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Mobility in higher education


13.Mobility and internationalisation

13.2Mobility in higher education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Internationalisation is anchored in the strategic concepts of many universities as a declared goal, as it is seen as an opportunity to improve the quality of teaching and research, to position oneself in academic competition, to gain more visibility and international reputation, and to strengthen cooperations. A central contribution to internationalisation is made by higher education (HE) mobility, i.e., temporary stays abroad for study or work purposes. Every year, thousands of students and researchers take advantage of this opportunity and acquire not only professional but also important international and intercultural skills. 

Strategic framework

The National Mobility and Internationalisation Strategy for Higher Education 2020-2030 (abbreviated HMIS 2030) published by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) in autumn 2020 does, however, not only focus on promoting HE mobility. As the subtitle “There are many routes to internationalisation” indicates, it aims at a holistic approach to internationalisation that covers all levels and areas of a HE institution and addresses all its members – from students to teachers to general HE staff (link).

The HMIS 2030, which addresses all four Austrian HE providers (i.e. public universities, universities of applied sciences, university colleges of teacher education, private universities), focuses on the following five goals to be achieved by 2030:

  • Goal 1: Promote an all-encompassing culture of internationalisation
  • Goal 2: Promote mobility for all members of higher education institutions
  • Goal 3: Develop and implement innovative digital forms of mobility
  • Goal 4: Effective skills improvement and institutional learning
  • Goal 5: Global mindset – Austria’s higher education institutions

These goals, each of which is accompanied by several implementation goals, are to be understood as guidelines for action. All HE institutions are free to choose which implementation goals they want to pursue and which concrete measures they want to derive from them, according to their own profile and their respective orientation. For this reason, the HMIS also primarily contains qualitative objectives and no quantitative targets. Each institution primarily determines these itself in its institutional internationalisation strategy based on HMIS2030. Monitoring and evaluation are also the responsibility of the institution’s own quality management system. 

Central players

The central contact point for questions on internationalisation and HE mobility is the Agency for Education and Internationalisation (OeAD). This agency is responsible for the administration and implementation of the Erasmus+ programme, the European programme for education, training, youth and sport of the European Union, which provides funding for transnational mobilities and cross-border cooperation and projects.

Each HE institutions also has an International Relations Office, which on the one hand advises the HE management on strategic questions regarding internationalisation. On the other hand it acts as a service point for mobility participants (both outgoings and incomings) and supports the organisation of mobility activities. OeAD has also set up regional offices at some HE locations to provide advice and support for incoming students. 

Student mobility

Students can take advantage of funded stays abroad within the framework of various programmes and networks


Year after year, Erasmus+ motivates thousands of students and graduates to acquire part of their academic education at a foreign HE institution or to complete a study-related work placement. In the current period (2021-2027), the programme offers various opportunities for this:

  • Study periods: Erasmus+ supports study visits of two to twelve months per study cycle (Bachelor, Master, PhD) in a European programme country or, to a limited extent, in a non-European partner country. Students can apply for a stay at a host university with which the home university has concluded an inter-institutional agreement. The monthly funding amount depends on the respective host country. Study achievements made there will be recognised at the home institutions, provided they comply with the previously agreed study agreement (Learning Agreement).
  • Work placements: Students and recent graduates can use Erasmus+ to complete one or more funded work placements of between two and a maximum of twelve months per study cycle in European programme countries, but also to a limited extent in non-European partner countries. The amount of funding depends on the host country. The university must consider the planned work placement to be relevant to the student’s studies. The prerequisite for this is that the organisation offering the placement has a connection to the content of the applicant's degree programme. Graduates can complete a placement abroad within one year of graduation; the application for this must be submitted to the home institution during their studies. The work placement is intended to facilitate the transition into professional life.
  • International Mobility: Erasmus+ also supports study periods in non-European partner institutions with which the home institution has concluded an agreement. Depending on the destination region, this mobility line is primarily aimed at Master's or PhD students. Work placements outside Europe are also possible.
  • Short-term mobility: Students who are unable to complete a regular study or placement period due to their studies or life circumstances have the opportunity to complete a short-term mobility in programme or partner countries. This involves a physical stay of between five and 30 days, combined with virtual activities. For doctoral students, short-term mobility is also available without a virtual component. Academic achievements acquired abroad are recognised by the home university provided that they correspond to the previously agreed learning agreement. In addition, there must be an inter-institutional agreement between the home university and the host university. 

