General and Organisational Terms
Compulsory schooling (compulsory school period) starts for all children on September, 1st following the child’s sixth birthday and comprises nine years. It applies to all children who live permanently in Austria, irrespective of their nationality.
Alternative compulsory subjects are elective subjects, affording students a choice of one out of several subjects proposed. The selected subject is then evaluated as a compulsory subject.
With the 2017 Education Reform Act there was a reorganisation of school administration at the provincial level. This was taken over by Boards of Education, a joint authority of the federation and provinces in the beginning of 2019.
All of Austria’s nine provinces have a Board of Education.
The Board of Education consists of an Administrative Department (Präsidialbereich; responsible in particular for personnel administration and accounting) and also a Pedagogical Department (Pädagogischer Dienst; responsible for school supervision and quality management). The allocation of resources for schools is also carried out by the Board of Education according to legally defined criteria.
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 services set up at the Boards of Education include the “School Psychological and Educational Counselling Service Unit”, which is available for all people and institutions involved in the school education process.
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, depending on the number of pupils and topographical conditions. The educational regions are set up as branch offices of the Boards of Education.
Clusters of schools can also be formed at local level.
Federation - that's the name of the whole confederal state.
Austria is a federal republic, which means that in addition to the nine federal states (provinces), there is the whole or common ground as a federal government.
The relationship between the federal and state (=provincial) governments is characterized by the concepts of centralism and federalism.
Austria is composed of the 9 federal provinces (Bundesländer) of Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tirol, Vorarlberg and Vienna.
The competent legislative bodies are the provincial governments. Responsibility for implementation rests with the office of the provincial government.
Duales System (ISCED 3)
The training of apprentices takes place at two separate and complementary places: at a company (apprenticeship contract) and at part-time vocational school. At the end of the apprenticeship period an apprenticeship-leave examination has to be taken.
Austria is divided into 9 provinces, 94 political districts and 2,093 municipalities (2022).
Education is funded by the federal, the provincial and the municipal level.
Many municipal associations are founded especially when concerning high investment and employment opportunities, in order to enable more efficient management. The municipal offices are under the leadership of the mayor. The municipal secretary takes care of the administrative leadership. Municipal responsibilities concern the creation of educational, social, environmental and cultural infrastructure.
At primary schools, compulsory secondary schools and special needs schools in each class is to install a "class forum" (= class conference) which discusses and partly decides on matters affecting the entire class. The class conference is made up of the parents of all pupils and of the class teacher.
The Austrian provinces are controlled by a provincial government which is accountable to the provincial diet (responsible for: provincial legislation says and monitoring) and carries out its administrative tasks with the help of an office of the provincial government.
In conformity with the constitutional allocation of responsibilities in education, the provinces are responsible
- for the provincial legislation – and implementation in the area of early childhood education and kindergartens and also parts of adult education;
- for the maintenance of compulsory schools, VET schools for agriculture and forestry and part-time vocational schools for apprentices in forestry and agriculture.
These tasks are carried out by the offices affiliated to the provincial governments. Normally, separate departments exist which operate under the provincial governor or a member of the provincial government. Almost all matters pertaining to the maintenance of general compulsory schools have been assigned by provincial legislation to the local communities, municipalities or municipal associations. In fulfilling the duties arising hereunder, they are supported by the province in question. The provinces themselves are in charge of maintaining establishments of vocational compulsory education and schools for agriculture and forestry.
In Austria, Parliament has two chambers. Jointly with the Federal Council the National Council is responsible for legislation at the federal level. As an organ directly elected by the people it also has important control functions. It scrutinises the work of the Government by various means, such as written or urgent questions, and it can withdraw its confidence from the entire Government or individual Government Members and thus force them to step down (description).
Private (non-public) schools are granted public-law status, provided that they meet certain requirements concerning the provider and educational achievements, if they carry an officially regulated designation and thus have an equivalent public-sector counterpart. Private schools enjoying public-law status are subject to the same statutory provisions as the corresponding public institutions. Certificates issued by these schools have the evidentiary value of public documents and the same legal effects as any certificates by similar public institutions.
