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Initial education for academic staff in higher education


9.Teachers and education staff

9.4Initial education for academic staff in higher education

Last update: 3 July 2024


The different types of higher education institutions

Universities, universities of applied sciencesuniversity colleges of teacher education and private universities are the most important education and training institutions in the tertiary sector (ISCED 6 to 8). While universities und private universities mainly see their role as research establishments with a teaching function, the focus of universities of applied sciences and university colleges of teacher education is on academically founded vocational education and training in particular. The university colleges of teacher education - together with the public universities - are responsible for the initial training of teachers. Further education and training is provided exclusively by the university colleges of teacher education.

Some statistical data

In the winter semester 2022/23, 393,234 students (regular and course students, without multiple counting) were registered at Austrian universities. The total of 408,640 students (with multiple counting, e.g. due to enrolment at several universities) are distributed among the higher education institutions as follows: Public universities 279,854 students (69 %), private universities 20,038 students (5 %), universities of applied sciences 70,595 students (17 %), university colleges auf teacher education 37,905 students (9 %) and theological colleges (0.1 %). Source: (download 14.11.2023); own calculations.



According to the 2002 Universities Act, there is a distinction between ‘scientific and artistic staff’ and also ‘general staff’ (technical and administrative staff, library staff, etc.). The following information refers to the scientific and artistic staff, who are essentially university professors and also scientific and artistic employees (the non-professorial teaching staff). [More]

University professors are, according to the UG, responsible for research or the development and  appreciation of the arts and also for teaching in their specialist area. Austrian or foreign scientists/artists with a correspondingly high scientific/artistic and vocational qualification for the subject corresponding with the position that has to be filled can be appointed as university professors. University professors are appointed by the rector after an appointment procedure has been carried out.

In general the following are demanded as requirements for being appointed to a professorship:

  • a completed higher education programme
  • pedagogical suitability
  • the ability to work academically.


Proof of pedagogical and academic qualification is often provided by a habilitation. Habilitation means a higher education examination which gives someone the authorisation to teach (venia docendi) for an entire academic subject. A prerequisite for the conferral of the authorisation to teach is, according to the UG, proof of an excellent scientific or artistic qualification and repeated teaching activities at recognised post-secondary educational establishments proving the applicant’s didactic competences. A habilitation in the classic form comprises writing a habilitation thesis and an exam procedure to determine the qualification to teach in an academic subject. However, it can also be obtained cumulatively, i.e. via the publication of several relevant articles in prestigious specialist journals. In addition to the habilitation there are also possibilities of obtaining a professorship via achievements equivalent to a habilitation. These achievements are usually specified in habilitation guidelines of the respective university.

With the Amendment to the UG in 2015 there was the establishment of a new procedure which gives members of the non-professorial academic staff – who are in a career scheme according to a collective agreement – the opportunity to enter the curia of university professors without a formal appointment procedure. Those associate professors who complete a qualification procedure that corresponds to legally defined quality criteria belong to the curia of university professors after fulfilling the qualification agreement without any further procedural steps, in particular without an appointment procedure, and therefore have the same rights and obligations as university professors. For this group of people there is therefore a continuous career model up to the top qualification level.

With the 2018 UG amendment (article 99a "Opportunity Hiring"), the BMBWF created the legal framework for flexible personnel decisions through an abbreviated appointment procedure for university professors. This allows universities to fill up to 5 % of the positions to be defined in the development plan in accordance with article 98 UG without job advertisement and professional examination. Since the 2021 amendment to the UG (see the links to articles 99a and 98), in addition to a one-off employment contract with a maximum term of five years, a permanent employment contract is also possible in objectively justified cases.

The scientific and artistic employees in research, the arts or teaching include

  • university assistants
  • senior scientists/senior artists and senior lecturers
  • assistant professors (i.e. employees with a qualification agreement)
  • associate professors (i.e. employees with a successfully completed qualification agreement)
  • university lecturers (extraordinary professors)
  • physicians in medical specialist  training
  • project staff
  • lecturers
  • student employees


Except for student employees, proof of completion of a higher education study programme is required for the appointment of scientific and artistic employees. Their university work aims to deepen and expand their professional and scientific/artistic education and also prepare them for an application to a professorship. The tasks of the non-professorial academic staff include carrying out teaching, research and administrative activities. [More] 

The training and promotion of young academics is an essential task of universities (§§ 1 and 3 UG). The career model of the collective agreement distinguishes between fluctuation positions and career positions ("qualification positions"). Within the framework of personnel structure planning, universities also use career positions specifically to promote excellence in the main research areas and also to promote women, according to the BMBWF in the University Report 2020

With the new codification of employment contracts for academic and artistic university staff in § 109 UG, the entire career path from the pre-doctoral phase onwards is covered, equivalent previous periods of service are taken into account and maximum fixed-term contracts (eight years) are introduced. This is intended to offer young academics and lecturers "real" career prospects and legal certainty, which was not provided by the previous and heavily criticized practice of fixed-term chain employment contracts.


