Vienna is one of the biggest student hubs in Europe and welcomes some 130.000 annually. There is little doubt that the city is a great place to spend (part of) your student days in, whether you’re here for just a short time or complete a whole degree program, and whether you decide to enrol in a public or private university, or go for a university of applied sciences.
But as in any other student city and university, there are a few red tapes and hurdles you need to successfully navigate in order to first become a student and then enjoy your time in Vienna.
Below we have collected some of the issues and confusions that come up with new students each semester, and infos on how to navigate them for you:
Enrolment at University
Deciding on which of the many universities located in Vienna you want to study at is most likely the hardest, but also the most important step on your journey to becoming a student in a Viennese uni.
Once you’ve decided, the real enrollment process begins. The actual steps required for a successful registration differ depending on both your chosen university and the kind of student you want to attend uni as (regular student, via exchange programs like Joint Student or Erasmus, etc.).
A good place to start researching the requirements of your future place of study is their website. For any questions that arise in the process, as well as more detailed information about processes, timeframes, references, etc., please contact your future university’s International Office (direct links, office hours and addresses can be found here). In some cases an (online) pre-registration for (exchange) students might be necessary. And please also note that some courses of study do require students to take an entrance examination which may -in some cases- take place months before the start of the semester! Plan accordingly!
Residence Registration in Vienna
Once you come to the city as a (temporary) resident instead of as a tourist, it becomes mandatory for you to register with the local authorities within three days of your arrival. (Heads up: the same principle applies to when you decide to move house/flat during your stay!)
Residency registrations are carried out by the 19 Residence Registration Service Centres, the Meldeservice Stellen, which can typically found in the respective Municipal District Office, the Magistratisches Bezirksamt. All relevant addresses, as well as the option to check current waiting times can be found here.
There are two documents you’ll need to present during your registration:
- A completed residence registration form (Meldezettel): this form can be downloaded here and needs to be filled out and have both your signature and the signature of your landlord/-lady (in case of a shared flat the signature of the main tainant suffices as well).
- One or more personal identification document(s) that verify all your identity data (first and last name, last name before your first marriage, date of birth, place of birth, sex, and citizenship); non-Austrian citizens need to present a valid travel document (most likely your passport).
The residence registration procedure is free of charge. Once the registration process is completed, you will receive a residence registration certificate (Meldebestätigung) for your own records. If you need further certificates (for example for your employer) there’s a fee that can range between roughly 3 and 20€ per copy, depending on a variety of factors.
If you are an EU/EAA citizen and plan on staying in Austria for more than three months, you’ll need to additionally apply for a registration certificate (Anmeldebescheinigung) within those first three months.
If you have studied at any European university before (at the very least during the last decade or so), you will already be familiar with ECTS credits.
The ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) has originally been thought up as a means to help recognise grades achieved during exchange semesters, particularly for students taking part in the ERASMUS program.
These days, all European universities have ratified the system and ultimately this means that both studying abroad as well as comparing (and recognising) academic degrees internationally has become way easier compared to the early 2000s and before.
Basically, what ECTS credits are about, is that you collect ECTS points with every course, lecture, seminar or practicum you finish. (one ECTS equals anywhere between 25 and 30 study or work hours per week, depending on which country you study in).
As a rule of thumb, a year of studying full-time should earn you roughly 60 ECTS credits. In order to earn a Bachelor’s degree you usually need to accumulate 180 ECTS credits; for a Master’s you’ll have to earn roughly 120 ECTS additionally.
Once you are registered at your (public) university of choice and have enrolled at your favoured program, you will very likely have to pass the StEOP.
This abbreviations stands for Studien Eingangs- und OrientierungsPhase and is basically a shorter first semester that theoretically aims to give new students insights into what their chosen field of study is all about.
In reality, many StEOPs are built like challenging crash-courses that aim to weed out those students that are not really enthusiastic about the subject and/or do not want to (or cannot) muster the time and dedication needed to study for the cluster of exams (usually three or four) happening after roughly 2 months of lectures.
And while failing the StEOP does not necessarily mean anything about your qualifications as a student, let alone your chances to earn a degree outside this really stressful situation, it is worth noting that you may take the StEOP exam 4 times. If you fail all of those, you cannot retake the exam (and therefore study this subject) for the next three semesters. (You can, however, in the meantime try to pass the StEOP in the same subject at another Austrian university.)
Is it a fair process? Not always. Is it a doable one? For the vast majority of students, most of the time, yes. They may just need a try or three more than others.
Lectures, Course, Abbreviations
Once you have passed the StEOP and can delve into the vast opportunities your study program offers. At this point you will need to know the most common abbreviations and course types found in a course directory:
|VO||Vorlesung||lecture||usually very frontal sessions with the lecturer talking at the students; (often) large groups; limited interaction (if any); open to anyone|
|VU||Vorlesung mit integrierter Übung|| lecture & |
|a lecture set-up that also encompasses practical exercises, often with continuous testing; (often) large groups; usually with registration but basically open to anyone|
|UE||Übung||practical exercise/application||small group, aiming to teach basic skills needed during the degree program, grades often based on participation, group work, presentations, homework, final test; registration needed|
|PS||Proseminar||seminar||small group, aimed to further delve into one specific topic; helps to further hone tools and skills needed for research; active (small-scale) research; grades often based on participation, presentations, group work, end-of-term paper; registration needed|
|SE||Seminar||seminar||small group; aimed to delve into one certain topic; active (small-scale) research; grades often based on participation, presentations, seminar paper; registration needed|
Almost anything except for lectures requires some sort of online registration. Typically there is a 2-week registration period in the month leading up to the semester start (you can find the specific dates on your institute’s website) where you can register for your chosen courses. Generally speaking, you have a maximum number of 1.000 points you can use to set preferences. This preferences indicate which course, lecturer or date you most favour, and will be taken into consideration during the course allocation.
Many courses (UE and PS in particular) that are a requirement for every student, tend to be held at a number of dates and times by a number of lecturers. Here, in particular, the preference points are a tool to use and use wisely.
Know that your chances to get into all of your favoured classes are way less if you want to do three courses with registration and therefore can only use 333 points per course. Know that your chances multiply once you start allocating 500+ points. And if you badly need to get into one specific course, don’t hesitate to set all 1.000 points for it. Either take what dates you get into in your other seminars, or simply schedule in a lot of lectures for this semester. (You could also do just the one course and plump up your finances with a part-time job.)
Should you forget to register, don’t panic. There usually is a second registration period where you can register for those spots that have remained open.
The other frequent cause for panic is if you end up on the course’s waiting list. That, too, is no reason to freak out. Definitely attend the first lesson of any course you’ve registered for. There’s always a good chance of someone not showing up and people from the waiting list getting taken on. And if that doesn’t happen, the second registration period is open for you as well. Maybe there’s another course you want or need to do instead that still has some spots open.