Private schools which do not have a public-sector counterpart are called schools with an organisational charter (Organisationsstatut). In a charter, these schools lay down their own curriculum, their house rules and the required training of teachers at these schools. The charter is subject to official approval if public-law status is aspired to, which is to be granted to these schools under certain requirements.
The concept of school autonomy relates to educational contents, budgetary management and school legislation (in particular, school-autonomous thresholds for opening new classes or dividing classes, curricular provisions and issues concerning school periods) and implies a co-determination in the creation of the framework of teaching, learning and co-existence at the local school level. School autonomy is to enable a degree of plurality and local or regional independence through curricular autonomy, in due respect of the comparability of qualifications and entitlements.
Schools can choose between special focuses of the curriculum, develop their own school profile, and respond to economic and regional requirements.
Children who are mentally and physically capable of undergoing compulsory schooling are deemed fit for schooling (Schulfähigkeit). Pupils who are unfit for schooling must be exempted from school attendance as long as the unfitness persists.
The school conference decides on matters pertaining to school events, school-related events, career counselling at school, as well as health care and hygiene, which go beyond the level of the individual class. It further provides advice primarily on important issues in education and teaching. The school conferende is made up of the head teacher, the class teachers and the parents.
A "school community committee" (= school conference, Schulgemeinschaftsausschuss) is set up at pre-vocational schools (Polytechnische Schulen), part-time vocational schools (Berufsschulen) and medium and higher-level schools to promote and strengthen the school community. The school conference is made up of the headmaster (without a right to vote), as well as three representatives of teachers, pupils and parents each. The school conference decides on specific matters (similar to the school forum (= school conference, Schulforum) existing at primary schools, compulsory secondary schools and special needs schools), (e.g., school events lasting several days, the adoption of house rules, autonomous curricular provisions) and provides advice primarily on important issues in education and teaching.
The Senate is a university’s highest collegial body. It is the university’s central body of autonomy and primarily responsible for academic and artistic matters.
Children who are considered fit for schooling, but are unable to follow instruction without special educational assistance on account of physical or mental disability, must have a special educational need diagnosed (at the request of parents / guardians, the school head or ex officio). Children with special educational needs who are subject to compulsory schooling are entitled to comply with compulsory schooling by attending a special needs school or a primary school, compulsory secondary school or lower cycle of an academic secondary school, lower cycle that meets the special educational needs (as far as such schools exist and the route to/from school is reasonable).
The Study Commission is the highest collegial body of a university college of teacher education for academic matters.
An optional exercise (Unverbindliche Übung) is a class for which students must register at the beginning of the school year, but for which there is no assessment.
A compulsory exercise (Verbindliche Übung) is a class which all students of a schools must attend, unless they are exempted. Compulsory exercises are not assessed.
Vorschulstufe (ISCED 0)
The pre-school stage is part of primary level I of primary school. Children who have attained statutory school age but are not yet ready for school are admitted to the pre-school stage. Children whose early admission to primary school has been revoked may be registered to attend the pre-school stage.
(To enable readers to identify the main public and private institutions involved in the education system please see: Directory of institutions.)
Allgemein bildende höhere Schule (AHS; ISCED 2/3)
Allgemeinbildende höhere Schulen are academic secondary schools, they impart a comprehensive and in-depth general education, and lead to university entrance qualifications. The education culminates in a matriculation examination. Academic secondary schools consist of a lower and an upper cycle. They start after the fourth grade of primary school and cover eight years (grades 5 - 12). There are also academic secondary schools consisting only of an upper cycle. They start after grade 8 and cover four years (grades 9 to 12), a 1-year transitional grade may be set up.
Allgemein bildende Pflichtschule (ISCED 1/2/3)
Allgemeinbildende Pflichtschulen are general compulsory schools, covering primary schools, compulsory secondary schools (Mittelschulen), special needs schools, and pre-vocational schools (Polytechnische Schulen).
