The University System



With the passing of the Universities Act 2002 (UG 2002) Austrian universities became fully legal entities. The new law on the organisation of all universities came into effect on 1st January 2004.

The Conference of Austrian University Presidents is recognised as the highest body of the universities. With the UG 2002 it has become a public organisation under private law. Its purpose is to support Austrian universities with their work and thus advance academic knowledge and research.

An Academic Council has been established for the purpose of political consultation, to advise the legislators, the Minister of Education, Science and Culture and the universities. The Academic Council – consisting of twelve members from different sections of society – observes and assesses the university/academic system in Austria, taking account of European and international developments, and makes suggestions to assist further development.


The segregation of medical faculties (Vienna, Graz and Innsbruck) as prescribed by the Universities Act 2002 has resulted in three medical universities being added to the existing twelve universities and six arts universities. Thus there are now 21 universities in Austria. The universities can establish or continue degree programmes such as bachelor, master and doctoral (Ph.D.) programmes, but also diploma degree programmes according to the old system, if required. All persons who have a "Reifeprüfung" or a "Berufsreifeprüfung" or have passed a university entrance exam are entitled to enrol in a university degree course. Conclusion of a master or diploma degree programme entitles students to enrol in a doctoral programme of two to four semesters duration. The study year consists of a winter semester, a summer semester and a lecture-free period. It usually begins on 1st October and ends on 30th September of the following year. Non-degree courses are university courses which are designed for continuing education purposes. Universities are entitled to set up such courses.

Austrian universities are almost entirely funded by the federal government.

The "Donau-Universität Krems" [Danube University Krems] founded in 1994 is a special type of university facility with its own legal basis. It is a widely autonomous statutory body serving postgraduate and further education at university level. The financial obligations of the Lower Austrian regional authority and the federal government are controlled by a Special Agreement (Article 15a B-VG). The federal government is responsible for personnel expenses, resources and capital investments for equipment, furniture, etc. The regional authority makes the building available and is responsible for operational and maintenance costs. The DUK Act 2004 adapted the legal foundation of the University Centre for Further Education Krems (Danube University Krems) to the structure of the University Act 2002.

Private Universities

The University Accreditation Act 1999 specifies as private universities any educational facilities which are not recognised as post-secondary facilities by any other Austrian legal provision. The Accreditation Council is responsible for approval and extension of accreditation. The law does not stipulate any definite organisational form. The range of programmes is often different in content and system from that of the state universities.

To date nine institutions have been accredited in Austria as private universities: New Design University in St. Pölten, Imadec University, Webster University Vienna, PEF Private University for Management and TCM Privatuniversität Li Shi Zhen in Vienna, Anton Bruckner Private University and the Private University for Catholic Theology Linz in Linz, Paracelsus Private Medical University in Salzburg and the Private University for Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology (UMIT) in Innsbruck.

Programmes with a University Character

Until the end of December 2003 the Federal Minister of Education, Science and Culture could decree, based on the University Studies Act, that courses held in non-university facilities could be awarded the designation "Course with a University Character" on a temporary basis. These courses will be phased out by 2010. The regulation on university courses similarly applies to the masters degrees or to the designation "Akademische/r …". Please see a list of programmes with a university character in Lower Austria in our "Bildungsatlas Niederösterreich".




Organisation for University Development and
Controlling in Niederösterreich Ltd.

A-3500 Krems, Dr.-Karl-Dorrek-Straße 30
E-mail: [email protected]