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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Initial education for academic staff in higher education


9.Teachers and education staff

9.4Initial education for academic staff in higher education

Last update: 15 October 2022

Universities, universities of applied sciences and university colleges of teacher education are the three most important education and training institutions in the tertiary sector (ISCED 6 to 8). While 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. 


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, for instance, 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.

The scientific and artistic employees 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 professional 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] 

Universities of applied sciences

The Universities of Applied Sciences Studies Act basically differentiates 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.

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. 

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 and also 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, which defines the corresponding requirements.

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.