Berufsbildende höhere Schule (BHS; ISCED 3/5)
Colleges of higher vocational education and training (=Colleges of higher VET) start after grade 8 and cover 5 years (grades 9 - 13). They impart a higher-level general and vocational education and training which qualifies students to exercise a higher-level occupation in the fields of engineering, trade, arts and crafts, commerce, domestic science and others, and at the same time lead to university-entrance qualifications. This higher VET culminates in a matriculation and diploma examination.
Berufsbildende mittlere Schule (BMS; ISCED 3)
Schools of intermediate vocational education and training (=Schools of intermediate VET) start after grade 8 and cover one to four years, depending on the type (grades 9, 10, 11 and 12). They provide the students with the basic specialist knowledge and skills which qualify them to directly exercise an occupation in the fields of engineering, trade, arts and crafts, commerce or domestic science, or in any other business-related or social area. At the same time, they are to enhance and promote the students' general background in a way which is consistent with their future occupation. Education in most of these school types culminates in a final school-leaving examination.
Berufsbildende Pflichtschule ⇒
Berufsschule (ISCED 3)
Part-time vocational schools (duration: 2 to 4 years, usually 3 years) have the task of providing supplementary specialised instruction and offering persons who have to complete compulsory vocational schooling basic theoretical knowledge, promoting and complementing their company-based training, and to increase their general education. Part-time school attendance is a mandatory part of the dual system during the apprenticeship; different organisation forms exist.
Bildungsanstalt für Elementarpädagogik (BAfEP; ISCED 3/5)
ECEC teacher training colleges start after grade eight and cover five years (grades 9 - 13). They are VET-colleges imparting the professional attitude, knowledge and skills required to fulfill the educational tasks of education and care of children from below 1 to 6 years. (crèches, kindergartens …). At the same time they lead to university entrance qualifications. The education culminates in a matriculation and diploma examination. In addition, graduates of academic secondary schools and colleges for higher vocational education can attend relevant programmes in post-secondary VET courses.
Bildungsanstalt für Sozialpädagogik (BASOP; ISCED 3/5)
Training for social pedagogues is taking place at five-year colleges (completed with a matriculation and diploma examination starting after grade eight. The colleges are to train students to become social pedagogues who are qualified to work in areas including establishments of school-based day care, youth welfare, school-based and non-school-based youth work and also therapeutic and special pedagogy. Moreover, they are to lead students to university-entrance qualifications. Other qualification pathways leading to the profession are two-year post-secondary VET courses, three-year part-time post-secondary VET courses.
Fachhochschule (FH; ISCED 5/6/7)
Universities of applied sciences are university-level higher education institutions that have been authorised by the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria to run bachelor's, master's and diploma programmes as well as continuing education courses.
Fachhochschul-Studiengang (ISCED 5/6/7)
Universities of applied sciences study courses are bachelor’s, master’s or diploma programmes at universities of applied sciences institutions which provide academic or artistic vocational training. The main aims are: to ensure a practice-oriented training at university-level; to convey skills required to solve the tasks of a given occupation or profession that meet the state of the art and practical requirements; to promote the permeability of the educational system and professional flexibility of graduates.
Kindergarten (ISCED 0)
Kindergartens are pre-school establishments for children aged 3-5 years as part of child and youth welfare services. They may be either publicly or privately maintained and are no part of the school system. Kindergartens intended to support and complement education given within the family according to social, moral and religious values and to promote childhood development, education and the free development of children's personalities in play and social interaction. Moreover, kindergartens are to support children in attaining maturity for school education, without imposing any pressure of performance or school-like instruction. Attendance is optional except the last year before school entry. Kindergarten attendance for a minimum of 20 hours over a minimum of 4 days per week is obligatory for these children (age 5 - 6).
Kinderkrippe (ISCED 0)
Crèches (Kinderkrippen) are day-care establishment for children under the age of three as part of child and youth welfare services. They may be either publicly or privately maintained and are no part of the school system.
