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Schools in Austria have some of the most favourable disciplinary climates in science lessons compared to other OECD countries, according to students’ reports in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015, with an index of disciplinary climate of 0.21 (the OECD average index value was 0.00). Student truancy was lower in Austria than the OECD average: 10.9% of 15-year-olds reported skipping at least one day of school in the two weeks before the PISA 2015 test, compared to the OECD average of 19.7%. However, students in Austria were among those least likely to report that their science teachers frequently adapt their instructions, with an index of adaptive instruction of -0.28 compared to an OECD average of 0.01 (OECD, 2016[1]).

The PISA 2015 index of instructional educational leadership in Austria (measuring the frequency with which principals report doing leadership activities specifically related to instruction) was lower than the OECD average at -0.07 (the OECD average was 0.01) (OECD, 2016[1]). The proportion of lower secondary teachers in Austria in 2016 aged 50 or more was 49%, which was among the highest in the OECD (the OECD average was 35.4%). In 2017, teachers in Austria had fewer net teaching hours for general programmes than the OECD average. Teachers annually taught 779 hours at primary level and 607 hours at lower secondary level, compared to OECD averages of 784 and 696 hours, respectively (OECD, 2018[2]). According to school principals’ self-reports in PISA 2015, school autonomy levels over curriculum in Austria are slightly lower than the OECD average: 72.1% of principals reported that the school has primary autonomy over curriculum, compared to the OECD average of 73.4% (OECD, 2016[1]).

Lower secondary teachers in Austria earned 90% of the average salary of a full-time, full-year worker with tertiary education in 2016, which was similar to the OECD average of 91% (OECD, 2018[2]). According to the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018, 84.2% of teachers in Austria said that if they could choose again, they would still become a teacher; this was higher than the OECD average of 75.6% (OECD, 2019[3]).

According to school leaders’ reports in PISA 2015, school leaders in Austria are less likely than the OECD average to conduct self-evaluations of their schools (89.2% of students were in schools whose principal reported this compared to the OECD average of 93.2%) and much less likely than average to undergo external evaluations of their school (40.6% of students were in schools whose principal reported this, compared to the OECD average of 74.6%) (OECD, 2016[1]).

School autonomy levels over resource management (allocation and use of resources for teaching staff and principals) were higher in Austria than on average across the OECD: 50% of decisions in Austria were taken at the school level, compared to the OECD average of 29%.

Annual expenditure per student at primary level in 2015 was USD 11 689, which was among the highest among OECD countries (the OECD average was USD 8 631). At secondary level, Austria spent USD 15 477 per student, compared to the OECD average of USD 10 010, while at tertiary level (including spending on research and development) Austria spent USD 17 555 per student, compared to the OECD average of USD 15 656. The proportion coming from private sources (including household expenditure, expenditure from other private entities and international sources) in Austria was lower than the OECD average (5.2% compared to an average of 16.1%) (OECD, 2018[2]).

Evolution of key education policy priorities

Austria’s key education policy priorities have evolved in the following ways over the last decade (Table 8.2).

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Table 8.2. Evolution of key education policy priorities, Austria (2008-19)

Identified by

Selected OECD country-based work, 2008-191

Evolution of responses collected by the Education Policy Outlook, 2013-192

School improvement

According to OECD evidence, improving teaching practices and learning for all students can help improve education quality. Progress in fostering cultural acceptance for greater pedagogical leadership within the education system was identified as slow. [2010; 2016]


Evaluation and assessment


Austria reported the ongoing challenges of attracting teachers to the profession and improving teacher education in the context of an ageing teacher workforce. [2013]


OECD evidence showed that quality assurance of apprenticeship training was insufficient, as it did not guarantee the minimum standards. In addition, general compulsory schools were found to rely heavily on local fiscal and political conditions, which led to staff shortages and unequal distribution of personnel resources. As a result, not allowing schools any influence on the selection of teaching personnel could lead to misallocations and frustrations, and prevent schools from developing a particular profile. [2010; 2016]

