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Masters Study in Austria – A Guide for 2018

Whether you want to soak up the culture and history of beautiful cities like Vienna, or check out some of Europe's top Alpine ski resorts, studying a Masters in Austria will leave you with some great memories. And, with historic universities, modern postgraduate programmes and globally renowned institutions, it'll also leave you with a great degree!

This guide covers all the essential information you need to know about Masters study in Austria, explaining the Austrian university system, tuition fees and the application process.

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Postgraduate opportunities in Austria – what’s on offer for 2018?

Located at the heart of Europe, Austria has a proud intellectual and cultural tradition that is reflected in the quality of its higher education system. Fittingly for a country that has produced thinkers and artists as diverse as Freud, Mozart and Schwarzenegger (!), Austria has an excellent selection of universities to choose from.

We’ve listed some of the main reasons why you should consider studying a Masters in Austria in 2018:

  • An international outlook – Almost 68,000 of Austria’s 350,000 university students are international, a figure that reflects the country’s welcoming attitude towards people wishing to study abroad there.
  • Affordability – If you’re an EU or EEA national, you won’t have to pay any tuition fees for a Masters programme in Austria! And, even if you’re from outside Europe, you’ll pay a relatively small amount per semester.
  • Historic universities – Austria is home to some of Europe’s oldest universities – for example, the University of Vienna was founded in 1365 and the University of Graz in 1685.
  • Excellent quality of life – Austria is consistently found near the top of quality of life indexes, and with good reason: its healthcare, housing and environmental quality are all of a high standard.
Masters Study in Austria - Key Details
Universities 70
Oldest University University of Vienna (1365)
International Students 67,691
Course Length 1-2 years
Typical Fees (Domestic / EU) None (subject to conditions)
Academic Year October to September

What's it like to study abroad in Austria?

Want to know more about life for international students in Austria? Our detailed guide covers everything from accommodation and living costs to culture and entertainment.

Austrian universities

These are the three types of university offering Masters degrees in Austria:

  • Public universities – There are 22 public universities or Universität in Austria. They carry out academic research in a range of fields and offer a full range of postgraduate degree programmes. One institution, the Danube University of Continuing Education Krems, specialises entirely in postgraduate courses.
  • Private universities – There are 13 private universities in Austria. They are free to design courses, set fees and manage admissions according to their own policy, but all universities and programmes must be accredited by a council operating on behalf of the Austrian government.
  • Universities of applied sciences – There are 21 universities of applied sciences or Fachhochschule in Austria. Their programmes are vocationally orientated and include some Masters degrees and other postgraduate qualifications with a professional focus.

Austria also offers 14 specialist university colleges of teacher education (Pädagogische Hochschulen). As their name suggests, these focus specifically on teacher training programmes.

Austrian university cities

Although Austria is a relatively small country, with a population of around 8.75 million, it’s lucky enough to have a good selection of vibrant student cities to choose from.

We’ve listed the main higher education hubs below, which you can use to browse Masters degrees in those particular locations.

Austrian university rankings

Austrian universities appear in all three major global rankings systems – befitting a country with some of Europe's most historic cities and universities.

The highest ranked university in Austria is also the country's oldest: the University of Vienna appears in the top 200 of all three major ranking systems.


Top 5 Austrian Universities in 2018
University THE 2018 QS 2018 ARWU 2017
University of Vienna =165 154 151-200
University of Innsbruck 251-300 286 151-200
Medical University of Vienna 251-300 - 201-300
Medical University of Graz 301-350 - -
Vienna University of Technology 301-350 =182 401-500
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

Do rankings matter for Masters degrees?

International rankings use all sorts of metrics to assess universities and they aren't all equally relevant to postgraduate study. That's why we've put together a guide to university rankings for Masters students.

Course types

Like other European countries, Austria used to award 'longer-cycle' qualifications of varying length, rather than distinguishing clearly between separate undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The traditional Austrian equivalent to the Master's degree was (and in some cases still is) the Diploma programme (Diplomstudium) or Magister qualification.

Rather than being a postgraduate qualification, Masters-level Diploma programmes usually cover the period of study for an undergraduate and postgraduate degree – awarding a Masters-level qualification after a longer period of study.

Diploma programmes are still offered at some institutions but, as part of the Europe-wide Bologna Process, most are being phased out in favour of modern postgraduate Masters degrees awarding MA (Master of Arts) MSc (Master of Science) and similar qualifications. These are 'second cycle' programmes, completed after a separate three-year Bachelors degree.

Programme lengths

Postgraduate study in Austria can be very flexible, with a range of programme lengths to suit different subjects and students.

