- The Basic Law on the General Rights of Nationals 1867 (StGG) and the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms including the first protocol, govern fundamental rights of individuals in education, such as human rights, equality, and the freedom of science and its teaching (StGG Article 17).
- Provisions from the State Treaty of St. Germain (1919) and the State Treaty of Vienna (1955) mainly concern the rights of linguistic minorities (ethnic groups) for education.
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) (Kindergartens and crèches)
Principles on how to educate children at kindergarten are laid down in the respective provincial kindergarten acts. In general they aim to promote children as whole human beings, without any performance pressure. Further educational objectives include contributing to the children’s readiness for school by promoting their social, emotional, motor, linguistic and cognitive development. The basis of the education sectors is provided by the ‘cross-provincial education framework plan’ developed by all provinces together in 2009.
Kindergartens are largely financed by the municipalities (cf. chapter 3.1.). To cover the high demand for childcare facilities, since 2008 the Federal Government, via so-called “start-up funding”, has been increasingly financing institutional, elementary childhood education and childcare (agreements pursuant Art. § 15a of the Federal Constitutional Law: (Start and financing 2008-2010); (financing 2022/23-2026/27)).
Article 14 of the Austrian Federal Constitutional Law describes the basic values of school-based education in Austria.
These are democracy, humanity, solidarity, peace and justice and also openness and tolerance towards everyone regardless of race, social status and financial background. Young people need to be encouraged to be open-minded towards other people and other ideas and become able to participate in cultural and economic life in Austria, Europe and the world. Pupils, parents and teachers need to work together as partners.
According to the School Organisation Act of 25 July 1962 “it shall be the task of the Austrian school to foster the development of the talents and potential abilities of young persons in accordance with ethical, religious and social values and the appreciation of that which is true, good and beautiful, by giving them an education corresponding to their respective courses of studies. It shall give young people the knowledge and skills required for their future lives and occupations and train them to acquire knowledge on their own initiative”.
In the classroom the following educational principles (2009 Fundamental Decree of the Federal Ministry of Education, Art and Culture) need to be taken into consideration:
- Creativity and interdisciplinarity
- Promotion of pupils in their entire personality (‘holistic education’, ‘holistic learning’)
- Teachers as promoters and supporters of pupils
- Use of digital technologies and promotion of media competence
The Austrian legal system guarantees general access to public schools without distinction of birth, gender, race, status, class, language or religion. Private sector schools, in contrast, may select pupils according to religion, language or gender, although such selection is rarely applied.
In Austria there are nine years of compulsory schooling (cf. chapter 2.3.). In order to improve the opportunities of young people in professional life, on 1 July 2016 the education and training obligation came into force for all young people until they reach the age of 18 (Compulsory Training Act - Education and Training up to 18 - APflG). It does not represent an extension of compulsory schooling because the young people can also choose a vocational education and training (VET) programme, e.g. apprenticeship training.
In Austria, vocational education and training is of very high importance. Around 75% of the young people in the 10th grade are in a VET programme (apprenticeship training and also school for intermediate vocational education and college for higher vocational education).
In Austria, higher education takes place at universities, private HEIs, universities of applied sciences and university colleges of teacher education. They are all under responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research.
To design the Austrian higher education area, in particular to promote cooperation between higher education establishments and to use resources efficiently, a joint higher education plan was developed in 2011. This higher education plan is used as the basis for the universities of applied sciences development and financing plan and the nationwide university development plan. A Higher Education Advisory Board supports the Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy in an advisory capacity. The Higher Education Advisory Board includes members of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and also representatives of the higher education establishments.
Access to a higher education establishment is basically granted by proving the higher education entrance qualification (e.g. in the form of a matriculation certificate, matriculation and diploma certificate, apprenticeship with the matriculation certificate scheme (Berufsreifeprüfung) or equivalent qualifications obtained abroad. For a bachelor’s programme at an university of applied sciences a relevant vocational qualification can also be recognised as an access requirement. For a number of study programmes there are also particular access requirements.
Tasks, organisation and also rights and obligations of public universities are regulated in the Federal Act on the Organisation of Universities and their Studies or Universities Act 2002 (UG 2002). The organisation of private HEIs is stipulated in the Private Higher Education Act (PrivHG).
