With each year Austria attracts more and more international students. They come either for the short Erasmus exchange program or a long bachelor’s and master’s degree. In both cases, students have great experience and no regrets whatsoever. Reason for this careful choice and informing beforehand, so your expectations will be matched.
In this article, you will find out 9 must-know things before studying in Austria.
1. Education is Free for Everyone:
If you are interested in studying in Austria the first good news is that higher education is free there. The Austrian education system is state-funded which means you don’t bear the burden of tuition fees even from other than European countries get a quality education without paying heavy tuition fees.
Public universities are free of charge for EU/EEA students and Non-Europeans have to pay only 726.72 EUR per semester.
However, at the Universities of Applied Sciences, everyone must pay 379,36 EUR per semester. That is almost nothing for this quality of education and life Austria is offering. I bet you will pay more in your home country.
Be aware that most Bachelor’s programs in English have tuition fees. However, there is a good chance to find a free English master’s program. You may consider private institutions, which are quite good. But they are costly, semester fee can be up to 10,000 EUR. Besides free from charge education, exchange students can apply for Erasmus funding to support them while living in Austria. This takes the pressure off financially, making studying at an Austrian university for an all-around chilled-out and enjoyable experience.
Best free universities in Austria:
- Vienna university
- University of Graz
- University of Innsbruck
- Anton Bruckner University
- University of JOANNEUM
- MCI Management Center Innsbruck
- Medical University of Graz
- FH Vorarlberg
2. You Can Work While Studying but Limited Hours:
Earning money during your studies is essential for everyone, but not all countries allow you to do so. In Austria, international and local students are allowed to work while pursuing their degrees.
However, foreign students who stay on a student visa can work only limited hours, it’s 10 hours per week if they are doing a Bachelor’s program. Students in Master’s degree programs are allowed to work with a work permit for up to 20 hours weekly.
During the holidays and during study breaks international students are permitted to work full time.
Most Common Jobs for Students in AUSTRIA:
- Waiter, Barkeeper
- Research Assistant at University
- Junior position accordingly to the specialization at University
Austria doesn’t have a fixed minimum wage, but normally it is not less than 9 EUR per hour.
3. International Students can Stay in AUSTRIA after Graduation:
Compare to many other countries Austria allows graduates to stay and look for a job for 12 months after finishing university. And thanks to new labor market regulations, international students are permitted to work and start their businesses within the country after they finish their degrees.
After receiving a job they can apply for a residence and work permit and live in Austria as long they want (of course if requirements are fulfilled). It relates to none European students, EU citizens don’t need either a visa or permission to live in Austria.
Your (Red-White-Red Card) will be issued for one year with a possible extension. After 2 years of holding this permit, you are eligible to apply for Red-White-Red Card Plus Card, it also issued for a period of one year.
While Red-White-Red Card entitles you to work for one employer. “Plus card” gives you fixed-term settlement and unlimited labor market access including self-employment. Hence you aren’t depending on one employer anymore.
4. You Need Health Insurance:
Health insurance is a must in Austria and you will need to arrange it beforehand. What can be a tricky thing, I personally was struggling a lot with this.
So basically the Austrian immigration office will want you to have an insurance plan which covers all possible services, and its first is super expensive. Second, no Austrian insurance company wants to take you because you don’t have a residence permit yet.
But here absurd thing is that basically you need this insurance to receive a permit and insurance requires having a permit already. No way!
So, in this case, you can arrange online insurance for exchange students which is the easiest, fastest and cheapest option. Once you received a student residence permit you can apply for a regular state insurance plan. This will cover most medical expenses, treatments, and hospital stay and costs around 60 EUR per month. You won’t find a cheaper price.
5. Attendance is NOT Mandatory in most Universities:
In Austrian universities, attendance at lectures and seminars is not mandatory in most cases.
There are some Universities of Applied Sciences that will require some percentage of attendance. If you missed too much you might be not allowed to the exam and will have to take the course again. So be careful with this.
Overall each professor will tell you his rules, some might be stricter than others. Most common is that they want you to be present in seminars, at least to some extent.
Studies in Austria are pretty much orientated on self-education and at university. You will get just the basics of what will need to be accomplished on your own. It is very different from education in third countries, where professors still use a theoretical approach. Hence their lectures are based on books that you can read later and this is all you need to pass the exam.
Central and West European education is a combination of theory, practice, and research. Practice is the biggest and most important part, you can’t just read it in the book.
Most professors come from the area they teach about, either they worked or did research in this subject. Therefore they will teach you from their experience and not only out of books. But that’s also why it is so important to attend classes.