Austria reported the ongoing needs to improve the quality of teaching and research, co-operation and co-ordination in the tertiary sector, and to provide a forum for the participation of the main stakeholders. More recently, some policy efforts have focused on harmonising teacher education at lower secondary level and better co-ordination between the different teacher education institutions. [2013; 2016-17]


The OECD identified the division of responsibilities between the federal and the provincial governments as a significant challenge in the current governance and funding arrangements. Within the funding system, resource allocations were based almost entirely on student numbers and thus, lacked flexibility, transparency and trust, among provinces and the municipalities. [2016]

A new priority includes maintaining funding and targeted investments in education and training despite fiscal consolidation needs during the coming years. [2016-17]


1. See Annex A (OECD publications consulted).

2. See Reader’s Guide (years and methods of collection).


Selected education policy responses

School improvement

  • Austria implemented the School Entry and Primary School package (Schulrechtsänderungsgesetz or Grundschulreform, 2016) that changed and introduced new elements to the School Organisation Act (Schulorganisationsgesetz), the School Education Act (Schulunterrichtsgesetz) and the Compulsory Schooling Act (Schulpflichtgesetz) (BIFIE, 2019[47]). The implementation of the new package introduced changes to: the review of performance and information exchange on performance; to the conditions for entrance to primary school; and to improve children’s transition from early childhood education and care (ECEC) to primary school (OECD, 2017[48]; BIFIE, 2019[47]). It aims to strengthen students’ competencies by merging the last year of kindergarten and the first two years of primary school into a single school entry phase (OECD, 2017[48]). This change intends to facilitate earlier diagnosis of learning difficulties as well as exchanges between kindergarten and primary teachers. The package also promoted measures encouraging children’s learning German from kindergarten to maximise integration, particularly for those with an immigrant background or who have recently arrived in the country.

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Progress or impact: The implementation is supported by a continuous formative evaluation from the school year 2016/17 until the end of 2019 (BIFIE, 2019[47]). In 2017, primary school leaders were interviewed on the implementation process of the reform (Grillitsch and Stanzel-Tischler, 2018[49]). Based on the results of the evaluation, four overall conclusions were identified: 1) the general conditions at the schools greatly influence how the individual measures are implemented; 2) the extent of implementation of the individual measures depends on previous experience and starting conditions as well as the implementation strategy of each state; 3) the implementation of new measures needs time, continuity and adequate support; 4) the inclusion of all stakeholders and close co-operation between the federal level and the nine provinces are essential for the success of the reform measures (Grillitsch and Stanzel-Tischler, 2018[49]).

In addition, the steering mechanisms in primary schools were changed with the 2017 Autonomy of Schools package (Bildungsreformgesetz) (BIFIE, 2019[47]). As of the school year 2017/18, more autonomy is given on selecting the school independent of the place of residence (BMBWF, 2018[50]). This was then followed by the federal act Pedagogy Package (Pädagogik-Paket, 2018), which was decided upon at the end of 2018 and which introduced further changes to primary schools, especially in terms of performance (BIFIE, 2019[47]). An internal evaluation took place on the language support measures with a new package of improved and further developed language measures, which was decided upon mid-2018 and has been implemented since the school year 2018/19 (national information provided to the OECD).

Evaluation and assessment

  • In 2013, Austria developed a new national quality assurance system for general education schools (Schulqualität Allgemeinbildung, SQA). The system requires school leaders, in consultation with teachers, to put development plans in place that cover three years each time; they are also required to update them annually. The plan must include self-evaluation, which can be either an internal or external consultation with specially trained school development advisors. Each school and province has assigned SQA co-ordinators who implement and co-ordinate the SQA system.

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Progress or impact: For the formative evaluation of the national quality assurance system (SQA), two assessment rounds took place in 2015 and 2018. All school principals, the entire school supervisory authority for general education, the national SQA co-ordinators and the school co-ordinators were surveyed.

Based on the consultation with school principals, the 2015 report found that in 2014/15, school inspectors and SQA co-ordinators perceived the implementation process as positive (Skliris, 2016[51]). The structure and leading questions of the development plans were found to be useful. The development plans at the individual schools served as a tool to promote the development of school and class quality. The goal to establish evaluation talks on the different levels had been only partially reached, however. School principals found the support by actors, such as the SQA co-ordinators, as positive. At the same time, the support had not been used on a comprehensive scale (Skliris, 2016[51]).

