6.5 Cross-border learning mobility
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Austria promotes transnational mobility of students in formal education, following the principles of lifelong learning as outlined by the European Union. The country has established regulations such as the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and the European Council Recommendation on Vocational Education and Training (VET) (in German).
In 2020, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) introduced the Higher Education Mobility and Internationalisation Strategy 2020-2030 (Hochschulmobilitäts- und Internationalisierungsstrategie 2020-2030, HMIS 2030) to enhance transnational mobility and internationalisation in higher education. The strategy encompasses all members of HEIs and focuses on improving mobility experiences, internationalising curricula, developing joint programs, and providing support for disadvantaged students.
The Austrian Vocational Training Act (Berufsausbildungsgesetz) regulates the international mobility of apprentices, including the recognition of experience abroad as part of their training. Special provisions, such as the Child and Youth Employment Act (Kinder- und Jugendlichen-Beschäftigungsgesetzes, KJBG) and the Ordinance on Prohibitions and Restrictions on the Employment of Young Persons (Verordnung über Beschäftigungsverbote und -beschränkungen für Jugendliche, KJBG-VO), ensure compliance with labour laws and training objectives for apprentices under the age of 18.
The Austrian Agency for Education and Internationalisation (OeAD) plays a central role in coordinating and managing cross-border mobility programs, in particular theErasmus+ programme. More information on Austrian policies can be found on the Mobility Scoreboard, Cedefop, and Eurydice.
Austria offers regulated and funded transnational mobility programmes for students in formal education. These programmes are largely funded by the European Union and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and implemented by the National Agency for Education and Internationalisation (OeAD). They promote bilateral cooperation and offer students the opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge through international experiences such as study abroad, work placements, short exchanges and language courses. The duration of these programmes varies from a few months to a full academic year. Financial support, which depends on the host country, usually covers travel, accommodation and other expenses. The main transnational mobility programmes for students in formal education are presented below:
The Erasmus+ programme in Austria (Erasmus+ Österreich), funded by the EU and implemented by the OeAD, provides grants to students in formal education for study periods abroad, vocational training and joint masters programmes. The programme offers various mobility opportunities with flexible durations, ranging from several months to an academic year. More information can be found in the Erasmus+ Programme Guide.
For the period 2021-2027, Austria will receive an increased budget of around €500 million to expand educational opportunities abroad. To improve access for people from disadvantaged backgrounds (Förderung für Teilnehmende mit geringeren Chancen), students can receive a monthly lump sum or have their additional costs covered through an application process. In addition to the main funding streams for study visits and placements, the new programme period introduces the possibility of short-term mobility and a combination of physical stays and virtual activities for students.
The main Erasmus+ programmes applicable to students in formal education include the following:
- Erasmus for schools (Auslandsaufenthalte für Schüler:innen): The programme supports student mobility abroad in general education, promoting diversity, sustainability, digital education, inclusion, and language learning. It offers opportunities for both group mobility and individual student placements, with funding provided by Erasmus+. Short-term projects (Kurzfristige Projekte) with up to 30 participants and longer-term projects with Erasmus accreditation (Erasmus Akkreditierung) are available. Students can spend up to a year in a partner school or undertake a placement abroad, accompanied by teachers. Afterwards, students can share their experiences through Erasmus Back to School (in German) for an expense allowance in the amount of €60. Funding (Geförderte Kosten) is based on various factors, and additional support is provided for participants with fewer opportunities. Schools, kindergartens, education authorities, and institutions are eligible to apply.
- Student mobility for studies (Studienaufenthalte): Erasmus+ enables students to study at higher education institutions abroad for two to twelve months and experience a different academic and cultural setting. The funding and support (Geförderte Kosten) available to students varies depending on the host country, including travel grants and tuition fee waivers. Students in receipt of a student grant can also apply for a grant to study abroad, which can be found on the website of the Student Grants Authority (Website der Studienbeihilfenbehörde). The application process is managed by the student's home institution, which coordinates with the host institution to ensure a smooth transition and recognition of credits. The European Commission offers free online language courses to help students with their study abroad.
