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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
National reforms in higher education

Austria

14.Ongoing reforms and policy developments

14.4National reforms in higher education

Last update: 12 October 2022

2022


University Development Plan for the Period 2022-2027 and Performance Agreements

Ongoing formative process, partial law-making

Status: Time frame: 2022-2027

Sources:

Description:

The national Development Plan for public Universities has been updated for the performance agreements that have been concluded at the end of 2021.

As a planning Instrument for the development of the public universities it covers two following performance agreement periods and defines the general contents for the scope of tasks of public universities. Thereby the development plan shapes the Austrian Higher Education area in terms of a comprehensive survey in order to improve coordination and reconcilement of interests.

It comprises quantitative and qualitative goals as for example: increase the number of students graduating, particularly in STEM disciplines; increase the number of students actively taking exams; improve teacher/student ratios; foster coordination of courses offered and forming clusters between institutions.; improvement of the quality of teaching; improvement of career-concepts for young researchers, integration of "Sustainable Development Goals" (SDGs), etc.

The aims concerning global change are being reviewed triennial. Sustainability, digital transformation and the STEM area are mainly affected due an ongoing mechanisation. In the new edition, the objectives were reviewed and reduced from eight to seven. (cf. Sources: -GUEP-2022---2027).

The European Strategy 2020, the Bukarest-Kommuniqué 2012, the Austrian government’s RTI strategy, the Austrian Life-Long-Learning-Strategy (LLL:2020), the Mapping process for the Austrian Higher Education System and the Governmental-Program 2020 – 2024 provide the strategic framework for the included topics and targets.

Expected impact:

Efficiency and quality enhancements

Monitoring:

Performance agreements and accompanying meetings between Ministry – University every half year.

Involved bodies:


Improving financial aid for students

Regulation and legislative documents

Status: Student Support Act amendment came into force on September 1st 2022

Source: Legislation: amendment StudFG

Description:

From September 1st 2022, the study grant will be significantly increased and simplified. From then on, it will be calculated according to a new, modular model that takes the living conditions of the students into detailled consideration.

Measures:

  • raising student support funding by 68 million Euros per year
  • raising the age limit for the eligibility for grants by three years.

Expected impact:

  • increase in the number of recipients
  • improving the financial situation of students

Funding: The amendment leads to additional costs up to 68 million Euros per year

Monitoring: Evaluation planned for 2027

Involved Bodies: Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research 


Reform of the regulation concerning continuing education in higher Education

Regulation and legislative documents

Status: In force since 1.10.2021

Source: Legislation (UG, FHG, PrivHG, HG und HS-QSG)

Description:

The amendment of the regulation on continuing education degree programmes is aiming at clarifying legal requirements for continuing education for all higher education sectors as well as opening up HE for new target groups. With this reform HEIs are enabled to establish continuing education degree programmes not only on master but also on bachelor level.

Objectives:

  • Improving and harmonizing the legal framework for continuing education;
  • Establishing new forms of study programmes for specific target groups (e.g. with professional experience, with alternative access to higher education);
  • Assuring national and international recognition as well as permeability to other degree programmes offered;
  • Further development of quality assurance mechanisms.

Measures:

Various adaptions regarding the framework of bachelor or master programmes for continuing education (ECTS workload required, admission regulations, scope of co-operations possible, determination of academic degrees etc.).

Expected impact:

  • Further development of programmes offered;
  • Further development of the cross-sectoral framework for continuing higher education in Austria 

Funding: No data available.

Monitoring: Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research

Involved Bodies:



2021


Reform of the regulation concerning terms of employment contracts

Adaption of the framework conditions concerning fixed-term work contracts

Status: In force since 1.10.2021

Source: Legislation: § 109 Universities Act 2002, amendment 2021

Description:

The amendment of § 109 is aiming to improve the framework conditions of fixed-term work contracts in order to avoid precarious and uncertain employment.

