Private universities, Austria

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Summary

Private universities are universities not operated by governments, although many receive tax breaks, public student loans, and grants. Depending on their location, private universities may be subject to government regulation. This is in contrast to public universities and national universities. Some universities are non-profit and some are for-profit.

Details

In Austria, educational institutions must be authorised by the country to legally grant academic degrees. All state-run universities are governed by the 2002 Austrian Universities' and University Degree Programmes' Organisation Act (Federal Law Gazette No. 120/2002). In 1999, a federal law (Universitäts-Akkreditierungsgesetz) was passed to allow the accreditation of private universities. The Akkreditierungsrat (Accreditation Council) evaluates applicants and issues recommendations to the responsible Austrian accreditation authority (the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science & Research).

Accreditation by the council yields a couple of privileges: degrees issued by accredited private universities have the same legal status as those issued by state-run universities. Private universities can appoint or promote professors. Their students enjoy the same privileges pertaining to social security, foreigner law and state scholarships as students of the state universities. Educational services of private universities are not subject to value added tax, and donations are tax deductible.

Accreditations must be renewed regularly and can be withdrawn, e.g. in the case of repeated academic misconduct as happened in 2003 when the accreditation of International University Vienna, was withdrawn. In 2006, when the accreditation of IMADEC University expired, the Accreditation Council rejected requests for renewal.

Austrian law provides that private universities in Austria must use the term Privatuniversität (literally, "private university") in their German names, although their formal names in other languages, e.g. in English, are not regulated. Thus, there is the possibility of private institutions employing the term "university" as opposed to "private university" in their advertisements in all languages except German while still complying with Austrian law.

While the legal definition of "private university" prohibits funding by the federal government of Austria, funding by other public bodies is not prohibited. Consequently, some of Austria's private universities are funded or partly funded by provincial governments, while others are fully privately funded.

Accreditation of private universities started in 2001. Austria has 12 private universities. Most of them are small (fewer than 1000 students) and specialise in only one or two fields of study:

  • Paracelsus Medizinische Privatuniversität in Salzburg
  • Privatuniversität Schloss Seeburgin Seekirchen (near Salzburg)
  • University for Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology in Hall in Tirol

Four former private universities are not accredited any more:

  • IMADEC University: First accreditation period ended in January 2006 and was not renewed.
  • TCM Privatuniversität Li Shi Zhen in Vienna: Accreditation period ended 2009; TCM did not call for renewal. All students could finish their studies.

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