Austria, Academic Career Structure

 

  • Accessibility for Non-Nationals
  • National Universities
  • Research Institutions
  • Academic Unions
  • Useful Websites
  • Info for History
  • Info for Economics
  • Info for Law
  • Info for SPS
  • Postdoctoral Information
  • Websites for Job Postings
  • Sources

Introduction

Competitiveness: the University Act 2002 has reformed the traditionally centralised and unmeritocratic Austrian system by giving more autonomy to universities and in paying more attention to merit in evaluation procedures.

Openness to non-nationals: language is now less of a barrier to access than before and positions are advertised internationally. However, universities still require language proficiency early upon entry. 

Postdoc: go to the Austrian database for scholarships and research grants.

Entry positions: the entry position to the academic career in Austria is that of Assistant (Universitätsassistent); click here for more information.

Career requirements/progress: Habilitation still exists, but is not a mandatory requirement to become a Professor. 

Temporary/permanent positions: there is no tenure track career and contracts are temporary until the level of Full Professor. These have to undergo an assessment after 3 to 6 years into the profession.

Salaries: they are agreed collectively by the social partners. There is little room for discretion. 

Gender: Austria does not fare particularly well regarding equal opportunities. Whereas there were 40% of women among Assistants in 2009, their share dropped to 17% at professorial level.

Universities and research instititutions: click on the following link to access a list of Austrian research institutions.

Job postings: click here for a list of useful websites for job search in Austria.

 

Higher Education in Austria

In Austria, higher education is provided by 22 public and 12 private universities (Universität and Privatuniversität) and by Fachhochschulen and Akademien (e.g. teacher training colleges). Click here for the list of Austrian universities.

The 2002 University Act redefined the relationship between the universities and the State. The universities remain State institutions and the State continues to finance them. Universities are fully autonomous to handle their internal affairs and formulate their statutes. The Universities Act introduced the so-called 'full legal capacity' and substituted the budget law of the federal authorities with elements of commercial law, putting the premises for the creation of 'university enterprises' which are in a position to access new funding sources in addition to the federal budget.

The law provides for the establishment of a University Board (Universitätsrat) at each institution which comprises leading figures from public life and the private sector. The University Assembly elects the rector.

In 1999, the University Accreditation Act was enacted which allows private institutions to obtain accreditation as a Private University by the Accreditation Council.

The highest state organ for the university sector is the Federal Ministry of Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft und Forschung, BMWF). The federal provinces have no direct competences for university matters. The Ministry assumes a supervisory function only in legal affairs and continues to be responsible for strategic planning and research.

 

Career Curriculum   

The acedemic profession in Austria is fully determined by collective agreement, see the 2009 Kollektivvertrag für die ArbeitnehmerInnen der Universitäten. There are (non-obligatory) 4 steps in the Austrian career curriculum after the university reform (in brackets are the salary-relevant positions of university personnel): 

  • PhD Candidate - they can also hold a pre-doc assistant position at university
  • Universitätsassistent (B1) - equivalent to a non-tenured Assistant
  • Assistenzprofessor/assoziierter Professor (A2) - equivalent to an Assistant/Associate Professor, for which a qualification (Qualifizierunsvereinbarung) granted by the university is needed
  • Universitätsprofessor (A1) - equivalent to a tenured Full Professor

There are other, non-tenured positions at Austrian universities:

  • Lektor (B2) - equivalent to part-time Lecturers, who can be employed for a fixed period or permanently
  • Projektmitarbeiter (B1) - these are project assistants hired for the length of the research, which is usually financed by third parties
  • Senior Lecturers (B1) - similar requirements as an Assistant, but with teaching functions only
  • Senior Scientists/Artists (B1) - similar requirements as an Assistant, but with different functions (such as working on a project fuded by a third party)
 

Requirements for Positions

The Kollekivvertrag establishes an ideal-typical academic career model in Austria. The first career step after the MA is a position as a Universitätsassistent (pre-doc, fixed term for 6 years during which the PhD is completed). Before this first contract ends, it is decided by the employer whether or not the researcher can apply for a so-called 'Laufbahnstelle', which is a post-doc position for 6 years as an Assistant Professor.

In this position, a Qualifikationsvereinbarung is agreed upon, detailing the career goals of the reseacher during the 6 years (typically the Habilitation or some other teaching qualification and publication record). The progress
is evaluated on an annual basis. Given that the reseacher reaches the set
goals (fulfiling the Qualifikationsvereinbarung), the reseacher automatically (i.e. without application) progresses from the position of Assistant Professor to Associate Professor (permanent position).

From this position, one can apply for the position of a Universitätsprofessor (Full Professor). As the progress to Full Professor is neither autonomatic nor guaranteed, the Austrian sytem cannot be compared with the American tenure track system.

This career model detailed in the Kollektivvertrag has been criticized (as a caricature of the US tenure track system), as it grants the possibility for 'in house careers' with continuious employment at the same institute from the MA onwards. It would be preferable to design 'Laufbahnstellen' as genuine tenure track positions, which are advertised openly and internationally and which are evaluated by a serious and independent committee. Moreover, the requrirements for these positions should involve the completion of the PhD as well as international mobility (e.g. a post-doc abroad).

