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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Continuing professional development for academic staff working in higher education


9.Teachers and education staff

9.6Continuing professional development for academic staff working in higher education

Last update: 4 February 2024


Organisational aspects


According to the 2002 Universities Act (UG) and the collective agreement (KV) for employees at universities, these are obliged to ensure the development and continuing vocational education and training of their employees so that they can fulfil their tasks as well as possible in research and teaching. A specific number of hours is not determined here.

Via company agreements, i.e. written agreements between the employer – the university – and the works council, every university can provide more precise regulations for certain matters stipulated in collective agreements, for example:

  • Content and modalities for the conclusion of qualification agreements (cf. subchapter 9.4) and development agreements for certain personnel positions. These are based on the plans for the promotion of up-and-coming academics and personnel development, for which every university itself is responsible. Qualification and development agreements regularly also contain references to continuing education and training (CET/CPD) measures which have to be completed in order to fulfil these agreements.
  • Granting an entitlement for all employees, in each case after seven years of uninterrupted employment at the corresponding university, to be given leave for continuing education and training purposes (‘educational leave’) for a maximum period of two months in each case. This agreement must also include the goals of the CET.
  • Granting of subsidies for attending events which serve the purpose of teaching, research, development and other in-service training measures and whose attendance is explained by the tasks of the employee.

Personnel development – and therefore also CPD – is very important at universities [More]. All universities have personnel development and CET measures tailored to the needs of up-and-coming academics in order to develop their competences in terms of teaching and research. However, with these measures it is also possible to acquire qualifications which not only support a university career but also benefit those who are switching to a career outside the university. Universities generally have their own programme for people starting an academic career (e.g. UNISTART at the University of Graz a basic course, basic modules, etc.); for junior academic staff many universities offer coaching and mentoring programmes as well as career development programmes which, in some cases, are also aimed at specific target groups such as postdocs for fixed-term positions or women.

Most universities offer didactic training programmes which, in particular, target up-and-coming academics and the development of their didactic qualifications (teaching competence). At some universities there are designated organisational units or centres for teaching competence (e.g. at the University of Graz "Lehrcenter"). Around half of universities have e-teaching/e-learning centres which provide didactic support. Overall there are many different courses and CPD programmes on teaching competence topics, for example on teaching and learning scenarios, teaching and writing in English and intercultural competence, onto media treatment of online materials, writing, presentation and rhetoric skills and basic training programmes in didactics for teachers. In addition, public universities have committed themselves to take suitable measures in the performance agreements since 2016 to ensure the higher education didactics-related initial and continuing education and training of the university teachers and, with new appointments, to attach importance to corresponding qualifications.

Following the pandemic-related digitalization push at Austrian universities and higher education institutions, distance learning has become a key topic. The holistic, institutional digitalization strategies developed by all 22 public universities between 2019 and 2021 are being updated. In the current performance agreements for 2022 to 2024, the digitalization focus is on "new teaching and learning environments" and open science.

The distance learning study conducted by Danube University Krems on behalf of the BMBWF in 2021 comes to the evidence-based conclusion that distance learning only works if the teaching content is prepared in a media-didactic way and teachers are qualified in the use of media tools.

Events aimed at the continuing education and training of up-and-coming academics to improve their soft skills, social skills, teamwork and management development are a fixed component of the personnel development measures at universities. Here there are special offers aimed at the next generation of academic management, i.e. people with qualification agreements, which, in particular, are geared towards the areas of didactics training, management and leadership competence and often provide additional support with mentoring, coaching or networking forums. 

Universities of applied sciences

The Universities of Applied Sciences Act does not stipulate any specific regulations on the continuing education and training of teaching and research staff at universities of applied sciences (FHs). It contains only the obligation that the assessment results of courses by students must be used for quality assurance and for the pedagogical/didactic CET of the teachers. Since practice-oriented teaching at higher education level at FHs is of very high significance, the regular professional and didactic CPD of the teaching and research staff is important and is also funded and supported accordingly by the FH, however.

Most universities of applied sciences have established their own didactic continuing education programs to promote a good teaching and learning culture as well as for interdisciplinary networking among teaching staff.