  • Austrian Masters degrees can take up to two years of full-time study, including time spent on an independent research project and dissertation. Courses at universities will often be longer than those at Fachhochschulen.
  • Austrian Diploma programmes are normally much longer – a Masters level qualification will probably take up to six years to complete (this is because most integrate 'undergraduate' and 'postgraduate' level work).

The actual length of any given course will usually be measured in semesters rather than years. There are two semesters in the Austrian academic year (which runs from October to September, including holidays). A modern Masters degree normally takes two to four semesters, whilst a traditional Diploma programme will take between six and eight.

Course content and dissertation requirements

Austrian Masters students take a mixture of core and optional courses.

During the first year, students will study more general topics relevant to their chosen programme. In the second year, students will have added freedom to select optional units and pursue academic specialisms. This two-stage approach can help you make the most of Masters-level study: acquiring the core knowledge necessary to identify and pursue your own interests and concluding with a dissertation that follows through on these.

The two years of a typical programme are divided by a three-month summer break. Many students use this to gain additional study or work experience – or to complete a placement or exchange programme elsewhere. This can be an ideal opportunity for international students – giving you the chance to visit home, further explore life in Austria, or take advantage of Austria's central location and spend time in a neighbouring country.

Austrian Masters degrees also provide the opportunity to develop research skills through coursework and writing a thesis (or dissertation) – this usually takes up the final semester of a two-year program, but may not be required by shorter vocationally-orientated courses at Fachhochschulen.

Where required, a thesis will be worth around 20-40 ECTS credits. Part of this value may depend on your oral 'defence' – see below.

ECTS credits for Austrian Masters degrees

Masters programmes in Austria use the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). A two-year Masters degree at a University is normally worth 120-150 ECTS credits. A shorter, one-year course at a Fachhochschule is normally worth 60. This can be perfect as a source of focussed professional training, but won't normally be sufficient as an entry requirement for academic PhD study.

Austrian Diploma programmes pre-date the new ECTS system, but, where offered, they should be worth the equivalent of 240 to 360 ECTS credits.

Assessment of Austrian Masters degrees

Austrian Masters programmes are usually assessed on a unit-by-unit basis, with each unit carrying a designated ECTS credit value along with your dissertation (if required). Your performance across individual units and the final dissertation will then be used to calculate an overall degree result.

Assessment tasks may vary between subject areas and degree programmes, but will usually include written assignments, smaller research tasks, placements, practical projects and examinations, as appropriate.

Your dissertation will be marked as a piece of written work, but may also require an oral 'defence'. This will involve giving a short presentation about your work and / or answering questions about your findings and conclusions. Several other European higher education systems use a similar system to assess Masters degrees, giving students the chance to stand up and take credit for their work in a similar way to the 'viva voce' defence that concludes a PhD.

Austrian Masters degree grades

Different types of university in Austria use slightly different grading formats.

Public universities use a four-band grading system:


Masters Degree Grades at Austrian Public Universities
Grade Label Detail
1 Sehr Gut (Very Good) The best possible grade, demonstrating excellent achievement
2 Gut (Good) A strong grade, demonstrating above average achievement
3 Befriedigend (Satisfactory) A decent passing grade, demonstrating acceptable achievement
4 Genügend (Passed) A minimum passing grade, demonstrating merely sufficient achievement

A fifth grade band Nicht Genügend denotes failed work.

Universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschule) also use four grade bands, but do not give these numeric values:


Masters Degree Grades at Austrian Public Universities
Label Detail
Distinction An exceptional achievement, awarded to the very best students
Excellent A strong grade, well above average
Very Good An above-average grade
Passed An acceptible grade, demonstrating sufficient competency for a degree to be awarded

Any work that falls below these standards is considered to have Failed and will not lead to the award of a degree.

Private universities in Austria are free to design and administer their own assessment and grading systems (though their degree programs must still be officially accredited). In practice these may be similar to those used by Public institutions, but there is no requirement that they adopt the same bands or descriptions.

Search for a Masters in Austria

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Austria on FindAMasters.com

Masters fees and funding in Austria

Austria is one of several European countries with a very generous approach to tuition fees at its public universities. In fact, no fees are charged to students on Bachelors or Masters programmes. Better yet, this generosity also applies to the fees for many international postgraduates in Austria!

Masters fees

If you are an EU or EEA national, you can study a Masters in Austria for free, provided you complete your programme on time.

You will normally be allowed the minimum duration of your programme plus a further two semesters of free study (in practice this means three years for most Masters programmes). After this you will be charged €363.36 per semester.

Students from other countries will normally be charged €726.72 per semester. This puts the cost of a typical two year (four semester) Masters programme in Austria at €2,906.88. Note that Fachhochschulen (Austrian universities of applied sciences) can charge Masters fees of up to €363.36 per semester to domestic and EU students, though not all will do so.

