Austria has a general image of being an expensive country for tourism. Vienna as the capital city belongs to one of the more expensive European capitals and winter vacation in the Austrian Alps is famous among the rich. However, when talking about studying in Austria the first thing that shocks people from all over the world is that it is actually free for the European Union and European Economic Area citizens to study at an Austrian university! Now, what does that mean with regard to the financial aspects when studying in Austria?
The Austrian system of higher education can be divided into three different kinds of institutions: universities (public and private), universities of applied sciences (in German: Fachhochschule) and colleges of education. Depending on the institution different tuition fees apply. For public universities, students of EU and EEC countries do not pay a tuition fee, but solely a contribution to the student union and student insurance of €18 per semester. The tuition fee only applies for long term students, who study longer than the minimum amount of semesters plus two semesters for their studies (Bachelor: 6 + 2 semesters, Master: 4+2 semesters). From the 9th or 7th semester onwards, the tuition fee comes to €363.36 a semester.
Certain non-EU nationals have to pay a tuition fee of €726.72 from their 1st semester onwards. For colleges of education, the same applies. Private universities have their own tuition fees, which start from €1.000 per semester. It is also important to note that the Postgraduate Center of the University of Vienna offers a range of competitive programs from educational studies over international relations to the law that are much more expensive than regular Master or Ph.D. programmes (from €1.800 per semester up to €22.300 for a 4-semester program). Universities of Applied Sciences have a different legal background and thus, can independently decide whether they levy tuition fees. Currently, 17 of the 20 UAS require their students to pay a tuition fee of €363.36 per semester. The fee for the student union and insurance applies as well.
Living in Austria as a student can be surprisingly cheaper than in other European countries. Accommodation can be arranged with students’ dormitories, communities where two people share a room, shared or single flats. All of these options are available in the biggest cities in Austria (Vienna, Graz, Klagenfurt, Salzburg, Innsbruck), with costs between €200 for shared rooms in student’s dormitories to €600 for a one-room flat a month. In smaller cities with only on university or university of applied sciences, student’s dormitories are a common option and available from €200.
With a student identity card, a lot of cheaper options are available for public transport, entry fees to museums and youth events. Especially in Vienna a student identity card will allow you to buy a “semester ticket” for all public transport for 150€ or 75€ if registered in Vienna. Similarly, the Austrian public train service OEBB offers a membership card for 19,90€ a year with which the ticket fair is reduced by 50%. However, some of these options have an age limit of 24 or 27 years, regardless of your student status.
When it comes to food, different supermarkets can be found in all towns across Austria and they are the cheapest option for buying food. Even though eating out in Austria can be affordable in restaurants targeted at students or university cafeterias (lunches from €5), a student’s budget can be quite constraint and frozen pizzas (from €1) or pasta (from €0.39 a
kilo) are still a lot cheaper in supermarkets. The same applies for alcoholic drinks (beer from €3 in a bar and €0.50 in the supermarket).
A wide range of scholarships is available for people wanting to study in Austria or that are already enrolled at an Austrian institution. Scholarships are offered for instance with regard to the financial background of a student, academic performance, studying abroad, research interest or graduation. Additionally, students with small children can apply for financial support and students that have worked full time before starting their studies will receive a scholarship as a supplement for their salary when studying full time. Other scholarships focus on supporting women in sciences, students with a migration background or innovative ideas.
The best overview is offered by the website www.grants.at, where a detailed search option helps identify interesting scholarships among the 1.644 offered on the platform. Once enrolled in an institution it is advisable, though, to check out the scholarship options specifically for students of a certain institution. Some institutions offer online or personal services when applying for scholarships. Another option for financial support can be scholarships from a student’s home country or from private companies. As an example, some private companies pay students for writing their thesis on an industry related topic. Here, the best option would be to check a program’s homepage about any specific offers in that matter.
Most students in Austria finance their student life through part-time jobs in the service sector. Especially common are hospitality, retail, sales and telemarketing, administration or clerical roles and tutoring from 8 to 30 hours a week. As summer vacation for university students can be quite lengthy in Austria (July – early September/October), thus, many students take advantage of that time by taking up full-time employment for one to three months to fill up their budget.
Depending on the financial aid received through scholarships as well as the type of residence permit, a maximum of monthly salary or working hours might apply by law.