Kolleg (ISCED 5)
Kollegs are post-secondary VET courses for holders of a higher education entrance qualification. They provide theoretical, subject-related knowledge and practical skills and competence equivalent to colleges for higher vocational education in 4 to 6 semesters of vocational training and lead to a final diploma examination.
Mittelschule (MS; ISCED 2)
Compulsory secondary school is a comprehensive school for 10 to 14-year-olds.
Mittelschule ist the new name of the former New secondary school (Neue Mittelschule) since school year 2020/21.
Compulsory secondary schools follow year 4 of primary school and comprise years 5 to 8. They build on individualised learning and a competence-based approach.
Students who have successfully completed receive an end-of-year report and certificate, which entitles them to be admitted to upper secondary general and vocational education and training.
Oberstufenrealgymnasium (ISCED 3)
The Oberstufenrealgymnasium is a special upper-cycle academic form of secondary school, it starts after grade 8 and covers four years (grades 9 - 12), however, a transitional year may be set up. See also academic secondary school.
Pädagogische Hochschule (PH; ISCED 6/7)
There are also a separate private university colleges of teacher education run by the church.
Polytechnische Schule (ISCED 3)
Pre-vocational school covers year 9 of compulsory schooling for those who do not transfer to other upper secondary programmes immediately after year 8. It enhances the education of pupils with a view to practical life and a future occupation. It prepares pupils for career decisions through adequate vocational guidance and imparts basic vocational education and training. Pre-vocational school is often used to bridge the time to apprenticeship training.
Privathochschule (ISCED 5/6/7/8)
Private university colleges and universities are private higher education institutions (HEIs) not maintained by the state which have been authorised by the AQ Austira to run higher education study programmes. Private HEIs offering doctoral programmes and meeting defined criteria regarding scientific staff and research performance may apply for accreditation as private universities.
Privatuniversität (ISCED 5/6/7/8)
Private universities are higher-education institutions not maintained by the state which have been authorised by the Accreditation Council to run higher-education study programmes including doctoral programmes. Private university colleges offering doctoral programmes and meeting defined criteria regarding scientific staff and research performance may apply for accreditation as private universities.
Sonderschule (ISCED 1/2)
Special needs school and its different types cover primary and secondary education (grades 1 to 8 or 9); they are to promote physically or mentally handicapped children in a way that is consistent with their particular handicap, and to convey, if possible, an education which corresponds to that of a primary school, compulsory secondary school or the pre-vocational school, and to prepare pupils for taking up working life and a career.
Universität (ISCED 5/6/7/8)
Universities are state-maintained higher-education institutions at the highest academic or artistic level which run bachelor’s, master’s, diploma and doctoral programmes.
Volksschule (ISCED 1/2)
Primary school is the general compulsory school for pupils aged six to ten in the lower cycle, and for pupils aged ten to fourteen in the upper cycle. The upper cycle is practically without significance today. See also Vorschulstufe.
Examinations, Qualifications, Titles
Final examination taken at the end of 3- to 4-year secondary technical and vocational schools leading to professional qualifications for immediate exercise of the respective occupations and entry into regulated professions.
A general university entrance qualification means the successful completion of a matriculation examination at an academic secondary school or the successful completion of a matriculation and diploma examination at a college for higher vocational education conferring the right to be admitted to universities or other higher education institutions.
Bachelorgrad (BSc; ISCED 6)
Upon completion of all prescribed courses, studies and examinations within a bachelor’s degree programme at an university, university of applied sciences or university college of teacher education, a bachelor’s degree will be awarded.
Bachelorprüfung (ISCED 6)
Berufsreifeprüfung (ISCED 4)
This four-part examination for external students provides general higher education entrance.
Diplomgrad (Dipl.; ISCED 7)
Dissertation (Diss.; ISCED 8)
The approbation of a doctoral thesis is a prerequisite for obtaining a doctorate at a university. This academic paper, unlike diploma and master’s dissertations, serves to demonstrate students’ ability to master academic topics independently.