Non-European exchange programmes


In addition to mobility stays funded by Erasmus+, exchange programmes with partner universities outside Europe are also offered at every Austrian HE institution. The prerequisite for this is that the home institution has concluded an exchange agreement with the partner institution. As a rule, foreign students do not have to pay enrolment or tuition fees at the host institution. In addition, mobility participants receive a monthly grant from their home institution. The application requirements vary depending on the programme. In most cases, however, Bachelor students must have completed at least two semesters at their home institution in order to apply for a stay. In addition, proof of language skills in the respective host country is usually required. The duration of the stay is usually one to two semesters. The respective International Relations Office of the home university will advise on the possibilities. 

CEEPUS (Central European Exchange Programme for University Studies)

In order to bring the European Higher Education and Research Area closer together, the Central European Exchange Programme for University Studies (CEEPUS), an exchange and scholarship programme, was established in 1995 on the initiative of Austria to promote the academic mobility of students, graduates and lecturers in Central and Eastern Europe. The following countries are involved in this programme: Albania, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary. The universities of Prishtina, Prizren and Peja are also eligible to participate.

Students who have completed at least two semesters in the field of study they are applying for and who are citizens of a CEEPUS country can apply to become mobile either within a HE institution network or as a so-called free-mover outside networks. A mobility stay within the framework of CEEPUS comprises a minimum of three months and a maximum of ten months per Bachelor's/Master's cycle. In addition, there are short term stays, which last between one and two months and are intended for the preparation of Bachelor's/Master's/PhD theses, as well as short term excursions lasting between three and five days (see CEEPUS Guide).

Within a network, Austrian and foreign students are exempt from any tuition fees and receive a full scholarship from the host country, which is based on the cost of living in the respective country. Furthermore, Austrian CEEPUS participants can apply for a mobility grant and also receive a travel allowance.

The study or work placement stays at a foreign institution are to be recognised by the home university, provided that both are part of a network. 

International Networks

In addition to CEEPUS, Austrian HE institutions are represented in a number of other networks that serve the internationalisation of HE institutions and – depending on the focus and orientation of the network – also facilitate the exchange of students and university staff. The central networks include:

  • Asea-Uninet was founded in 1994. It offers joint research projects, staff and student exchanges (short-term), programmes for graduates (primarily Ph.D. studies) and postgraduate training.
  • Eurasia-Pacific Uninet (EPU) is a scientific network of HE and research institutions in East, Central and South Asia and the Pacific region. The network awards scholarships, makes project calls for member institutions and organises summer schools for people interested in China.
  • ISEP, short for International Student Exchange Programs, is a global student exchange consortium in the form of a worldwide network of over 300 HE institutions in over 50 countries.
  • The Utrecht Network represents 31 European universities in 26 countries cooperating in the field of internationalisation (student and staff mobility, summer schools, internationalised curricula, joint degrees).
  • The three Bilateral Actions between Austria and the three neighbouring countries Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary support cross-border mobility, bilateral cooperation projects and the acquisition of the respective languages. The focus is on young scientists. Depending on the action and funding programme, there are up to four calls for proposals per year. Bilateral committees decide on the selection of projects and the awarding of scholarships during regular meetings. 

Joint study agreement or iStudy

Joint study agreements are bilateral agreements between Austrian and mostly non-European universities or their institutes. Students can spend up to one academic year at a partner university. The stay is not intended to carry out academic work such as Master's or diploma theses, but to study at a partner institution. The partner institution does not charge tuition fees. The work completed abroad is recognised at the home university. 

Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees

The Erasmus Mundus action, which is part of the Erasmus+ programme, supports cooperations between HE institutions through two funding lines: Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters supports the cooperation of at least three HE institutions from three different countries (of which at least two are Programme Countries) offering a joint, integrated and accredited Master's programme (= Joint Programme). Students of this programme can thus complete their study at several locations. Other institutions such as companies, NGOs or research institutions can participate as associated partners. The second funding line, Erasmus Mundus Design Measures, supports the development of new Joint Master's programmes. 