The 2018 evaluation results confirmed that support structures anchored within the framework of SQA were generally accepted and assessed positively (Skliris et al., 2018[52]). It underlined that counselling services offered by University Colleges of Teacher Education and support for school management by SQA co-ordinators appeared necessary for successful quality measures at the school level. It was also reconfirmed that feedback and evaluation were not yet common practice, while overall improvements had taken place. Teaching development had played a central role in many schools, and school principals had promoted teacher co-operation. Measures to develop teaching in schools have also increased since the introduction of SQA. In sum, personnel development and further education were considered of great importance at all system levels. Both school principals and school supervisors have reported an increase in these measures in their area of responsibility since the introduction of SQA (Skliris et al., 2018[52]).

This means that in the new quality measures, too, special attention must be paid to evaluation and evidence-based issues. The results form the basis for implementing the legal mandate to further develop a uniform system for all types of schools (Education Reform Act 2017). More specifically, these elements include the development plans, balance sheet and targeted agreement discussions between management levels, school management and school supervision. The aim is also to ensure the link between the new system and the SQA, according to national information shared with the OECD. The anticipated starting date for the new common quality measures system is the beginning of the school year 2020/21.

  • In Austria, new, standardised and competence-oriented Matura examinations (Standardisierte Reife -und Diplomprüfung) have been implemented in academic secondary schools since 2014/15 and colleges for higher vocational education since 2015/16. The new Matura has both standardised and non-standardised components, including centrally administered written examinations conducted on the same date throughout Austria, as well as other assessments related to the specific focus of the school. The expected impact is to: 1) allow for greater objectiveness and transparency; 2) establish common framework conditions for all candidates; and 3) improve student possibilities to move on to higher education (Eurydice, 2018[53]).

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Progress or impact: As of 2017, the standardised Matura and diploma examination also applies to the university entrance exam for vocational education and training (VET) students (BMBWF, 2018[54]).

Additional education policies of potential interest to other countries

School improvement

  • As part of Austria’s digital education strategy “School 4.0 – Let’s get digital”, Austria started introducing an innovation package (2017). This package provided broadband to schools, aiming for full coverage by 2021, and established a foundation to support innovative projects in schools (OECD, 2017[48]; European Union, 2017[55]). In 2018, a new Master Plan for Digitalisation in Education was announced, replacing the previous strategy, with the aim of full implementation by 2023 (BMBWF, 2018[56]). The plan comprises three parts: teaching and education content; professional development of education staff; and infrastructure and school administration (BMBWF, 2018[56]).

  • Austria’s New Teacher Education Scheme (PädagogInnenbildung Neu, 2015/16), requires University Colleges of Teacher Education (Pädagogische Hochschulen) and universities to collaborate to provide a common standard for teacher education. This applies particularly for Master’s courses, which all teachers must now complete within the first five years of entering the teaching profession. Teacher education has been re-oriented towards age groups rather than school types. This separation aims to enhance mobility between school types and standardise the status of teachers regardless of the school type they teach in. In 2015, the new training for the primary level started throughout Austria, followed by the nationwide implementation of teacher education studies for secondary level in 2016. In the first year of their career, new teachers will be accompanied by a mentor (induction phase). The New Teacher Education Scheme continues to be implemented in 2019 as planned.

  • Austria’s new Legislation on the Employment of Teachers (Dienstrechts-Novelle 2013 –Pädagogischer Dienst) started being implemented in 2015. This scheme modified the salary scale by raising teachers’ starting salaries and creating new specialist functions (Fachkarrieren) in addition to the school principal and administrator roles.

  • Between school year 2014/15 and school year 2018/19 teachers could choose between entering the old or the new system. This changes in 2019/20 and for teachers who enter the teaching profession for the first time from 1 September 2019. The employment relationship begins with a compulsory one-year induction period that has to be completed successfully in order to continue being employed in the teaching profession.