Other fees

Whether or not you are charged tuition fees for your Masters in Austria, you will need to pay some additional administrative costs. These include a student union membership fee (ÖH-Beitrag), set at €19.20 a semester, meaning that the total cost across a two-year Masters will be €76.80. Included in this price is the fee for Austria’a compulsory student accident insurance.

Masters funding

Even if you don't pay tuition fees to study a Masters in Austria, you'll still need to cover your costs whilst living in the country. Remember too that one of the conditions of your student visa or residence permit will be the possession of sufficient financial resources to support yourself as you study.

Luckily there are a wide range of available scholarships for Masters study in Austria. Some of the main providers include:

  • Austrian universities may offer merit-based or need-based scholarships. Contact your individual institution for more information. Merit-based scholarships are often granted annually to current students with an outstanding academic record.
  • The Austrian Government offers a range of grants and scholarships.
  • The European Commission's Erasmus Programme offers various forms of support as part of its Erasmus+ scheme. These include scholarships for Joint Masters Degrees and shorter Mobility Grants as well as the pioneering Masters Loans project.
  • The Council on International Educational Exchange have grants available for American students to study abroad:

Applying for a Masters in Austria

There is no central system for international applications to study abroad in Austria. In most cases you should find a suitable programme and apply directly to the university responsible – all of the Austrian Masters degrees listed on FindAMasters include application information.

The deadline for application to study a Masters in Austria is normally the September prior to the beginning of your course (normally in October).

This may seem quite relaxed, with the application window remaining open until almost the beginning of the academic year. Remember though that you will need to complete a separate visa application as an international student and may also need to supply accredited transcripts and translations of documents relating to your academic record.

For this reason you should begin your application well ahead of the deadline – ideally during the summer prior to your Masters or even during the final year of your undergraduate programme (Austrian universities will usually accept a projected degree result in lieu of a completed Bachelors degree).

Admissions requirements

As is normal for higher education systems operating within the European Higher Education Area, Austrian universities will expect postgraduate applicants to hold an undergraduate degree (or be in the process of completing one).

Your qualification should be a Bachelors degree or its equivalent, worth at least 180 ECTS credits (all three-year European undergraduate degrees should satisfy this requirement). This qualification should be in a subject related to your Masters. In some cases, an Austrian university may also wish to confirm that a certain number of your undergraduate credits (or their equivalent) were earned for work associated with your chosen postgraduate subject and / or specialism.

Particularly selective (and competitive) programmes may set additional entry exams - or ask for scores from common postgraduate admissions tests such as the GMAT or GRE.

Application process

You should begin your application by contacting the university responsible for your Masters program. Austrians take administrative procedures very seriously so be sure to supply all required documentation and follow instructions to the letter.

In most cases you will require the following documents:

  • A degree certificate (for applicants who have completed their degree). If you are currently studying and will complete after the application deadline but before the start of the Master's program, you can still apply.
  • Official transcripts of all courses and units of study completed as part of your first degree program, including grades, weekly hours and / or ECTS credits. If your degree was earned in a country working within the Bologna Process, a Diploma Supplement may be provided to assist with this.
  • Evidence of any required German or English language proficiency.
  • A copy of your passport (this may be required to confirm your nationality and determine your fee status).

Some courses may also request graduate entry test scores, a CV, personal statement, academia references or an artistic portfolio, as relevant.

Note that all diplomas and certificates submitted as part of your application must be official documents with the official stamp (or 'apostille') of the institution that awarded them.

Documents not originally published in German may also need to be translated (and the translation certified by an accredited professional, such as a lawyer). Universities may have a preferred service for this process.

Language requirements

The language of Austria is German and this is the medium for most of the country's degree programmes. However, as international study in Austria becomes more popular, universities are offering more programmes in English – particularly at postgraduate level.

Exact language requirements for an Austrian Masters degree will depend on your situation and the requirements set for your course:

  • If you are opting to study for a Masters degree delivered partly or completely in German, you will be required to provide evidence of German proficiency, generally a minimum of a DSH II level.
  • If you are opting for a Masters programme delivered in English and you are not a native speaker, you will have to provide evidence of English proficiency, through a TOEFL or IELTS certificate, for example.

Student visas

Austria is a member of the EU and the EEA, with a welcoming attitude to international applicants. In fact, almost 70,000 people study abroad in Austria.

Visa requirements for postgraduate study in Austria depend on student nationality:

  • If you are a citizen of the EU, EEA or of Switzerland, you may enter Austria freely and reside for up to three months. After this you will need to apply for Confirmation of Registration (Anmeldebescheinigung).
  • Students from other countries will need to apply for an entry visa and a Student Residence Permit (Aufenthaltsbewilligung Studierende). Note that, unlike some countries, Austria requires students to apply for a Residence Permit before they enter the country.