Objectives:

  • amendment of the framework conditions of limited term contracts to increase the intelligibility as well as the transparency of this regulation
  • remove uncertainties of university employees.

Measures:

  • six or eight years in total are permitted by law
  • focus on the possible quantity of limited term contracts 
  • elucidation that all limited term contracts regarding the same university have to be included in the overall duration of limited term contracts permitted by law.

Funding: No data available.

Monitoring: The effects and results of the adaption of the framework conditions of limited term contracts will be evaluated in 2029.

Involved Bodies: Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research 


Implementation of a minimum study performance and support services by the university

Implementation of two new regulations

Status: Binding with the winter semester 2022/23

Source: Amendment of higher education legislation BGBl. I Nr. 93/2021

Description:

The implementation of § 59a und § 59b is aiming to advance the liability of studying for students as well as to enable students to quicker complete their studies.

Objectives:

  • increase the number of students actively taking examinations
  • reduction of the overall duration of study concerning bachelor's and diploma programmes
  • advanced liability of studying concerning bachelor's and diploma programmes
  • improvement of the ability of studies concerning bachelor's and diploma programmes.

Measures:

  • committing provision of a minimum study performance in the amount of 16 ECTS credits during the first four semesters of a study
  • support services by the university (improvement of the organisation of lectures and exams).

Funding: No data available.

Monitoring: The effects and results of the implemented regulations will be evaluated in 2025.

Involved Bodies:


Reform Act on Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Regulation and legislative documents

Status: In force since 1.1.2021

Sources: Legislation

Description:

The amendment of the HS-QSG is aiming at clarifying legal requirements as well as integrating the University Colleges of Teacher Education in the external quality assurance system for HE. With this integration the external quality assurance of all four higher education sectors (public universities, universities of applied sciences, private higher education institutions as well as university colleges of Teacher Education) is governed by the HS-QSG.

Objectives:

  • Adaption of legal framework aiming at improving processes within the AQ Austria as well as regarding quality assurance procedures;
  • Integration of University Colleges of Teacher Education in the HS-QSG;
  • External quality assurance through audit or accreditation for all four HE sectors shall be governed by the HS-QSG.

Measures:

Various adaptions regarding the inner structure of AQ Austria, the quality assurance procedures as well as the adaptions due to the integration of University Colleges of Teacher Education in the HS-QSG.

Expected impact:

  • Improvement of processes;
  • Further development external quality assurance at University Colleges of Teacher Education;
  • Further development of the cross-sectoral framework for external quality assurance in Austrian higher education 

Funding: No data available.

Monitoring:

Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research

Involved Bodies:


Reform Act on Private Higher Education

Regulation and legislative documents

Status: In force since 1.1.2021

Sources: Legislation

Description:

The Private Higher Education Act (PrivHG) is the new legal background for private higher education institutions in Austria. With this act the Austrian private higher education sector is differentiated into two forms of institutions: private university colleges (“Privathochschulen”) and private universities (“Privatuniversitäten”). This amendment has to be seen in the context of the development of private higher education institutions in Austria over the last 20 years. So far the only option for private institutions to apply for an accreditation was as “private university”. From now on the initial accreditation shall be as “private university college”. Within the framework of the prolongation of the accreditation a private university college may apply for accreditation as a private university but is not obliged to. This inner differentiation is aiming at taking account of the fact, that higher education institutions need time to develop with regard to their academic profile and objectives, teaching and research etc.

With the PrivHG the accreditation requirements are adapted as well. It is clarified that for the accreditation as “private university” additional requirements regarding research, promotion of the junior academics, number of faculty member etc. have to be fulfilled. Furthermore only private universities are entitled to offer doctoral programmes.

For the 16 already accredited private universities a transitional period for fulfilling the new legal requirements is laid down in the PrivHG.

Objectives:

The central objectives of the PrivHG are:

  • Further development of the legal framework for private higher education institutions;
  • Establishing an inner differentiation within the private HE sector: private university colleges and private universities.

