The first private universities in Austria were founded from 2000 onwards. Today, with 17 private universities and 2 private colleges, the sector complements the Austrian higher education sector and contributes significantly to its diversification. It offers market- and demand-oriented education in innovative fields. The continuous internal and external evaluation of teaching and research by the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (AQ Austria) ensures a quality of education that meets international standards. This opens up a wide range of opportunities for graduates on the (international) labour market.
In recent years, Austria’s private universities have recorded the highest growth rates among the four higher education sectors. With around 20,000 students, the private higher education sector has a market share of 5%. The private universities contribute significantly to Austria’s education export: At 51%, the share of international students at private universities is higher than at universities of applied sciences and public universities. Moreover, the number of students enrolled at private universities has increased by 50% in recent years.
Since private universities have had access to competitive research funding programmes of the federal government, researchers at Austrian private universities have already achieved several notable successes. Further important steps for the development of the private higher education sector in Austria were the inclusion of students at private universities in the Austrian Student Union (ÖH) in 2014 and the inclusion of private universities in the Assembly of Delegates of the FWF (2015) and in the NQF Steering Group (2016).
Across Europe, there is a broad spectrum of private universities: Universalist private universities (approx. 40 percent of students), specialisation-based private universities (approx. 40 percent of students), specialised private universities (approx. 20 percent of students). The range of courses offered as well as the structure of the private universities is thus extremely diverse. Today 7 percent of all university students across Europe attend a private higher education institution.