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Admission regulations and procedures

Admission regulations refer to the various forms of admission and selection procedures that university applicants have to go through in order to be admitted as (degree) students. The procedures vary depending on the type of university and the course that the applicant would like to study there.

Admission procedures at universities of applied sciences and university colleges of teacher education

Applicants to universities of applied sciences and university colleges of teacher education have always had to go through admission procedures in order to demonstrate their aptitude and motivation for a particular subject. This is because universities of applied sciences offer a certain number of places. At university colleges of teacher education, on the other hand, the purpose of the admission procedure is to find out whether applicants have the appropriate aptitude for their chosen teacher training programme. The same applies to admission to courses of study in artistic subjects or sports science, whether they are taken at a public university or university college of teacher education. For these courses, applicants must demonstrate artistic or sporting aptitude and talent.
More detailed information about the admission procedures at universities of applied sciences and university colleges of teacher education is available from Studienwahl and Studiversum (in German only); these two websites are provided as a service of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research.

Compulsory admission procedures in human medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and psychology

There is also an admission procedure for certain subjects at public universities. This applies primarily to degrees in human medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and psychology. These are all subjects to which the numerus clausus applies in Germany: in order to be admitted onto one of these courses, applicants need to have a certain grade point average in the Abitur (German higher education entrance examination). For applicants wishing to study human medicine or dentistry, for example, the same examination is held on the same day at all three universities of medicine (in Vienna, Graz and Innsbruck) and at the medical faculty of Johannes Kepler University in Linz. Competition is particularly fierce in human medicine, with around ten applicants chasing after each of the approx. 1,680 places every year. Since the demand from other EU countries is so great, 75 percent of places are reserved for applicants with an Austrian Matura certificate, 20 percent for applicants with other EU higher education entrance qualifications and 5 percent for third-country nationals. As of the start of the winter semester 2019/20, this ‘quota regulation’ applies only to the admission procedure for human medicine degrees and no longer to applicants wishing to study dentistry.

Optional nationwide admission regulations in certain fields of study

In a number of fields of study, universities have for some time had the option to apply admission rules due to the popularity of these fields, which leads to an unsatisfactory studying environment for capacity reasons. To date, the study programmes involved have been architecture and town planning; biology and biochemistry; computer science; management and administration/general business and administration/economic sciences; pharmacology; and media and communication studies. Section 71b of the Universities Act (UG) stipulates a minimum number of places that must be offered in these subjects.
This regulatory mechanism with legally standardised minimum numbers of places for first-year students will be maintained, with the number of places in computer science being increased from 2,500 to 2,800 due to its popularity. From the winter semester 2019/20, this regulated category will be extended to include three more fields of study: foreign languages, education and law. However, the logic will remain the same: universities will decide whether and in what area they want to make use of this option.

Field of study/study programme Minimum number nationwide
Architecture and town planning
Biology and biochemistry 3,700
Education 1,460*
Foreign languages 3,020*
Computer science 2,800
Management and administration/general business and administration/economic sciences 10,630
Pharmacology 1,370
Media and communication sciences 1,530
Law 4,300*

* New from winter semester 2019/2020

Individual admission rules for specific problematic situations at universities

From the winter semester 2019/20, universities will be able to individually regulate admission to particular study programmes at their institution if the subjects in question are very popular. A prerequisite for this is that certain thresholds are exceeded and that these thresholds lead or would in future lead to unacceptable student-teacher ratios and capacity issues. These thresholds have been set out by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) in the University Admissions Regulation (in German only). However, it is left to the rectorates at the universities to decide whether they actually make use of this option. Section 71 (d) (3) of the Universities Act provides for two mechanisms to determine whether a subject is very popular, depending on whether the reference period for development is five or two years.

1. Reference period of five years (individual remedial admission measures)

According to the Universities Act, a study programme is very popular if the average student-teacher ratio of the past five years exceeded the reference value for this subject by 1.75 times and more than 500 students actively taking examinations were enrolled in bachelor’s, master’s and diploma programmes throughout Austria. As of 2019, this applies to merely four universities: the universities of Vienna, Graz and Linz and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), of which only three have applied for individual admission regulations under the University Admissions Regulation. The University of Graz does so for its Environmental System Sciences bachelor’s programme, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna for Environment and Bio-Resources Management (280 places). Finally, the University of Vienna decided to regulate admission to Political Science (570 places), Sociology (420 places) and Social and Cultural Anthropology (360 places) from the winter semester 2019/20 onwards. More detailed information is available on the relevant universities’ websites – the University of Vienna, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna and the University of Graz.

2. Reference period of two years (individual preventive admission measures)

In this case, the Universities Act does not take student-teacher ratios into account but instead looks at student numbers. According to the Act, a study programme is very popular if the number of first-year students increases by more than 50 percent and exceeds 200 in total, and the number of students actively taking examinations increases by more than 25 percent and exceeds 500 in total. It is therefore an individual admission rule for short-term increases in enrolment over two years that the universities were unable to foresee. This should enable them to react to students gravitating towards “bypass subjects”: it is well known that students tend to take a related course if admission to a particular subject is regulated. In the winter semester 2019/20, only one university – the University of Vienna – took advantage of this, introducing admission rules for its bachelor’s programme in Chemistry (250 places).

Universities hold the reins

Universities decide whether they want to apply the optional nationwide or individual admission regulations, if any. If prospective students wish to start university in the upcoming academic year, they should therefore find out in good time which regulations apply at the relevant university.

Please note: if you miss the (pre-)registration deadline for your chosen subject, you may risk not being able to start university during the entire upcoming academic year.

An overview of the registration and admission deadlines can be found on the individual universities’ websites and on the websites Studiversum and Studienwahl, which are provided as a service of the BMBWF. The Austrian National Union of Students also provides information about deadlines on its Studying Platform (in German only).

The same applies to the question of what form of mandatory aptitude testing universities plan to use – other than actual admission regulations – as part of the admission procedure. As of the winter semester 2019/20, universities may require applicants to submit personal statements or undergo online self-assessment or similar during (pre-)registration or actual enrolment under Section 63 (1) (6) of the Universities Act. These aptitude tests may be assessed but must not be a decisive factor in the admission procedure. The journey from (pre-)registration to admission as a student is shown under Admission to university.