Measures:

New legal framework comprising:

  • Accreditation requirements for private university colleges and private universities (initial accreditation as well as prolongation of the accreditation)
  • Framework regarding organisation and staff, degree programmes and students, reporting

Expected impact:

Further development of private higher education in Austria

Funding: No data available.

Monitoring:

Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research

Involved Bodies:


Reform Act Universities of Applied Sciences

Regulation and legislative documents

Status: In force since 1.1.2021

Sources: Legislation

Description:

The amendment act is aiming at clarifying legal requirements as well as integrating new requirements.

Objectives:

The main objectives are:

  • further development of the legal framework of universities of Applied Sciences
  • Conceptual clarifications regarding the use of the term “Erhalter von Fachhochschul-Studiengängen” and “Fachhochschule”
  • Legal basis for University of Applied Sciences Development and Financing Plan to foster legal certainty.

Measures:

Various adaptions regarding terminology, accreditation requirements, the tasks of the university of applied sciences board and study law.

Expected impact:

Further development of the University of Applied Sciences Sector.

Funding: No data available.

Monitoring:

Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research

Involved Bodies:


COVID-19: Safety guidelines for higher education institutions

Regulation and legislative documents / Organization of health protection

Status: Currently in implementation

Sources:

Description:

Recommendations for Austrian universities, universities of applied sciences, university colleges of teacher education and private HEIs to ensure a safe operation of the higher education system under “corona circumstances” in the context of the national crisis management. Legal adaptations were necessary to allow universities and higher education institutions to make flexible and timely adjustments.

Objectives and exspected impact:

The higher education system must be operable under “corona circumstances”. Especially the universities, universities of applied sciences, and private HEIs have a high degree of self-responsibility because they are autonomous institutions. Higher education administrators decide autonomously how to proceed in the crisis situation and how they organise their work throughout the crisis. Universities and higher education institutions also actively participate in the national crisis management, they are connectors between their own range of competence and the health authorities as well as the Federal Ministry of Education, Science, and Research. The safety guidelines were worked out in the Federal Ministry in cooperation with higher education experts; it includes recommendations and serves as an orientation guide for possible actions and measures.

Exspected is the ensurance of a safe operation in the higher education system under "corona circumstances".

Measures:

Following the status of the „Corona traffic lights“ that was set up by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Health Care and Consumer Protection, and is updated once a week, there are four modes of operation for higher education institutions:

  • Attendance teaching (green, low risk) 
  • “dual mode“ (yellow, moderate risk) – attendance teaching and distance teaching for certain groups 
  • “hybrid mode” (orange, high risk) – partly attendance teaching, partly digital teaching. Digital elements are an essential part of the hybrid mode; security aspects and protection aspects are intensified
  • “distance mode” (red, very high risk) – digital operation mode (with only few exceptions)

Funding: No data available.

Monitoring:

Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research

Involved bodies:


University Funding

Regulation and legislative documents / Reorganization of the university funding schemes

Status: Since 2010 - Amendment of the Universities Act 2002 comes into force February 1st 2018 and will be effective with the beginning of the performance agreement period 2019 - 2021

Sources: Basic Legislation (incl. amendment Federal Law Gazette - Bgbl. I 8/2018)

Description:

The introduction of university funding based on student capacity and research indicators is a high-priority objective in Austrian higher education policy, an important part of the current government programme, and part of the Mapping Process for the Austrian Higher Education System.

Objectives and exspected impact:

The central objectives of the new model for university financing are:

  • Improvement of quality in research/advancement and appreciation of the arts and teaching, in particular through the improvement of teacher-student ratios.
  • Increasing transparency through separate funding of teaching and research/ advancement and appreciation of the arts, supplemented by strategic incentives.
  • Increasing the number of active students.