- Internships for students and graduates (Praktikumsaufenthalte für Studierende und Graduierte): Erasmus+ offers funded internships for students and recent graduates worldwide, with a duration of two to twelve months per study cycle. Participants receive additional support if they have fewer opportunities, and they can benefit from free online language courses. Eligible applicants must be enrolled in an Austrian higher education institution, and applications for funding are made through their home institution.
- Short-term mobility for study or traineeship (Kurzzeitmobilität): For students who cannot participate in regular study or traineeship periods, Erasmus+ offers short-term mobility. The mobility lasts 5 to 30 days and can be done in various countries. Funding is provided at a rate of €70 per day for the first 14 days and €50 per day for the remaining period. Free language courses and recognition of study achievements by the home university are included in the program.
- Erasmus Mundus Joint Master's Degrees (EMJM): Students can take part in integrated Master's programmes offered by consortia of higher education institutions in several European countries, enabling them to obtain their Master's degree and gain international experience. The programme usually lasts about two years and offers opportunities for work placements; further information can be found on the programme websites listed in the Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters Catalogue.
The EMJM project lasts six years and supports a minimum of four Masters Courses of one to two academic years. The total funding for a two-year EMJM can reach €5 174 400, covering institutional costs of €750 per month per student, an EMJM scholarship of €1 400 per month per student and additional funding for special needs and students from specific partner countries.
- Vocational Education and Training Mobility (Auslandsaufenthalt für Lernende in der beruflichen Aus- und Weiterbildung): The VET Mobility Programme provides international experiences for learners in vocational education and training, focusing on inclusion, diversity, sustainability and digital skills. It supports students, apprentices and graduates in funded mobility programmes, including work placements and competitions. In Austria, the international mobility of apprentices is supported by various funding sources, including EU funds such as Erasmus+ and national budgets according to BAG § 19c (Berufsausbildungsgesetz). During the traineeship abroad, the trainees' income is fully reimbursed. Language courses related to the placement abroad are also supported. Trainees receive a placement bonus of 15 euros per day of stay abroad. Financial support also covers travel, accommodation and grants for those with fewer opportunities. The IFA Association (Internationaler Fachkräfteaustausch) also provides support and regional initiatives offer information and advice.
CCEPUS is a programme that facilitates cross-border mobility for students in formal education in Austria, allowing them to study at partner universities in Central European countries. The programme aims to promote cooperation, cultural exchange and academic enrichment. Eligible students must be enrolled at an accredited Austrian institution and meet the academic requirements. Students can choose from several mobility options and receive financial support. CCEPUS students and graduates are entitled to a monthly grant of €1 150. The OeAD oversees the programme in Austria. According to the 2021 OeAD report, Austria welcomed 451 incomings through the CEEPUS program in 2021, while 73 Austrians participated in exchanges abroad.
Ernst Mach scholarship programme (Ernst Mach-Stipendien)
The Ernst Mach Scholarship, named after physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach, is a program funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Sciene and Research. It offers opportunities for foreign students and educators to study or research in Austria. The program has various subprograms, including the Ernst Mach Grant for studying at an Austrian University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule). Detailed information on eligibility criteria, funding, and duration can be found on the OeAD website (in German). The OeAD 2021 Report ranks the Ernst Mach Programme second after CEEPUS for incoming student. In 2021, a total of 332 scholarships were awarded, attracting students from 53 different countries to study in Austria.
Joint study programmes are bilateral agreements between an Austrian and a foreign university to facilitate the exchange of students for one or two semesters abroad. These programmes often take place outside Europe. Tuition fees are usually waived for the participating universities. The International Relations Offices of the participating universities, such as the University of Vienna, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), the University of Klagenfurt and the University of Innsbruck (Uni Innsbruck), provide more information on partner universities and available funding.
Bilateral actions between Austria and neighbouring countries such as Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic facilitate academic exchange and language learning in higher education. These initiatives include scholarships, project funding and language programmes supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research. The aim is to promote cooperation, cultural understanding and knowledge exchange between Austria and its neighbouring countries.