6. You Can’t Avoid the PaperWork:
If you are from a country outside of the EU and EEA you will face lots of paperwork. Your first experience will be applied to an Austrian university, the list of documents is large and time is limited.
Second, you will need to get an Austrian visa before you arrive in Austria. Austrian bureaucratie is so strict your documents must 100% fulfill the criteria. Otherwise, your paper won’t be accepted or you will need to do the procedure again.
And thirdly you need to apply for a residence permit after you arrive at your destination. These are three circles of hell of the Austrian bureaucracy.
EU/EEA citizens have fewer concerns about documents when they decide to study in Austria. They only need to register themself in the city hall (Rathaus) after arrival, it’s a 5 min task. The application process for university is more or less the same as in their home country. However, school certificates must be translated into German or English.
7. Learning Some German is Advisable:
First of all, you can live in Austria without speaking German, it’s perfectly fine, especially in the case of the exchange semester. If you decide to study a full degree program here, learning German is VERY advisable.
Not because people won’t understand you, but more because of general well-being. In a comfortable life, you should speak and understand at least some german. Do you really need these awkward situations all the time?
Usually, you can sort of get by with English but you need to understand that you are missing a huge part of the experience. Luckily, many Austrians, especially the younger ones, speak at least a bit of English.
The country also has a good tourism market. So locals won’t be shocked if you ask them for directions in English. In urban Austria, not just Vienna, you can actually live without German. But if you decide to move to “rural” Austria you can get in trouble. Austria is not the same as the Netherlands or Scandinavian countries, where everyone young and old can speak good English.
German is especially important for your career if you decide to stay and work in Austria.
It is highly recommended for you to learn German, especially if you are looking forward to finding a job in the Austrian market. A qualification is not a guarantee for a job.
Most of the jobs in Finance, Marketing, Accounting, Sales, Business Development, Customer service require German language skills. There are some English speaking jobs, but then you are competing for very few job offers and many applicants.
A lot of jobs require German AND English language fluency. Also, most of the courses in Bachelors’ are taught in German. Primarily, only a few colleges offer courses in English, like some Universities of Applied Sciences, and a few Public and Private Universities.
By all means, if you can learn some German before you come, that’s great. But if you don’t then try to learn as soon as you arrived, there are plenty of opportunities at the university of language schools.
If your plan is just to finish a degree in Austria and go back to your home country then, probably, learning german won’t be that essential for you.
8. Vienna has the Highest Quality of Living in Europe:
For 10 years Vienna has been awarded as the city with the highest quality of living in Europe and even in the world. This ranking considers a variety of factors including standards of schools, crime levels, recreation options, and even climate.
In fact, Austria ranks above the average in income and wealth, jobs and earnings, housing, health status, subjective well-being, personal security, social connections, environmental quality, and education and skills.
The level of quality of living is an important factor when picking a city to study abroad. There are also over 130,000 students in Vienna, making it an amazing place to study and live, currently, it’s in place 11 in the most recent Best Student Cities index.
Moreover, Vienna has a rich cultural heritage and so it’s a popular travel destination. If you want to be in the international atmosphere capital of Austria it’s a place to be. Most students are happy and live and study in the cultural and financial megapolis.
However, the rest of Austria is great for students too. Innsbruck, Graz, and Salzburg are incredible places to live as a student! The universities there hosted a variety of educational and recreational events all semester which made meeting people really easy.
9. Finding Accommodation isn’t Easy:
If there is one drawback of studying in Austria, it is related to housing. Be prepared to invest time and money in the apartment search. There are just not enough offers for needs.
In the end, you will compete with many other people for one apartment. The private flat will cost you at least 500 EUR, and a room in a shared apartment will be between 400-550 EUR per month.
If you coming to Austria as part of the Erasmus exchange, the university might provide you with a dormitory but not always, in fact, most universities don’t even have on-campus housing.
The best option for an international student, who wants to socialize and understand locals will be a shared apartment (Wohngemeinschaft/WG) or even a house. In Austria, it is the most common accommodation type for students, used not only by young people but also by already working individuals.
In Austria, people prefer to live in detached houses than in apartments, which makes the search for students even more difficult, only 7% of people live in apartments.
Accommodations in the capital city of Vienna are expensive, but still quite affordable compared with other popular student cities. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Vienna’s city center is 846 EUR. While you would pay 963 EUR for the same flat in Barcelona and 1,194 EUR in Paris.
Do your research ahead of time before you come to Austria, so you won’t spend much on hotels or Airbnb while looking for long-term accommodation.