For example, the "University Didactics Concept" of the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences provides a framework for external and internal lecturers to achieve the learning outcomes defined in the accredited applications of the respective degree programs. A university didactics further education program enables workshops in the four modules of key competencies, eDidactics, assessment & testing, supervision & coaching and can be completed with a certificate (with proof of at least 48 workshop units, an international learning experience, a reflection, a transfer to one's own teaching (portfolio) and a competence expansion in the area of gender & diversity. The "Didactics and Learning Technologies" service unit is responsible for the further development of teaching as part of the university didactics portfolio.

The Upper Austrian University of Applied Sciences has implemented a different concept with TOP (Teaching - Organization - Practice) Teaching - the Centre for University Teaching. It is a staff unit of the management of the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria and a cross-faculty institution and contact point with the holistic goal of "good teaching": This includes needs-based further education offers, internal and external interface work concerning university didactics as well as e-learning representatives of the faculties to support full-time and part-time lecturers at the Upper Austrian University of Applied Sciences. Practical implementation in the day-to-day work of course instructors is just as important as didactics for course instructors in the further development of degree programs. Since practice-oriented teaching at higher education level at universities of applied sciences is of very high significance, the regular professional and didactic CPD of the teaching and research staff is important and is also funded and supported accordingly by the FH. Across universities of applied sciences, the Committee on Personnel and Organisational Development of the Austrian Association of Universities of Applied Sciences also regularly provides CET offers on current topics (e.g. ‘From teaching to learning’) for employees in the FH sector. 

University colleges of teacher education

In the Act on the Organisation of University Colleges of Teacher Education there are also no specific regulations regarding the continuing education and training of teaching staff. However, the provisions of the employment law do contain further training obligations and a member of staff must maintain an appropriate professional level at all times. To assure the quality of the study programmes, however, the higher education committee has to take measures to regularly check courses. The results have to be used for the quality development of the PHs and also for the in-service training of the teaching staff. CET programmes are also offered in the area of PHs in particular on the topics of methodology and didactics. 

In the BMBWF's development plan for university colleges of teacher education 2021-2026, training and further education is also indirectly addressed in the strategic goal "Expansion of personnel development". Specifically, it mentions increasing the proportion of teaching staff with a doctorate, habilitation or qualification equivalent to a habilitation as well as university teaching staff with practical professional (teaching or management experience at a school) and academic qualifications. The increased qualification of university teachers for PH 1 positions is also explicitly formulated.

Private higher education institutes

In order to position themselves as attractive employers, private universities offer internal training programs for job-related tasks; personal training needs should be addressed to the personnel development department. Participation is (usually) voluntary and free of charge in consultation with the line manager. The continuing education portfolio of the SFU's continuing education academy, for example, includes methodological courses on media skills in teaching, professional planning of research studies, statistical analysis methods, learning analytics, etc. using the MOOC platform and the courses offered by Austrian universities available there.

Incentives for participation in continuing professional development (CPD) activities


Most universities increasingly make provisions for their academic staff and university teachers to take part in didactics courses regularly, and also in systematically structured training programmes. University teachers are free to take part in in-service training events in Austria and abroad. Universities often financially support the attendance of national and international meetings, conferences and training courses. At many universities, mobility measures are promoted via mobility programmes and mobility allowances and supported by offices for international relations or international offices. A number of universities also take account of quality assurance and quality management aspects. 

Universities of applied sciences, university colleges of teacher education and private higher education institutes

In universities of applied sciences and university colleges of teacher education there are no particular incentives for the continuing professional development of teachers. Depending on the agreement, the completion of courses is free of charge for the participants, however. In the case of applications for a professorship at university colleges of teacher education and applications in the area of research and teaching at universities of applied sciences, proof of completed CPD programmes is an advantage.

In 2021, the Austrian University Conference presented recommendations on digital teaching, learning and assessment at universities (across all university types). This has implications for teaching staff in terms of continuing education. The switch to distance learning at Austrian universities in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 measures has generated new experiences with digital teaching, learning and assessment with (lasting) added value for regular teaching. Teachers are encouraged to take advantage of further training opportunities to expand their digital teaching skills. University management is recommended to promote further training in media didactics for teaching staff and to strengthen students' media sovereignty. Furthermore, the development of cross-university cooperation with regard to teaching and learning systems as well as joint access to digital testing is encouraged.