Measures:

The new model of university financing is called “three-pillar-model”, because the global budget of each university will be composed of three partial ”pillars”:

  • - amount for "teaching",
  • - amount for "research/advancement and appreciation of the arts” and
  • - amount for “infrastructure and strategic development" areas

The calculation of the partial amounts for the first two areas is based on specific indicators and seven weighted groups of subjects: the number of students who actively take examinations in a certain extent of ECTS-credits ("Places of Study") in the area teaching, and the number of scientific or artistic staff (" Basic Performance research/ advancement and appreciation of the arts") in the area of "research/advancement and appreciation of the arts”. There are also competitive indicators as an additional incentive (e.g. number of graduates , studying fast, third-party funds, and structured doctoral programmes).

Funding:

11 billion EUR for the performance agreement period 2019 – 2021.

Monitoring:

The effects and results of the new university financing should be monitored, starting with the performance agreement period 2019-2021, and then evaluated in accordance with the federal minister of finance.

Involved bodies:

Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research


    Universities of Applied Sciences Development and Financing Plan 2018/19-2022/23

    Funded programme

    Status: 2018/19 – 2022/23

    Sources: UAS development and financing plan                                                                                                                    

    Description:

    Document regulates the qualitative and quantitative development of the UAS sector, the financing model, the criteria for the granting of federal subsidies and the further expansion of the UAS sector.

    Objectives:

    • Strategic focus on digitalization and adressing skills shortage: providing a sufficient number of high qualified graduates in engineering and IT study programmes.
    • Quality assurance of tertiary education: special design of UAS study programmes offering practice-oriented professional tertiary education, with study programmes especially designed for the needs of working professionals or work-cooperative study programmes (studying on the job), facilitating flexible learning paths, excellent student/faculty ratio.

    Measures:

    • Additional increase of federally funded study places: overall 3.054 new federally funded study places up to 2022/23
    • UAS development and financing plan aims at a total amount of 57.000 study places in the UAS sector
    • Maintaining public funding per study place in current amount up to 2023
    • Establishing joint PhD Programs in cooperation with public universities (as degree awarding HEI) to foster cooperation between HEIs, to promote applied R&D at UAS and the development of scientific staff at UAS

    Expected impact:

    Increase in number of graduates, esp. in engineering and IT study programs.

    Funding:

    In total EUR 347 Mio (additional funds needed EUR 28 Mio) for the whole period covered.

    Monitoring and involved bodies:


    Reform of Nursing

    Regulation and legislative documents / national action plan

    Time frame: transition period until 2024

    Sources:

    Description:

    The amendment of the Nursing Act including broad changes within the education and training and the scope of activities of the nursing professions was published on 1st August 2016.

    Education and training for qualified nursing care will only take place within bachelor programmes at universities of applied sciences from 2024 onwards, at the same time special basic education and training in paediatric nursing and psychiatric nursing will expire in favour of a more generalistic education and training in nursing in general care.

    The up to now one-year education and training as assistant nurse remains with a new professional title.

    A new nursing profession “qualified assistant nurse” is introduced with a two-years’ education and training.

    The present schools of nursing may be carried on as educational institutions for assistant nursing professions. 

    Involved bodies:


    National Strategy for the Social Dimension in Higher Education

    National strategy

    Status: Time frame: Implementation 2017 - 2025

    Sources:

    National Strategy for the Social Dimension in Higher Education For a more integrative access and wider participation, February 2017: free download ; free download accessible for people with impairments.

    Description:

    The participation in education and training on all levels increases the potential for social, economic and political participation and integration. The Austrian national strategy for the Social Dimension in Higher Education is the first holistic strategic document in Austria’s higher education sector. Based on a status quo analysis of data on all different groups that participate in higher education, targets are set for all stakeholders:

    • federal ministries,
    • HE institutions,
    • interest groups,
    • institutions working at the interfaces between or at the transitions into educational/professional levels,
    • as well as civil-society actors.

    First steps 2017:

    • raising student support funding by 25 million € and
    • improvement of study information,
    • Bologna Day 2017 on the implementation of the National Strategy for the Social Dimension in Higher Education.

