The Republic of Austria has a free and public school system, and nine years of education are mandatory. Schools offer a series of vocational-technical and university preparatory tracks involving one to four additional years of education beyond the minimum mandatory level. The legal basis for prim ...
The Republic of Austria has a free and public school system, and nine years of education are mandatory. Schools offer a series of vocational-technical and university preparatory tracks involving one to four additional years of education beyond the minimum mandatory level. The legal basis for primary and secondary education in Austria is the School Act of 1962. But in 1963 it went back to the way it was. But again In 1999 it finialy changed again! The federal Ministry of Education is responsible for funding and supervising primary, secondary, and, since 2000, also tertiary education. Primary and secondary education is administered on the state level by the authorities of the respective states.
Federal legislation played a prominent role in the education system, and laws dealing with education effectively have a de facto constitutional status because, like Austrian constitutional law, they can only be passed or amended by a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Pupils in Austria are required to complete four years of elementary school (Volksschule). After this, gifted students have the option to visit higher learning institutions that prepare one for university, whereas the majority go on to vocational preparatory schools. Some vocational/general schooling institutions end after a total of 8 years of schooling, whereas the higher institution "Gymnasium" finishes after a total of 12 years. These students receive the "Matura", the university admissions certificate, after the final exams. Some pupils decide to attend trade schools after their general schooling, which can also end with the "Matura", although these only offer admission into specific areas of study at tertiary level.
Private schools that provide primary and secondary education and some teacher training are run mainly, but by no means exclusively, by the Roman Catholic Church and account for approximately 10% of the 6,800 schools and 120,000 teachers. Roman Catholic schools have a reputation for more discipline and rigor than public institutions, and some are considered elite institutions. Because there is no tradition of private university education in Austria, the state has a virtual monopoly on higher education. This has been changing slowly in recent years as private universities become more commonplace.
The General Act for University Education of 1966 and the University Organization Act of 1975 provide the legal framework for tertiary education, and the federal Ministry for Science and Research funds and oversees education at the university level. Austria's 23 public and 13 private universities enjoy a high degree of autonomy and offer a full spectrum of degree programs. Established in 1365, the University of Vienna is Austria’s oldest and largest university.
As a result of the reforms since the 1960s, the university system has changed from one serving the elite to one serving the masses. The growing number of students at Austrian universities reflects the liberalization of educational policy at secondary and higher levels. Between the 1955–56 and 1991–92 academic years, the number of students enrolled in institutions of higher education increased from about 19,000 to more than 200,000. The number of students beginning university-level education after completing the AHS program also increased and amounted to 85% in 1990, compared with 60% in the mid-1960s.
Traditionally, students were free to enroll at any (public) university and in any subject they wished to. It is even possible to enroll in several subject fields concurrently (which is often done by gifted students to signal their abilities to the job market). Recently, restrictions in a number of fields have been introduced. Currently, the affected subjects are: Biology, Human Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, Pharmacology, Psychology, Journalism and Economic Sciences.
Despite the increase in the numbers of university students and the greater presence of women, universities remain primarily the domain of middle- and higher-income groups. The proportion of students from working-class backgrounds doubled from 7 to 14%, and the number of these from agricultural backgrounds increased from less than 2% to more than 4% between 1960 and 1990. But children of white-collar workers, civil servants, and the self-employed accounted for more than 80% of enrollments at Austrian institutions of higher education in the early 1990s.
The country’s university system was free until 2001; since then studies have been subject to fees (€366 per term for Austrian citizens, about €700 per term for non-Austrians). In 2008, however, the government decided to abolish fees for students who complete their studies in the minimum time and are EU/EEA citizens.
Increased accessibility to university-level education has a number of consequences. The dramatic expansion in the number of students led to overcrowding at many institutions. Some critics maintain that the increasing number of students diminishes the overall quality of university-level education despite increases in federal investment. One obvious problem was that more than 50% of students enrolled at universities in the 1980s dropped out before obtaining a degree. Complex reasons account for this high drop-out rate. Some students simply enrolled to acquire student benefits; others study for the sake of personal enrichment without really intending to get a degree. Some are unable to complete their studies for financial reasons. Although a university degree provides students with a substantial amount of social status and better income opportunities, there has been an increase in “academic unemployment,” especially among degree-holders in the humanities and social sciences.
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