Universities of applied sciences

The Universities of Applied Sciences Act basically differentiate between full-time and part-time employees for the teaching and research staff. Teaching in universities of applied sciences programmes has to be carried out by academically, professionally and pedagogically/didactically qualified teaching and research staff. At least four people from the development team of an FH programme have to teach in this on a full-time or part-time basis. Of these, two must have their academic credentials proven by habilitation or an equivalent qualification. 

Teaching and research staff at universities of applied sciences are made up of heads of degree programs, full-time teaching and research staff and part-time lecturers. The statutes generally stipulate that teaching and research staff must be academically, professionally and pedagogically-didactically qualified and have an autonomy corresponding to the universities. The specific requirements are defined by the department or the head of degree program.

At universities of applied sciences there are also “professors“. The title “FH professor” is a title awarded by the respective FH, however. On the part of the legislator there are no specifications regarding the requirements under which this title can be awarded. The respective FHs have defined precise entry requirements, however. These usually include an academic qualification, precisely specified achievements in teaching and research, full-time employment at the respective FH and also continuing education and training programmes in various areas.

For the remaining teaching and research staff at FH establishments there are also no other legal requirements or differentiations. Usually employees have completed a higher education programme and also have relevant professional experience. 

Professional practice and labour market orientation is not only anchored in the educational mandate of universities of applied sciences, but also in the design of degree programs, teaching and application-oriented research and development through the involvement of experts from the "world of work”.


University colleges of teacher education

Background information: The “PädagogInnenausbildung NEU” has fundamentally reformed the training of teachers for primary and secondary level. Teacher training programs for general education subjects at secondary schools (middle schools, general secondary schools, polytechnic schools, secondary and higher vocational schools) are carried out by public universities and universities of teacher education. Teacher training courses for primary level and secondary level vocational education are currently solely offered by university colleges of teacher education.

According to the Federal Act on the Organisation of University Colleges of Teacher Education, teaching at PHs is carried out by higher education and contractual teachers (permanent teaching staff), by assigned and co-utilised federal and provincial teachers as well as by lecturers.

Higher education teachers are in an employment relationship under public law with the federal government and are assigned to a PH. Depending on the employment group [More], they have to fulfil certain requirements (completed higher education programme, relevant teaching and professional experience, academic activity, etc.) and are called university professors (employment group 1) or professors (employment group 2 and 3). [More]

The selection of the temporarily assigned or co-utilised teachers and lecturers is the responsibility of the rectorate, the corresponding requirements are legally defined.

In addition to the obligations directly connected with teaching in initial, in-service and continuing education and training, the entire teaching staff have to contribute to the further tasks of the PH. Furthermore, they have to combine their teaching activities with research and development work connected with the particular occupational field.

§ 18 of the Federal Act on the Organization of University Colleges of Teacher Education and their Studies (Higher Education Act 2005 - HG) specifies which teaching staff is employed. These are, on the one hand, permanent staff with an employment contract and, on the other hand, temporarily assigned and so-called "co-used" federal and state teaching staff as well as lecturers.

All vacant positions in the civil service and thus also at university colleges of teacher education are publicly advertised via the job portal of the Republic of Austria. For vacant positions as university lecturers the requirements specified in the job advertisements as well as the so-called appointment requirements for the specified employment group (ph1, ph2, ph3) must be fulfilled.


Private universities and private higher education institutes

(the difference is that only universities are entitelt to award doctorates)

Accreditation of private universities has been possible in Austria since 2001 and has been carried out by the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria since March 1, 2012. In addition to many parameters (study programs, infrastructure, research, medium-term funding, etc.), AQ Austria also checks whether sufficient academically or artistically qualified permanent staff (professors and academic staff with doctorates) as well as transparent and quality-led staff selection procedures can be evidenced.

A new legal basis came into force in 2021 with the Private Higher Education Act, which replaced the previous Private Universities Act (PUG). It It establishes two categories: private universities and private higher education institutes which differ only in the right to award doctoral degrees (exclusively for universities).  The law also contains regulations regarding accreditation by AQ Austria, studies as well as the organization and staff of private universities.

Each private university / private higher education institute specifies qualification criteria and appointment procedures for its teaching and research staff in its statutes.