Austrian Fulbright Programme

The Austrian Fulbright Program (Austrian American Educational Commission) is funded primarily by direct contributions from the governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Austria and provides grants for Austrian graduates and scholars to study, teach or pursue research in the U.S. Stays of U.S. students and teachers as well as scholars at Austrian universities complement the bilateral cooperation venture. Every year the Commission administers between 70 and 80 grants. 

Marietta Blau

The Marietta Blau Scholarship of BMBWF supports doctoral and PhD students in completing a stay abroad of between six and twelve months. Doctoral/PhD students who have been enrolled in such a programme at an accredited Austrian university for a maximum of six semesters at the time of submission are eligible to apply. The scholarship serves to optimise doctoral work and to promote young researchers. 

Ernst Mach Scholarship

The Ernst Mach Scholarship is named after the Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach (1838-1916). This scholarship programme is financed by BMBWF and is an offer to students and teachers of foreign universities to spend a study or research period in Austria. The current government (cf. Government Programme, p. 214) plans to further develop this scholarship programme and its various sub-programmes to the effect that the funding should primarily attract highly qualified PhD students to Austria, especially from the STEM fields. 

Academic staff mobility

Qualified experiences abroad are increasingly recognised and promoted as a positive and desirable step in the professional career of teachers and researchers. Qualification agreements have been concluded with academic staff at a number of HE institutions and provide for a compulsory longer stay at a foreign research establishment. Staff mobility at HE institutions can either be individually organised or institutionalised through various programmes: 


Erasmus+ offers the following mobility opportunities for higher education staff:

  • Teaching period abroad: HE teachers who are employed at an Austrian HE institution can gain teaching experience abroad between two days and a maximum of two months, provided that there is an inter-institutional agreement between the sending and the host institutions. The teachers must teach at least eight hours per week in the host country. Grants for travel and accommodation costs vary according to the host country.
  • In-service training visits: HE teachers and other staff can apply for an Erasmus+ funded period abroad for training purposes. If this stay takes place at an institution of an Erasmus+ Programme Country, a duration of at least two days and a maximum of two months is possible. Grants for travel and accommodation costs vary depending on the host country.
  • International Mobility: Teaching and training stays can also take place at partner institutions outside Europe. The minimum stay is five days, the maximum two months. 


Through the CEEPUS programme, in which a number of Central and Eastern European countries participate, teachers can complete a teaching experience period at a partner institution for a maximum of ten months. The mobility can take place within a HE network, i.e., an association of at least three HE institutions. Alternatively, teachers can also go to a CEEPUS country as so-called free-movers without a network. In any case, teachers must be able to prove that they teach six teaching hours per week at the host institution in order to receive a financial grant. 

Mobility programmes for researchers and scientists

There are a number of opportunities for researchers (including PhD students working on their theses) to spend a funded period abroad at a foreign research institution. HE institutions may be part of larger networks and programmes – such as ASES UNINET, Eurasia-Pacific Uninet or the Fulbright Programme – or have bilateral agreements with foreign institutions. Members of HE institutions can obtain information about and support in organising these mobility stays from the International Relations Offices located at their site. In addition, there are also central platforms or databases that are important in the area of teacher mobility:

  • IMOTION (Integration and Promotion of Staff Training Courses at Universities across Europe) is an online platform that centralises information about training activities for university administrative and technical staff organised in Europe. It aims to support HE institutions in the promotion of their staff training events and to help administrative staff to find the appropriate training or job shadowing they are looking for.
  • The Europe-wide initiative EURAXESS – Researchers in Motion has been launched in particular to address the needs of mobile researchers. It is a platform for researchers, entrepreneurs, universities, and businesses to interact with each other. Packed with information, EURAXESS covers mobility issues for researchers and entrepreneurs, allows HE institutions and businesses to find the right talent, and connects people, projects and funding. Its services include EURAXESS Jobs (a Europe-wide job database) and EURAXESS Service (a personalised assistance and advice network for researchers).
  • Another platform that is not only aimed at teachers but also at students is In over 1,200 entries, this database contains information on funding measures for study and research stays abroad, but also on purely national funding. The range of funding bodies extends from international organisations, the EU, governments at home and abroad, their provincial governments and city councils to private foundations, associations and companies.