All students are also required to register separately as residents in their local area - this is done at your nearest Registration Office.

Applying to study in Austria as a non EU / EEA or Swiss national

If you are not a citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland you will need both a visa and a Student Residence Permit to enter Austria.

There are two types of visa suitable for entry into Austria as an international student:

  • A Visa C will entitle you to enter Austria and remain for up to three months (90 days).
  • A Visa D will entitle you to enter Austria and remain for up to six months (180 days).

Remember, you will only need one of these visas to enter Austria if you are not an EU / EEA national (or a citizen of Switzerland).

You should begin your application for an Austrian visa and Residence Permit at an Austrian consulate or embassy in your home country. In most cases the following documents will be required in addition to completed application forms:

  • Your passport along with two recent passport-sized photos (to be used for record keeping and / or on official permit certificates and documents).
  • Your birth certificate
  • Proof of financial means to support yourself whilst living and studying in Austria. This can take various forms, including evidence of a scholarship or bursary, evidence of savings, or a guarantee of support from someone living in Austria. The amount you will need to demonstrate will depend on your age and circumstances:
    • Students aged under 24 should have access to €502.24 per month.
    • Students aged 24 or over should have access to €909.42 per month.
  • Proof of accommodation such as a tenancy agreement or similar document. You can read more about accommodation and living costs in our guide to living in Austria as a postgraduate student.
  • Proof of health insurance - this can take various forms.
  • Proof of university admission confirming your acceptance and enrolment onto a recognised postgraduate degree program.

Applying to study in Austria as an EU / EEA or Swiss national

If you are a citizen of an EU or EEA member state (or of Switzerland) you will only need to apply for Confirmation of Registration, once within Austria. You can do this at any appropriate local authority, such as a magistrate or immigration office near to your university.

In addition to an application form, you will normally need to provide:

  • A valid passport (or European identity card).
  • Confirmation of admission to your university.
  • Proof of health insurance (acceptable forms depend on student nationality).
  • Proof of sufficient financial resources. These will be the same as those for non-EU / EEA students, as above.

The fee for receiving confirmation of registration is normally €15.

Health insurance for postgraduate students in Austria

International students in Austria are required to have a valid health insurance policy. Your requirements will depend on your nationality:

  • Students from within the EU or EEA will be covered if they hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) (demonstrating a reciprocal healthcare agreement between their country and Austria).
  • Students from certain other countries (including Bosnia and Herzogovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey) will also be covered by separate reciprocal healthcare agreements with Austria. If so you should acquire an A3 form from the national health insurance provider in your home country. You can then exchange this for an Austrian healthcare form (referred to as a Krankenkassenschecks).
  • Students without reciprocal healthcare cover will either need to confirm that existing private cover is valid in Austria or take out a policy with a local public healthcare provider (Gebietskrankenkassen) in Austria. The cost of this is €58.39 a month.

Next steps

Austria's position at the centre of Europe makes it a great platform for further work and study – whether in neighbouring countries or in Austria itself. The reputation of the country's universities and their participation within the European Higher Education Area also means that your Austrian Masters degree will be widely recognised by universities and employers in Europe and beyond.

Student employability is a key concern for Austrian universities, most of which will have active careers offices and support staff, ready to assist you with your future plans. After all, your success as a graduate reflects back on your university and Austrian universities are rightly proud of their reputation.

Can you remain in Austria to work after a Masters degree?

Yes, but your right to work and the amount of time you can spend seeking employment will depend on your nationality and visa status.

  • EU and EEA citizens can work in Austria freely, provided their residence permit remains valid. You should be able to renew yours to seek or undertake work after your studies.
  • Students from other countries will be entitled to apply for a Red-White-Red-Card (Rot-Weiss-Rot – Karte). This is valid for up to 24 months and entitles you to live and work in Austria provided you meet a minimum standard of income and have adequate health insurance and accommodation. You can read more information on the official Austrian immigration service website.

Whatever your circumstances, your chance of finding work in Austria will be improved if you have proficiency in German (though a combination of German and English may also be an advantage in some professions). Employers are also likely to respect timely completion of a degree programme as well as the final grade achieved for it.

Can you remain in Austria for further study after a Masters degree?

Yes – an Austrian Masters degree is (unsurprisingly) a great preparation for a PhD in Austria (or elsewhere). Be aware, however, that a one-year, 60 ECTS credit, professional Masters from a Fachhochschule may not be suitable as an entry qualification for academic PhD study. Make sure you check that your Masters degree fits with your future study (or employment) plans.

Search for a Masters in Austria

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Austria on FindAMasters.com

Last updated - 28/03/18

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