- 'Action Austria-Slovakia' (Aktion Österreich-Slowakei, AÖSK): The Austria-Slovakia Action supports cooperation in higher education, university and research between Austria and the Slovak Republic. It is jointly funded by the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic and the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research of the Republic of Austria. Scholarships (Stipendien) are available for diploma and doctoral students (1-3 months and 3-6 months, respectively) with a monthly amount of €1 150; for postdocs (3-6 months) with a monthly amount of €1 400; and for short-term stays (up to 3 days) for doctoral students, teachers and researchers with a daily amount of €90. There is also financial support for summer language course grants for undergraduate and postgraduate students to attend language courses in German or Slovak.
- 'Action Austria - Czech Republic' (Aktion Österreich - Tschechische Republik, AÖCZ): Since 1992, the programme has promoted bilateral cooperation in science and education at tertiary level between Austria and the Czech Republic. In addition to research grants for students and academics from both countries, the programme also supports summer courses, cooperation projects, conferences, seminars, student internships, the development of teaching materials and scientific excursions. It is funded equally by both countries, with a budget of €270 000 for 2022 from the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research. According to the latest annual report (Jahresbericht 2022), in 2022 the programme provided scholarships for various categories, including diploma/master's and doctoral students, researchers, university lecturers and post-doctoral researchers.
- 'Action Austria-Hungary' (Aktion Österreich-Ungarn, AÖU): The Austria-Hungary Action promotes bilateral cooperation in science and education, offering scholarships for graduates from Austrian and Hungarian universities to study and research in each other's country. The action includes joint research, teaching, and learning activities, research stays, publication of educational resources, summer language courses, and travel expense reimbursement. Detailed information on application requirements and financial support can be found on the AÖU website.
The Austrian initiative 'Worldwide Teaching' of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research offers international mobility programmes for university students and teachers. The Language Assistant Programme (Sprachassistenz international) enables university students and graduates to gain first-hand teaching experience abroad, improve their language skills and promote cultural exchange. Language assistants work closely with German teachers, motivating students to engage with the language and introducing Austrian-related content. The workload is between 12 and 15 hours per week and the programme lasts between 7 and 10 months, depending on the country. Language assistants receive a salary or a monthly stipend, the amount of which varies from country to country and ranges between € 440 (Russia) and € 2 400 (Switzerland), in most countries between € 700 and € 900 (approximate net figures). Additional funding is available through the Erasmus+ programme (in German) .
Top-level authorities in Austria, including the government, play an active role in policy development to facilitate cross-border mobility in non-formal education and youth work. They implement favourable visa regulations, recognise the value of non-formal education achievements and promote the importance of international experiences for young learners.
The Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science, and Research (BMBWF), along with the Federal Chancellery and the Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport, provide support for international mobility programs for young learners through the Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research (OeAD). The OeAD serves as a central service center and manages initiatives such as Erasmus+ Youth (Erasmus+ Jugend), European Solidarity Corps (Europäische Solidaritätskorps), and DiscoverEU (in German), all of which promote learning mobility in non-formal education and youth work.
Further details on mobility schemes for non-formal education are provided in chapter 2.5 on cross-border mobility schemes and in chapter 9.6 on transnational youth work and development cooperation.
Austria does not have a comprehensive system for quality assurance in transnational mobility programmes. However, national frameworks are aligned with European standards such as EQAR and ENQA, reflecting Austria's commitment to maintaining high standards and promoting international cooperation in education.
In Austria, cross-border mobility programmes are usually evaluated and quality assured by the programmes themselves. These programmes carry out regular evaluations in order to assess the quality of the mobility experience on offer to students. The aim is to gather feedback from participants and encourage them to share their experiences, which helps to identify strengths and areas for improvement.
The OeAD, which manages and implements a large number of cross-border mobility programmes in Austria, plays an important role in ensuring their quality. They have implemented a quality and process management system (Qualitätsmanagement) with ISO 9001 certification (Zertifikat ISO 9001) and conduct annual audits. Transparent documentation and regular evaluations enable early identification of errors and risks, while compliance management ensures compliance with legal requirements. The OeAD actively gathers and analyses feedback to improve its services.