    Objectives:

    Mainstreaming the social dimension in steering higher education; eg. inclusion of social dimension into mission statements of higher education institutions, performance agreements etc.

    Target dimensions:

    1. More Inclusive access,
    2. avoiding dropout - improving study success,
    3. creating frameworks and making optimal use of higher education governance

    Measures:

    Nine fields of action:

    1. Improving the quality and availability of information
    2. Outreach activities and and student counselling taking into account students’ heterogeneity
    3. Recognition and validation of non-formal and informal skills
    4. Supporting new entrants
    5. Organisation of study programmes and quality of teaching
    6. Increasing compatibility of study and other areas of life
    7. System-related issues in higher education
    8. Integrating the Social Dimension into strategic planning of HEIs and building useful governance structures
    9. Developing student support system

    Expected impact:

    Quantitative targets up to 2025:

    • Raising quotas of first generation students (esp. in Medicine), of students with non traditional HE-access, of students with migraton background,
    • more gender balance in all study fields,
    • raising mobility of first generation students,
    • reducing regional differences in HE-access,
    • more study places for working students at universities of applied sciences,
    • raising grants for specific target groups

    Monitoring:

    valuation planned 2021

    Involved bodies:


    2020


    Reform of Teacher Training

    Regulation and legislative documents / large scale programme

    Status: Legislation in 2013, implementation started for the primary level in September 2015 and for the secondary level in September 2016. The new induction phase for all teachers starts in September 2019

    Sources:

    Description:

    The new teacher training scheme provides for the following cornerstones:

    • Training is in principle geared towards the pupils’ age brackets (primary level, secondary level);
    • Bachelor’s degree programme, 8 semesters, 240 ECTS points;
    • Master’s degree programme, 2-3 semesters, 60 to 90 ETCS points. The master’s degree programmes can be completed on a part-time basis;
    • One-year professional entry phase (induction), supported by experienced pedagogues as mentors. During the induction phase, students can complete the master’s degree programmes;
    • Supplementary study programmes for lateral entrants, with credits awarded for subject-related and pedagogical competences;
    • Aptitude and admission procedure, which comprises several stages, at training institutions;
    • Cooperation of university colleges of teacher education and universities while observing their existing spheres of competence.

    The reform of teacher training is one of the Federal Government’s key education policy projects and covers training and further training for all those working in the teaching professions. In a broad-based development process carried out in consultation with all parties involved (including university colleges of teacher education, universities, teachers, provinces) a future-oriented model was developed and is going to be implemented.

    Measures:

    The switch to bachelor's degree programmes in the primary sector is completed as of 2015/16, in the secondary sector as of 2016/17. The new master's degree programmes should begin by the winter semester 2019/20 at the latest.

    Expected impact:

    • Quality enhancement: The new training scheme aims to increase the training level by providing more academically founded theory and practice in teacher training.
    • Quality assurance guaranteed by an independent quality assurance council
    • Competence orientation
    • Mobility and internationalisation
    • Permeability
    • Enhancement of attractiveness: The switch to the Bologna system makes the teaching profession more easily accessible and more attractive for lateral entrants.
    • Equivalence: Due to joint quality assurance and cooperation ventures all teachers will obtain standardised and equivalent qualifications.

    Amount of funding:

    Estimated costs 2013 – 2017: € 1,1 mn

    Monitoring:

    A Quality assurance council was set up to provide quality- and needs-oriented academic support for the development of the new teacher training programmes and to safeguard the occupational law-specific requirements of the new scheme. This council comprises six members, who must be experts on the national and/or international higher education system and have relevant knowledge of the Austrian school system. Its tasks include: observing and analysing the further development of teacher training in Austria and drawing up opinions about the curricula regarding the extent to which they portray professional requirements (competence catalogue, qualification profile, recruitment requirements).

    Involved bodies: