The system of the Universities of Applied Science and Colleges of Education



Universities of Applied Science (FH)

In May 1993 the parliament of Austria passed the Federal Act on Courses at Universities of Applied Science (FHStG), with the aim of widening the scope of higher education in Austria. Programmes at the Universities of Applied Science are submitted by legal entities under private or public law and, following approval by the Fachhochschule Council (FH Council), are managed by these legal entities. The maximum period of recognition for programmes at Universities of Applied Science is five years. A further characteristic of this sector is its system of mixed funding. In contrast to universities, this programmes have a practical orientation and therefore include in their curriculum compulsory professional practical training which is an intrinsic part of study. The number of students per year and course is limited, necessitating an admission procedure. Personal attendance at lectures is required. The basic admission requirement is a general university entrance certificate (Matura, Berufsreifeprüfung, university entrance examination) or a relevant professional qualification.


 The Sorbonne Declaration of 1998 emphasised the creation of a common European higher education framework  to promote mobility and employability. Its principles were confirmed by the 1999 Bologna Declaration passed by European education ministers. For example, academic qualifications were introduced which are easy to understand and compare, together with a system which is based on two main cycles (first cycle "undergraduate" followed by the second cycle "graduate"), where the focus is on qualifications. Introducing these qualifications, and counting study time abroad in accordance with the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) towards the required duration of studies, means an additional increase in students’ mobility.


As a result of the amendment to the Federal Act on Studies at Universities of Applied Science passed by the parliament (28th February 2002), there have been three types of programmes at the level of Universities of Applied Science since the 2003/04 academic year: bachelor, master and degree programmes. The prescribed period of study for bachelor degree is six semesters, for master degree two to four semesters and for degree eight to ten semesters. The final examination for an master programme or an degree programme consists of preparation of a thesis and an examination before a commission. For technical diplom-study programmes, the academic degree of ‘Diplom-Ingenieurin (FH)/Diplom-Ingenieur (FH)’, for non-technical studies the academic degree of 'Master (FH)’, plus the applicable professional qualification, is awarded. FH-bachelor programmes consist of lectures and written assignments (bachelor assignments), with a final bachelor examination before a commission. Here the academic degree ‘Bachelor’, also with the applicable professional qualification, is awarded.


 The successful completion of an master or degree programme entitles the student to enrol for application-oriented Ph.D. studies at a university. In comparison with the corresponding master or degree programmes at the universities shows the FH programme to be of shorter duration, then these doctoral studies will be extended by the difference.


A further characteristic of the system of Universities of Applied Science is its system of mixed funding. The State assumes over 90% of the standard costs per student on the condition that the course meets fixed criteria. The costs for buildings, capital investments and a part of the running costs are carried by the administrators of the University of Applied Science programmes (regional authorities and communities or other public and private institutions assume part of the costs). 


In the 2006/2007 academic year 193 programmes are available 115 of which are bachelor programmes. These were mainly converted from existing degree programmes. Which will not accept any more students.


The draft document for the Development and Funding Plan for the University of Applied Science Sector III (Fachhochschul-Entwicklungs- und Finanzierungsplan III) which will define the development of Universities of Applied Science from 2005/06 to 2009/10 came into effect in October 2005.