It may be relatively small, but there are many reasons to study in Austria, including a number of universities which rank among the world's best. In terms of area, Austria is no bigger than the US state of Maine, and in terms of population, it is home to roughly the same number of people as the UK capital, London. But this beautiful Central European country, full of stunning landscapes and exuberant cities, should certainly not be judged on size.
This is the land which brought the world great composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and innovative thinkers such as Sigmund Freud and Ludwig Wittgenstein – not to forget the iconic musical, The Sound of Music, and the equally memorable one-liners of actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Want to study in Austria? Click on the tabs below for information about the top universities in Austria, popular student cities, and what steps to take next.
Seven universities in Austria are featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017. Of these, four Austrian universities are ranked among the world’s top 500:
The University of Vienna is the highest-ranked Austrian university, placed 155th in the world in the QS World University Rankings. It’s also the largest university in Austria, and, having celebrated its 650th anniversary in 2015, the oldest in the German-speaking world. Today it’s one of the largest universities anywhere in Europe, with around 93,000 students enrolled. It teaches across a broad subject spectrum, mostly in German but with a significant number of English-taught master’s degrees. The university is associated with 15 Nobel Prize winners, including 2004’s recipient of the Literature Prize. Its faculties are spread across more than 60 locations throughout the Austrian capital.
Austria’s second representative in the rankings is Vienna University of Technology, in joint 183rd place. Established in 1815, it is one of the most prestigious technical institutions in Europe. The university focuses on the fields of engineering and natural sciences, and has around 28,000 students enrolled, with an impressively high percentage of international students (it ranks just outside the world’s top 100 on this indicator). Again located in the beautiful Austrian capital, Vienna, it offers students the opportunity to take advantage of the city’s vibrant cultural life.
Ranked joint 299th in the world overall, Universität Innsbruck outdoes even the University of Vienna when it comes to internationalization.
It ranks within the world’s top 35 for its proportion of international students, and the top 95 for proportion of international faculty members. The university’s total student enrollment is around 28,000, making it the third largest in Austria. Its facilities are spread throughout the attractive city of Innsbruck, towards the west of the country, which is renowned as a major snowsports hub. Given this mountain-surrounded location, it’s unsurprising that Universität Innsbruck is particularly renowned for its work in the field of mountain research.
Commonly known as the University of Graz, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz is ranked within the world’s top 470 higher education institutions. It was established in 1585, which makes it the second-oldest university in Austria. It’s also the second largest Austrian university, with almost 32,000 students enrolled. Like Universität Innsbruck, the University of Graz recently separated from its medical faculty, which is now an independent institution, the Medical University of Graz. Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz also collaborates with the Graz University of Technology to offer joint programs in natural and biological sciences.
Sandwiched between Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Switzerland, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia and Lichtenstein, Austria is located pretty much in the dead center of Europe, forming a bridge between east and west. Geographically, Austria is dominated by the Alps in its southeast and center, and the River Danube – 10% of which lies within the nation’s borders – on which the capital city Vienna is built.
Quality of life in Austria is regularly rated among the highest anywhere in the world. In fact, Vienna was named the world’s leading city for quality of life in Mercer's 2015 Quality of Living Survey. Home to over a quarter of Austria’s population, Vienna is renowned as one of Europe’s great cultural capitals, and is a popular choice for many international students – but it’s certainly not the only appealing study location the country has to offer.
Austria’s capital and largest city by far, Vienna boasts one of the world’s highest standards of living, a large and diverse student population, and an incredibly rich cultural landscape. This combines with its strong universities and relatively low tuition fees to earn it a place among the world’s top 20 cities for students in the QS Best Student Cities index. Famed for its beauty, Vienna has preserved an impressive amount of green space, as well as boasting attractive baroque architecture, magnificent palaces, some of the world’s most celebrated museums, and a renowned café culture.