Doktorgrad (Dr.; ISCED 8)
Upon completion of all prescribed courses, studies and examinations within a doctoral programme at a university, the corresponding doctoral degree will be awarded.
Lehrabschlussprüfung (ISCED 3)
At the end of the apprenticeship period an apprenticeship-leave examination has to be taken before a committee of employer and employee representatives (practical and theoretical examination with a written and oral section).
Mastergrad (ISCED 7)
Upon completion of all prescribed courses, studies and examinations within a master’s programme at a university, the corresponding master’s degree will be awarded. A master’s degree will further be awarded upon completion of a continuing education course at a university, a continuing study course at an university of applied sciences or a study course at an university college of teacher education.
Compulsory school qualification means the successful completion of the 9th year of schooling, which is the compulsory school period. No specific final certificate exists for this, however (see: adult education initiative, since 2012 adults who have not completed compulsory schooling have been able to continue and complete their educational career free of charge even after completion of compulsory schooling.
Reife- und Diplomprüfung
Academic secondary schools lead to the matriculation examination. The passing of the matriculation examination is an entitlement to take up studies at universities or other higher education institutions (see: Allgemeine Universitätsreife).
Rigorosum (ISCED 8)
The limited higher education entrance examination (for working students) is a special form of Allgemeine Universitätsreife for those who wish to take up studies without the full university entrance examination. It applies to a specific course of study or groups of studies.
Pupils having been assessed with an Insufficient in the end-of-year report in one or two compulsory subjects may - with the exception of primary schools and special needs schools - undergo examination resits in those subjects, in which they were rated Insufficient.
Subject inspectors are teachers entrusted with the function of school inspection for individual subjects in one or several provinces. Subject inspectors for religious instruction are appointed by the church.
New appointments are no longer planned (with the exception of the specialist inspectors mentioned in the minority school laws for Carinthia and Burgenland). Teachers who have already been entrusted with the function of subject inspectors or who have been appointed subject inspectors should continue in their function with partially modified tasks. No changes are planned in the area of subject inspectors for religious instruction to be appointed by the churches and religious communities.
Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) teachers fulfill the educational tasks of education and care for children from below 1 to 6 years. At ECEC teacher training colleges they are provided with improved pedagogical training focusing on work in the field of early education (crèches …) as well as at pre-school institutions (kindergartens …).
Klassenvorstand / Klassenvorständin
At schools with a subject-teacher system, the head teacher accomplishes the tasks performed by the class teacher: co-operation with other teachers, co-ordination of educational work, matching classroom work to the performance of the class and the ability of pupils, guidance on educational matters, liaison between school and parents, performing necessary organisational tasks and maintaining all official documents and files.
Kustos / Kustodin
A custodian is a teacher who is responsible for the provision of teaching aids and other facilities at school in line with pedagogical principles, as well as for their procurement, replacement, completion and, in some cases, maintenance. He/she shall also make proposals as to the development of the equipment for which they are responsible.
The provincial Boards of Education established with effect from 1 January 2019 are subdivided into an Administrative Department and a Pedagogical Department responsible for school supervision and quality management. One of the main tasks of the Pedagogical Departments is to steer quality management and work on quality development. With the school year 2019/2020 the quality management for schools was put on a completely new footing. School inspectors appointed for certain school types no longer exist, instead they give way to the term "school quality manager". The school quality managers form teams of equal rank acting as a regional team in the respective education region. The focus of school supervision will be even more on responsibility in quality management, including support for school development in schools. Education controlling is very important, i.e. ongoing monitoring and analysis of whether specified educational goals are being achieved.
Assistant lecturers (Universitätsassistenten) are members of the university teaching staff who do not have submitted a post-doctoral thesis (Habilitation); they are endowed with a course-linked authority to teach.
University lecturers having submitted their post-doctoral thesis, being endowed with a full authority to teach.
A university professor has full authority to teach the subject he or she represents.