Study in Austria | Top Universities

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.

Eight universities in Austria are featured in the QS World University Rankings®. Of these, five Austrian universities are ranked among the world’s top 500, including:

University of Vienna

The University of Vienna is the highest-ranked Austrian university, at joint 151st 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 94,000 students enrolled. It teaches across a broad subject spectrum, mostly in German but with a sizeable number of English-taught master’s degrees. The university is associated with 15 Nobel Prize winners, including 2004’s recipient of the Literature Prize, Elfriede Jelinek. Its faculties are spread across more than 60 locations throughout the Austrian capital.

Vienna University of Technology

Austria’s second representative in the rankings is Vienna University of Technology, in joint 180th place. Established in 1815, it’s one of the most prestigious technical institutions in Europe. The university focuses on the fields of engineering and natural sciences, and has around 29,900 students enrolled, with an impressively high percentage of international students. Again located in the beautiful Austrian capital, it offers students the opportunity to take advantage of the city’s vibrant cultural life.

Universität Innsbruck 

Ranked 281st in the world overall, Universität Innsbruck outdoes even the University of Vienna when it comes to internationalisation. 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 enrolment 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.

Other Austrian universities ranked among the world’s best include Graz University of TechnologyJohannes Kepler University Linz, Karl-Franzens-Universitaet Graz and Paris Lodron University of Salzburg.

Compare the top universities in Austria 

Sandwiched between Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Switzerland, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia and Lichtenstein, Austria is located pretty much in the dead centre of Europe, forming a bridge between east and west. Geographically, Austria is dominated by the Alps in its southeast and centre, 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 for the eighth year running in Mercer's 2017 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 several 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 154th and joint 182nd 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 2018. 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, a fact which earns it the title of 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 500 in the QS World University Rankings 2018.


Another of Austria’s most popular tourist destinations, Salzburg is a well-preserved historical city. While Salzburg’s old town neighbourhood 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 751-800 range of the QS World University Rankings 2018.

See the latest QS World University Rankings

Applying to study in Austria

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.

Visas to study in Austria

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:

  • Visa D application form
  • Two passport photographs
  • Passport (must be valid for at least three months after your intended stay)
  • Letter of admission issued by your Austrian university
  • Proof of accommodation arrangements
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of sufficient funds (bank statement and/or confirmation issued by future employer)
  • Notarised letter signed by one or both of your parents declaring financial responsibility (not required if you are able to financially support yourself)
  • Copy of your itinerary or round trip ticket
  • All applicants must also submit biometric data (10 fingerprints). You need to schedule an appointment at the Austrian Embassy in your country in order to do this.

Fees and funding

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.

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Fast Facts

  • Federal republic, split into nine states
  • Parliamentary democracy, headed by president and chancellor, with bicameral legislature
  • Landlocked country in central Europe, with a population of around 8.6 million and a total area of 32,377 square miles
  • Borders with Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Switzerland, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia and Lichtenstein
  • International dialing code: +43
  • Central European Time (UTC+1)
  • Member state of the EU, but not a member of NATO (the only continental EU country that is not a member of NATO)
  • Austrian males must serve for six months in the military or nine months on civilian service when they reach 18.
  • Official language: German
  • Currency: Euro (€)
  • Main religion: Roman Catholic
  • Capital: Vienna (also by far the largest city)
  • 62% of Austria's total land area is covered by the Austrian Alps.
  • The Austrian flag is one of the oldest national flags in the world, dating from 1191.
  • The oldest zoo in the world is the Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna, founded in 1752.
  • Vienna's Central Cemetery has about three million tombs (more than the city's live population), including those of Beethoven, Brahms, Gluck, Schubert, Schoenberg and Strauss.