The city has a particularly impressive musical and artistic pedigree (having been home to Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Fuchs, Klimt and Loos, among others), and has a number of prestigious academies dedicated to fine art and music. It’s also home to two of the highest-ranked universities in Austria: the University of Vienna and Vienna University of Technology, ranked 155th and joint 183rd in the world respectively.
Twice host to the Winter Olympics, alpine city Innsbruck is a paradise for those with a passion for the piste. The Austrian Alps are pretty much always in sight here, and you can be making your way to the top in a cable car in less than half an hour. Even if you’re not a keen skier or snowboarder, Innsbruck is simply a beautiful place to be; its combination of attractive traditional and modern architecture, against the mountain backdrop, is difficult to beat.
Innsbruck is also known as a student-centered town; it’s home to Austria’s third largest student population, and has a lively nightlife ranging from traditional beer gardens to trendy bars. There are several universities here, of which the most prominent is the Universität Innsbruck, ranked within the world’s top 300.
Austria’s second largest city, Graz has a reputation for being a student town, with those enrolled at its four universities constituting a major chunk of its population. The best-known of its institutions is Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz (also called the University of Graz), which ranks within the world’s top 500 in the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017. Unsurprisingly given its major student community, Graz offers a vibrant nightlife, alongside a famously relaxed attitude. Located in the heart of the state of Styria in the southeast of the country, Graz is also renowned for its food, offered called the “culinary capital” of Austria.
Departing from the historic architecture and traditional feel which characterizes many popular Austrian cities, Linz is known for its much more modern urban aesthetic. Austria’s third largest city, it was European Capital of Culture in 2009, having transformed its central area into a sleek, gleaming space full of modernist architecture and contemporary public artworks. The city’s old town remains lively and full of character, with plenty of cafés and bars to check out, while major cultural venues include the Brucknerhaus (a festival and concert center named for the region’s famous composer, Anton Bruckner) and the Lentos Art Museum, one of the nation’s leading venues for modern art.
Universities in Linz are led by Johannes Kepler University Linz, which ranks among the world's top 600 in the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017.
Another of Austria’s most popular tourist destinations, Salzburg is a well-preserved historical city. While Salzburg’s ‘old town’ neighborhood has World Heritage Site status, it’s also presided over by the imposing Festung Hohensalzburg, a 16th century fortress (construction actually started in the 11th century) that sits on a mountain overlooking the town. But Salzburg is no time capsule; with plenty of bars, cultural institutions and winter sports, there’s no shortage of things to do once you’ve completed the tourist trail.
Universities in Salzburg include the Paris Lodron Universitat Salzburg (also known as the University of Salzburg), which is ranked in the 701+ range of the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017.
In order to study in Austria, you should apply directly to the Austrian university at which you wish to enroll. Your secondary qualifications must be considered to be of an equivalent level to those offered in Austria, and must be sufficient to gain entry to a similar program in the country where it was earned. You will also need to prove that you speak German or English to the level stipulated by the university, depending on the language in which your program will be taught.
At undergraduate (bachelor’s) level, the majority of courses in Austria are taught in German, with a larger selection of English-taught programs available at master’s level. If you are applying to a universität der künste (university of the arts), you will be asked to sit an entrance examination.
Students coming from any EU/EEA country do NOT need a visa in order to study in Austria. However, if you wish to stay in Austria for more than six months, you need to apply for a residence permit. You should file your application for this and wait for it to be approved before coming to Austria. For more information, contact your local Austrian Embassy.
Students coming from countries which are not EU/EEA members need to apply for a Visa Type D. The required documents for this are:
If you are a student from Austria or from any EU/EEA country, you do not have to pay any tuition fees, as higher education in Austria is free. If you take more than two semesters longer than the standard amount of time to complete your course, you will have to pay fees of around €363.36 (~US$390) per semester.
If you come from a non-EU country, the tuition fees amount to €726.72 (~US$780) per semester. The student union membership fee is €17.50 (~US$19) per semester, and is compulsory for all students. Some scholarships might be also available for international students.