Nations, is to contribute to the maintenance of peace and security by promoting cooperation between nations in education, science and culture. After Austria joined UNESCO in 1948, the Austrian Commission for UNESCO (ÖUK) was established as the national coordination and liaison body. Its task is to advise the government and other competent bodies on the realisation of UNESCO’s goals in Austria, to cooperate in the implementation of UNESCO programmes, to inform the public about UNESCO’s work and to bring institutions, professional organisations and experts into contact with the organisation.

Austria participates in various UNESCO activities in the fields of education and science: 

Education 2030 Agenda

In September 2015, the United Nations adopted the sustainability agenda “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” . With this, all 193 member states committed themselves to implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mentioned in the Agenda as an integral part of sustainable development by the year 2030.

Goal 4 of the Agenda, which aims to ensure inclusive, equitable and quality education for all and to promote lifelong learning opportunities by 2030, is the basis for the global education agenda for the years 2016 to 2030.

The online platform Education 2030 was set up to support teachers and learners in dealing with sustainable and globally just development in the sense of the Education 2030 Agenda. This platform, financed by the Austrian Development Cooperation and the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, is aimed at all elementary teachers, teachers at higher education institutions and multipliers in non-school and adult education. It bundles information on the topics of the 2030 Agenda and provides suggestions on how global challenges can be addressed in different teaching and learning situations for all age groups. In addition, it provides offers and materials for schools as well as for other places of learning and offers an overview of current training and further education for multipliers in educational work. 

UNESCO Schools

The UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) is a network of over 11,500 educational institutions in 182 countries around the world, founded in 1953. These institutions have agreed to implement the goals of UNESCO in their work.

In Austria, 96 schools, covering primary schools and secondary schools, VET and general education schools, and well as university colleges of teacher training, are currently part of this network. UNESCO schools have a model character: learning is understood as an action-oriented process at these schools. Interdisciplinary, intercultural cooperation and a high degree of teamwork are cultivated in everyday school life. Thematic focal points such as Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), human rights and gender equality, peace education (Global Citizenship Education, cf. also 13.1), interculturality and tolerance, biodiversity and climate change occupy a central position in the classroom. 

Focus on Global Citizenship Education

Global Citizenship Education is a strategic priority within the Education 2030 Agenda. This involves – in addition to the acquisition of knowledge – the development of values, skills and attitudes based on equality, respect and dialogue, and those competencies that are essential for actively shaping a more peaceful, inclusive and just society at the global level. BMBWF is linked with education and foreign ministries throughout Europe in the Global Education Network Europe (GENE). GENE has set itself the goal of offering all people in Europe access to high-quality global learning (cf. also 13.4). 

UNESCO Chairs in Austria

In 1992, the UNESCO Chairs Programme was created to support and consolidate UNESCO’s concerns in higher education. It promotes research, training and development of higher education institutions through the creation of university networks and inter-university, cross-border cooperation. Today, more than 700 institutions worldwide belong to the programme. There are currently ten UNESCO Chairs in Austria

L'Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science

Launched in 1998, “For Women in Science” initiative is a collaboration between the cosmetics company L'Oréal and UNESCO. The aim is to honour internationally leading women researchers and to support young women researchers with scholarships. This cooperation is also continued on a national level. Every year, four scholarships, financed by L'Oréal and BMBWF, are awarded to young, highly qualified female basic researchers in the fields of medicine, natural sciences or mathematics. 

Cooperation with the Council of Europe

The Council of Europe is an international organisation based in Strasbourg, France. It was founded in 1949 as the first major European post-war organisation and is primarily concerned with the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Council of Europe also supports the member states in educational policy.

Austria has been involved in the Council of Europe from the very beginning. It was and is particularly active in the fields of human rights, culture and education, social affairs (children's rights, women's rights, freedom from violence).

In the field of education, the Council of Europe is active with the following initiatives: 

European Centre for Modern Languages

The Council of Europe sees language education as the key to meeting the challenges of a multinational and multicultural society, to strengthening social cohesion and as the basis for economic growth and the further development of democratic civil society. Therefore, the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) was founded in 1994 as an extended partial agreement of the Council of Europe with more than 30 member states and headquarters in Graz. The aim of the ECML is to promote excellent and innovative language teaching and to support the member states in implementing effective measures to improve language education.

Charter for Civic and Human Rights Education

Adopted in 2010 by 47 member states, this Charter is an important reference for the work of the Council of Europe itself and other organisations at European and international level. It affirms that citizenship and human rights education should enable students to play an active role in a democratic society. At Austrian schools, citizenship education is anchored in various ways (cf. 13.4), among others as a teaching principle. The basis for this is a basic decree, which, in addition to Austrian standards, also refers to the Council of Europe Charter

Reference framework

The Council of Europe is responsible for two reference frameworks which are also of great importance in the Austrian education system:

  • The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) was developed by the Council of Europe in the 1990s and published for the first time in 2001. It is an international standard for describing language ability. It does so on a six-point scale, from A1 for beginners, up to C2 for those who have mastered a language. The level descriptors take into account the four skills of reading, listening, writing and speaking. The framework provides a common basis for the development of curricula, teaching materials and language tests. It pursues the language policy goal of promoting multilingualism.
  • Work on the Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture (RFCDC) began in 2013. This framework is a reference document which, based on the values of the Council of Europe (human rights, democracy, rule of law), provides schools with a pedagogical model for shaping and implementing a democratic and participatory learning and living culture. The reference framework consists of 20 competences (knowledge, attitude, skills, values), which are described in detail and underpinned by 135 key descriptors.