As for the Habilitation (venia docendi), this is awarded by a Habiliation Committee set up by the university Senate on the basis of research achievements after the doctorate and the production of a research monograph. The application for the teaching qualification must fall within the scope of the university or must constitute a meaningful supplement to it. It is important to note that the teaching qualification does not imply an employment relationship or a change in the existing employment relationship with the university, but it may imply a raise in salary. 

The Habilitation is now losing importance, as you can apply for professorship even not holding one. This holds in particular for non-national candidates.

Professors are responsible for research and development, as well as for teaching their special subject. They have a  temporary or tenured employment relationship to the university. They are full-time or part-time employees.

Austrian or foreign scholars with the required scientific or artistic, as well as professional qualifications for the subject that corresponds to the vacancy may be appointed as university professors. After the appointment procedure (conducted by an appointment committee set up by the university Senate), they are appointed by the university Rector. When signing their employment contract with the university, professors obtain the teaching qualification (venia docendi) for the subject for which they are appointed. Any previously obtained teaching qualification is not affected by this act. The teaching qualification expires at the end of the employment relationship. There is a shorter appointment procedure for appointments of not more than two years.

The scientific and artistic staff, and staff members in the fields of research, art and teaching are full-time or part-time employees of the university.

 

Research Careers

Academic careers can be pursued at private research institutes such as the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) and the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS), which are not linked to the universities but can cooperate with them. Salaries are comparable to what is paid at public universities.

 

Career Barriers

The most critical moment in the academic career seems to be when the contract of Universitätsassistent expires, i.e. after a maximum of 6 years. As the Austrian career is not tenure track, there is no guarantee of automatically becoming a Professor, because the number of available professorships is rather limited, or getting an extension through the Qualifizierunsvereinbarung.

Once nominated Full Professor he or she has to undergo an assessment after 3 to 6 years.

 

Job Security

Austrian universities do not have tenure track, and contracts are often temporary until the level of Full Professor. The latter still have to undergo an assessment after 3 to 6 years in the position.

Contracts at private universities are not standard and evaluation is necessary for career advancement.

 

Contracts and Duties

University contracts are not negotiable at the level of Universitätsassistent. At the level of Professor there is some margin for negotiation. In private research institutes the situation is different and the conditions of the contract can be negotiated from the junior level onwards.

 

Sabbatical Opportunities

Leaves of absence are granted by universities after at least 7 years of contuinued employment. The time and length of the sabbatical is directly contracted with the university's administration.

There are two types of sabbatical: for further training and for teaching and/or research. The former leave of absence can last up to 2 months and the latter up to 6 months (only for academic staff). 

For more detailed information see the 2009 Kollektivvertrag für die ArbeitnehmerInnen der Universitäten.

 

Gross Salaries

Salary levels increase according to seniority and in certain cases depending on the qualification (PhD or Qualifizierunsvereinbarung holders get more). Advancements are usually subject to at least one positive evaluation of the work done so far. Gross monthly salaries in Euro per month for categories A2 and A1 from May 2009 are presented in the table below:

  Seniority 6 12 Max

Assistant Professor (A2)

3,270

3,815 (PhD)

4,142 (Qual) 

4,578 

5,014 

5,887

Full Professor (A1)

4,360

4,796 

5,232 

6,105

Source: data from the 2009 Kollektivvertrag für die ArbeitnehmerInnen der Universitäten.

Seniority steps for Universitätsassistenten and other B1 categories differ and may depend on the obtainment of a PhD diploma. Gross monthly salaries in Euro per month for B1 jobs from May 2009 are presented in the table below:

 

Seniority 0 3 or PhD +8 +8
Assistants (B1) 2,862 3,216 3,570 3,761

Source: data from the 2009 Kollektivvertrag für die ArbeitnehmerInnen der Universitäten.

 

Number of Existing Positions

Number of existing positions in academia at the beginning of 2009:

    Men Women Total

Assistants and other non-tenured

18,805

12,716

31,521

of which Lecturers

2,574

650

3,224

of which Project Assistants

4,902

3,944 

8,846

Professors

1,823

369

2,192

Source: Federal Ministry for Science and Research.

 

Internal Recruitment

There is an official requirement to advertise academic positions. However, internal staff is often prioritised over and above qualifications.  

 

Accessibility for Non-Nationals

Language is still very much of a barrier, although in some fields English is increasingly used in teaching and research, especially in economics. German is usually not required at the time of application, however, the university expects academic, teaching-level proficiency in a very limited amount of time.  
  
 

National Universities

Research Institutions

Academic Unions

 

Useful Websites

 

Info for History

 

Info for Economics

 

Info for Law

 

Info for Social and Political Sciences

 

Postdoctoral Information

 

Websites for Job Postings

 

Sources

Heinz Kasparovsky and Ingrid Wadsack (2004), Higher Education in Austria, Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.

Hans Pechar (2004), 'The Changing Academic Workplace: From Civil Servants to Private Employees. Country Report Austria', in J. Enders and E. de Weert, (eds.), The International Attractiveness of the Academic Workplace in Europe. Frankfurt/Main, Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft, 32-51.

Special thanks go to: 

Thomas Hintermaier, Max Weber Fellow, 2007/8

Nadia Steiber, Max Weber Fellow, 2009/10

 
 

Page last updated on 10 December 2013