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Rights and obligations as a student in Austria

15. January 2021, INFO

When you begin your studies, you are expected to abide by certain rules. This might sound like nothing new to you but did you know that many of these ‘rules’ are also enshrined in law? If you want to know what we’re talking about, read the University Act and the section on study law. If you need a compact overview of your most important obligations and rights, as a student, you’ve come to the right place.

The study law as part of the university law

Laws that regulate higher education are subject to constant change. In 2002, three laws were replaced by the so-called Federal Law on the Organization of Universities and their Studies, or University Law 2002. This reorganized the higher education landscape in Austria after the turn of the millennium.
The Universities Act 2002 is divided into the following sections:

  1. Organizational law, which includes aspects of quality assurance, financing, management and organization or special provisions for selected universities.
  2. The right to study law, which includes, for example, the rights and obligations of students. Furthermore, you will find additional information on how to deal with exams and theses.
  3. University staff, which lists the university staff, but also explains the concept of a student and the freedom of research.
  4. Personnel law, with details of the employment relationships of the university staff.
  5. Penal provisions that apply if, for example, you hold an academic degree that you have never obtained.
  6. Real estate, buildings, premises, including tenancy law and the use of premises.
  7. Transitional and final provisions with the individual implementation steps of the law.

Interim changes, for example to the financing of study places, are also incorporated into the study law. Regardless of the changes in the law, universities and universities of applied sciences are making every effort to maintain study operations to the best of their ability during the Corona pandemic. This may also result in changes that will alter the framework conditions of your studies.

Rights of students

In the following, we inform you about your most important rights as a student.

  • Right to freedom of learning: Let’s talk about learning. The concept of freedom of learning entitles you to be admitted to one or more universities. In addition, the library, teaching and research facilities, and the entire range of courses offered by the university are open to you, provided you meet the registration requirements.
  • Rights regarding examinations and theses: Regular students who are admitted to higher education programs may take examinations. If the end of the respective study program is in sight, students may choose the topic of their final thesis themselves. Alternatively, students can also take suggestions from their university. In addition, it is possible to write a thesis in a foreign language, with the permission of the supervising body. Upon the completion of your studies, you have the right to use the academic degree designated for your studies.
  • Right to recognition of academic achievements: If you have previously studied and were able to receive ECTS credits for equivalent academic achievements, these may be counted towards your current mode of study, thus potentially shortening its total duration. The credits must, however, be considered interchangeable.

Duties of students

It is not only the universities that are required to do a lot. You, too, must adhere to certain general conditions, which can be found in the University Law and the Study Law.

  • Obligation to disclose your name and home address: If circumstances change in your private situation, for example: you’ve gotten married and changed your name, you are required to inform your university immediately.
  • Notification to continue or pause your studies: Especially during the orientation phase, individuals can feel unsure about their choice of study. Therefore, it is important for students to keep their university up to date with their plans for each semester. This is usually done at the end of each semester, when tuitions fees or similar (such as the ÖH fees aka Österreichische HochschülerInnenschaft fees) are being collected.
  • Duties regarding exams and theses: As described above, it is your right to sit for exams. However, you must register for them. In addition, students must observe the specified deadlines and process for registration too. Once the big moment has arrived for you to submit your final thesis, you will be required to provide one copy for the university library and one for the Austrian National Library.

Other important regulations concerning exams

Dealing with exams is a big part of your studies. We have listed a few particularly important points for you here.

  • Exam dates: The university is required to schedule sufficient opportunities to take exams at the beginning, middle AND the end of a semester, so that you will not be prevented from continuing your studies, should you miss an exam.
  • Repeating exams: If you have failed an exam, you are entitled to four total attempts. For the third attempt, you are permitted to submit your choice for a specific examiner. If you’ve already passed an exam but would like to receive a better grade (to meet the standards for a scholarship, for example), you may also retake an exam. However, be aware that you will be stuck with the grade from your final attempt, even if the grade from a previous attempt was better!
  • Assessment of academic success and exams: Generally, your performance is evaluated by grades ranging from 1 (very good) to 5 (unsatisfactory). Alternatively, an assessment can be made by “participated with success” and “participated without success”. If an exam consists of several parts, all of them have to be better than 5 (not sufficient) for you to pass. You must therefore complete all sub-subjects with at least a 4 (sufficient). Unfortunately, the average does not count. In addition to the individual assessment, you will receive an overall assessment which falls under the categories: “passed with distinction”, “passed” or “failed”.
  • Crediting of non-academic achievements: Sometimes scientific and artistic projects can be credited even if they were carried out at a non-university research institution. Since you can save yourself a lot of time and stress by receiving that extra credit, you should leave no stone unturned.

Now you have an overview of the most important rights and obligations as a student. Don’t forget though, that legal questions are often very complex. The Austrian Student Union (ÖH) is not only a great source for when it comes to student financing, play it safe and also get some legal advice while you’re at it.



Josephine is our Social Media and Community Coordinator. Internationally raised and fluent in sarcasm, she is a huge foodie who dreams of travelling the world in a van with an adopted puppy.

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