Austria has a wide range of VET programmes (NQF 4 and 5) at upper secondary level, which provides direct entry into the labour market and covers around 75% of all learners at this level. Graduates who want to continue their education have a choice between two pathways:
- higher education courses at universities and universities of applied sciences (UAS),
- continuing education and training (CET) programmes outside the formal system leading to non-formal qualifications.
Higher education courses at universities and UAS
The sector of higher education courses has diversified considerably in recent years: programmes with a wide range of content for different target groups, with different entry requirements and admission procedures, lead to a variety of degree titles. This diversity often makes it difficult for learners and employers to have a clear overview of all options.
The higher education legislation package, which came into force in October 2021, aims to create more clarity and transparency in higher education. A uniform legal framework for course design and implementation applies now to all higher education institutions. The regulations concern especially:
- admission requirements;
- recognition of prior learning;
- awarding of academic degrees;
- quality assurance.
To create more clarity and transparency in the degrees, the variety of titles was reduced, and title supplements were introduced to help identify the degree focus: the title ‘Bachelor/Master Professional’ will be used for courses focusing on further and higher VET; the first bachelor professional programme will start in the autumn of 2022. These courses are primarily aimed at people with an intermediate vocational qualification (NQF 4) or several years of professional experience, and are offered in cooperation with non-university education institutions (e.g. private continuing education providers).
Continuing education and training (CET) programmes outside the formal system
The range of further and higher VET programmes outside the formal higher education sector is also extremely diverse. The high number of providers, the different qualification levels and degrees (most of which are not regulated by law), the absence of these programmes in official education statistics – all contribute to the fact that qualifications from this area are largely unknown and unrecognised by the public. They play, however, an important role in the economy, as they offer demand-driven and practical/work-based further and higher VET for employees.
For some time now, efforts have been made to consolidate this area of education more consistently (see link) and to designate it as a separate segment in the Austrian education system under the title ‘Höhere Berufliche Bildung (HBB)’ (higher VET).
In February 2022, the Austrian Council of Ministers gave the go-ahead for the establishment of this education segment. As a first step, a stakeholder process was started in May 2022 with the social partners, education institutions, educational experts and company representatives. The process aims to define the cornerstones for the development and awarding of HBB qualifications and their quality assurance. The creation of a legal basis (HBB Act) is to begin in the autumn of 2022.
Reform der hochschulischen Weiterbildung - Vortrag an den Ministerrat [Decision by the Ministerial Council (28 April 2021) - Reform of the continuing education and training programmes at higher education institutions]
Hochschullegistikpaket BGBl. I Nr. 177/2021 [Higher education package]
Reformpaket der hochschulischen Weiterbildung [Reform package of the CET programmes at HE institutions]
Vortrag an den Ministerrat (22 February 2022) [Decision by the Ministerial Council - Higher vocational education and training]