Before you pack your bags, maybe even before you pick an apartment, it is important to pause and read up on what the school system is like in Austria. There is nothing worse than realizing halfway through your perfect stay that your child is unable to attend the kind of school you want for them. With that in mind, here’s some basic info on how the Austrian education system works.
Primary education in Austria
Primary schools are compulsory in Austria and generally take place between the ages of six and fifteen (or grades one to nine). The first four years, also called "Volksschule", are the same for everyone whilst the next five differ based on the aptitude and interests of the student. They can go to either the “Gymnasium” (a more academically focused education) or to the “Berufsschule” (a vocational school, before which the student needs to spend one year in a polytechnic institute to prepare themselves for this type of education). If this seems confusing, think of it as an academic route and a practical route, each with its own type of education with a divergent point after the first four years of education.
Secondary education in Austria
Secondary school flows seamlessly into the two tracks above with the choices of higher education (Höhere Schule) and vocational school (Berufsbildende Höhere Schule). They last between four and five years and generally require sitting an entrance exam or good grades in the previous education level to be accepted. At the end, the students must sit an exam called "Matura" which serves as the final exam for their secondary education. Their results will be important for getting into universities (though some fields, like medicine, for example, have tests of their own or accept only the very best of "Matura" scores). Whether your child wants to get into a university or a more technical field, good grades achieved at the end of secondary education are crucial.
When does school start in Austria?
The school year begins around September 4th and 11th depending on the region you’re in. Different schools will have different school system calendars which will influence how many school days there are in Austria but in general, it’s about 180. This is also true for national holidays, for example, whilst the Spring Holiday in Vienna and lower Austria begin in the first week of March, in Burgenland, Carinthia, Salzburgerland, Tyrol, and Vorarlberg it begins a week later and in Upper Austria, Steiermark it sometimes begins a week after that. The only national holiday which stays the same in all regions is Christmas Holiday which is from December 24th to January 6th and tends to coincide with free workdays so that the families can spend Christmas together.
When does school end in Austria?
The end of school in Austria is generally between June 29th and July 6th, again depending on the school in question and the region you find yourself in. This means that the Summer Holidays in Burgenland, Lower Austria, and Vienna begin earlier but also end earlier than in Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Carinthia, Salzburgerland, Upper Austria, and Steiermark. Overall, if you are confused as to when should your school begin or end it’s better to ask the school directly or to go on their website and look for answers there.
Is college free in Austria?
Many might be shocked by the Austrian education system advantages, chief amongst which is the price. The public universities, such as the (Vienna University of Economics and Business) or Johannes Kepler University Linz, are actually free for applicants from the European Union and the European Economic Area. For everyone else, the fees range from a thousand euro per year to tens of thousands per year depending on whether you choose a public or a private university. As a general rule of thumb, public universities are cheaper for international students but not all of them will provide education in foreign languages whilst private universities and colleges tend to have a steep flat fee for locals and foreigners alike, but they are better prepared for international students.
Foreign students in Austria
If you’re not from the EU, it might seem to you like higher education in Austria is wholly out of your reach. But do not despair. Many organizations and schools, as well as the Austrian government, provide scholarships or grants for international students which can range from about 300 euros to almost 1000 euros. There are many to choose from, each with their own requirements for eligibility as well as the type of education they will fund but The Federal Aid for Students or the Scholarship Foundation of the Republic of Austria is a good place to start. The administrative process can be a lot when looking for a good scholarship, but the quality of Austrian universities and colleges is well worth the red tape.
In short, there are many hurdles to overcome when it comes to choosing one’s new home, but none may be more important than whether or not there is the right education for you and your kids. If Austria sounds like the place for you, head on to Flatio and find your future apartment there. And if you are heading directly to Vienna and ever wondered how to meet new friends there, you can read some tips in our blog post published recently.