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Studying in Austria

Whether you study at a public or a private university, a university of applied sciences or a university college of teacher education, you can complete your studies in Austria and graduate with an academic degree: a Bachelor’s, a Master’s, a specialist degree such as engineering, or a PhD.

What does studying mean?

There’s no precise definition of what ‘studying’ means. The term is said to derive from the Latin word ‘studere’, which means to strive or make an effort.  The laws relevant to higher education, such as the Universities Act (UG), set out how studies should be structured and constituted. Since the 1999 Bologna declaration, Austria is one of many countries to have introduced the three-cycle higher education qualification system consisting of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies. This structure is a key pillar in the European Higher Education Area. There are still individual degree or diploma courses which award the title of, for example, ‘Magister/Magistra’ of a specific subject or ‘Diplomingenieur (qualified engineer)’ upon successful completion. This applies in particular to studies in medicine and to some studies in law, art and theology which at most universities conclude with the award of a doctorate. However, new degree programmes may only be instituted as bachelor's, master's (or doctoral or extension) programmes.

Bachelor’s and master’s programmes

Full bachelor’s programmes must last for at least six semesters and cover at least six semesters’ worth of workload, equivalent to between 180 and 240 ECTS credits. Both bachelor’s and master’s programmes conclude with graduation.
Master’s programmes must last for at least 4 semesters, and typically cover a workload equivalent to between 90 and 120 ECTS credits. They must cover the equivalent of at least 60 ECTS credits. Admission to a master’s degree programme is only possible if you have completed a bachelor’s course of equal status in a related subject.
The precise name for the bachelor’s or master’s degree (such as ‘Bachelor of Science’ or ‘Master of Science’) is determined by the university, private university or university of applied sciences itself. Both of these titles are added after the recipient’s name. Once awarded one of these titles, the recipient may use it, but is not obliged to do so.

Doctoral studies

Candidates looking for an academic or specialist career may pursue doctoral studies after completing their master’s. This culminates in the award of a doctorate (or PhD). Such studies may only take place at a university (a public university or a private university). Studies towards a PhD last 3 years; the universities themselves decide how many ECTS points are required. A PhD is not divided into stages. For doctoral studies, a dissertation/thesis is expected and the candidate must participate in individual courses. Both public and private universities may also require the candidate to defend their dissertation or attend one standard or several smaller doctoral vivas.
The title PhD is used after the recipient’s name; other doctorate titles are placed in front of the name. Once awarded one of these titles, the recipient may use it, but is not obliged to do so.