Universities have the task of pursuing academic research and teaching and therefore contributing to solving problems of the human race and to developing society and the environment. They are free to carry out their work as they choose here. The financing of public universities is regulated by a contract with the Federation (‘performance agreement’). The basis of this is provided by a development plan which has to be presented by each individual university. Private HEIs are not funded by the Federation but rather by private providers (cf. chapter 2.6).
Basically in Austria there is free access to universities. On account of the high number of applicants for certain subjects, e.g. human medicine, or to determine suitability (in particular for artistic programmes), there are entrance exams held in some study programmes (cf. chapter 7).
At public universities, students from EU or EEC countries basically pay no tuition fees for the respective regular study duration plus a tolerance period. All others pay a contribution of around EUR 700 per semester, but many special regulations apply here. Private HEIs can levy fees for their study programmes and determine the amount themselves. At the start of every academic year every student (including at universities of applied sciences and university colleges of teacher education) has to pay a compulsory small contribution to the Austrian National Union of Students.
Universities of applied sciences
The providers of universities of applied sciences study programmes are subject to the Universities of Applied Sciences Studies Act This stipulates that universities of applied sciences study programmes have to provide academically founded and practice-oriented vocational education and training at higher education level. Here they have to take academic schools of thought and methods into account, the principle of academic freedom applies.
Universities of applied sciences can be founded both by the Federation and also by legal persons under public law.
The Federation finances universities of applied sciences to some extent by means of study place financing. Other sources of funding can be the provinces, municipalities, representations of interests, companies or the provider (if this does not correspond with the mentioned bodies/establishments). Admission to universities of applied sciences study programmes is regulated by entrance exams, usually these comprise written applications, tests and entrance interviews. Universities of applied sciences are entitled to levy a tuition fee (EUR 360/semester) from all students.
University colleges of teacher education
University colleges of teacher education are based on the Federal Act on the Organisation of University Colleges of Teacher Education (HG 2005). According to international standards in research and teaching they provide teachers and people in pedagogical occupational fields with initial, in-service and continuing education and training and also advise and support educational institutions in their quality development. In certain areas they work together with universities here (cf. chapter 2.6).
The funding of university colleges of teacher education is negotiated between the respective rectorate and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (cf. chapter 3.2.).
Access to university colleges of teacher education is, like at public universities, basically free of charge for students from EU and EEC countries. All others pay a contribution of around EUR 360 per semester.
Adult education and training
The Federal Financing Act on the Funding of Adult Education and Public Libraries from Federal Funds from 1973 is, to date, the most important law in the area of adult education and training. This stipulates that the Federation funds non-profit adult education and training and also corresponding establishments in Austria. The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research is responsible for the execution.
Adult education and training is a broad field in Austria and ranges from the acquisition of qualifications by adults onto continuing vocational education and training and personal development. Adult education and training is part of lifelong learning and enables people to take up education processes (again) depending on their interests and needs over their entire lifespan. It is offered, for example, by institutional establishments (such as schools, universities), professional associations, Public Employment Service Austria, social partners, non-profit or religious organisations, and also commercial enterprises. Some of these – in particular the social partners and the Roman Catholic Church – run adult education and training establishments at municipal level. The ten biggest associations of non-profit adult education and training have joined forces to form the Austrian Conference of Adult Education Institutions (KEBÖ).
To coordinate adult education and training at provincial level, to develop strategies and exchange information and experiences, adult education and training establishments from all federal provinces and responsible departments of the provincial governments have joined forces to create the Provincial Continuing Education and Training Network.
The most significant applicable legislative acts and laws are:
- Federal Constitutional Law
- Early childhood education and care: Provincial Kindergarten Education Acts
- Schools: School Organisation Act, School Education Act, Private Schools Act, 2017 Education Reform Act
- Apprenticeship training: Vocational Education Act
- Higher education: Universities Act 2002; Universities of Applied Sciences Studies Act; Private Higher Education Act, Federal Act on the Organisation of University Colleges of Teacher Education and their Studies.
- Adult education and training: Federal Financing Act on the Funding of Adult Education and Public Libraries from Federal Funds.