Evaluation and assessment

  • With the 2015 education reform, Austria introduced pilots of an “education compass”, which records a child’s talent and development needs, including linguistic needs, based on an assessment of a child’s potential at the age of three and a half years (European Union, 2017[55]).


Selected education policy responses


  • The Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (Agentur für Qualitätssicherung und Akkreditierung Austria, AQ Austria) was established in 2012, for Austrian higher education institutions. According to recent OECD research, all higher education institutions must undergo regular external quality assurance by the AQ Austria or, in the case of an audit, by another internationally recognised quality assurance agency, such as a member of the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR). Austria’s higher education system is comprised by 22 public and 14 private universities, 21 Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen) and 14 University Colleges of Teacher Education (Pädagogische Hochschulen) (OECD, 2017[48]).

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Progress or impact: The Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria made revisions to the quality assurance procedures following 2016 evaluations and strategy development processes. According to the 2016-17 feedback analysis report based on AQ Austria’s performance, satisfaction with the procedure, the work of the Board and the Secretariat had rated as “high” since 2014 (when the preparation of the first feedback report began). However, AQ Austria indicated in its 2017 annual report that despite overall satisfaction, some institutions criticised the usefulness of the accreditation process for their internal quality development (AQ Austria, 2017[57]).

Furthermore, since 2014, AQ Austria must also undergo an external evaluation every five years in order to renew its membership in the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and its affiliation to the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). The Board of AQ Austria set up a working group during the reporting period to conduct its self-evaluation and to prepare the self-evaluation report, which was adopted by the Board in November 2018. The completion of the next external evaluation is scheduled for early summer 2019 (AQ Austria, 2018[58]).

  • The Autonomy of Schools Package (Bildungsreformgesetz, 2017) aims to increase schools’ decision-making capacity over the organisation of school time and student learning groups to meet students’ and parents’ needs. It took effect in 2018, with some measures taking effect in 2020. This package also aims to give schools and school leaders more autonomy over staffing recruitment and performance management, by professionalising school leadership and devolving responsibility for some human resource functions to school leaders. The package includes an administrative reform that establishes new Boards of Education (Bildungsdirektionen) for each of the nine provinces as of 2019. These new Boards of Education will be responsible for the administration of both federal and provincial schools, including uniform electronic personnel management for all federal and provincial teachers, and regional management of external school organisation, administrative staff and school inspection. The package also allows for several schools to be clustered for administrative purposes and provides opportunities to test pedagogical approaches to comprehensive schooling for all pupils aged 10-14 years in some designated model regions. The government also planned to develop a concurrent evidence-based quality assurance framework to ensure the quality of the system in general. Additional reforms include the establishment of a foundation to support innovative projects in schools (OECD, 2017[48]). Another reform are pilots of an “education compass” to monitor the needs and development of children from age three and a half years (European Union, 2017[55]).

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Progress or impact: The step-by-step implementation of the Autonomy of Schools Package has been taking place since 2017, with the new measures having taken effect as of 2018 (BMBWF, 2018[59]). By 2019, the school administration was reorganised with the establishment of nine Boards of Education (joint authority between the federation and provinces) (National information reported to the OECD). In order to ensure quality in Austrian schools as well as the effective, efficient and transparent use of resources, a comprehensive education controlling system will be set up at all levels of school administration and in all schools. This includes quality management, education monitoring and resource controlling. To monitor its progress, the Minister of Education intends to specify a number of framework conditions, such as: 1) a definition and description of school quality; 2) the recording of important areas of school quality and framework conditions (e.g. learning outcomes, retention rates, social environment, school climate, educational pathways, resources) on the basis of regularly and centrally collected data and indicators (education monitoring); 3) a definition of benchmarks in key quality areas to be defined, which will provide orientation for quality measures at the various levels of the school system; and 4) periodic planning and reporting (development plans, quality reports, quality programmes) and periodic reviews and target agreements at and between the school administration and school levels (quality management).


  • Austria has implemented several initiatives to combat gender stereotypes and promote equality in labour market outcomes, including legally mandated gender budgeting, or setting gender equality as an objective when allocating public funds (OECD, 2017[48]). Gender budgeting requires every line ministry to set at least one gender equality performance target. An annual government report evaluates if the objectives in the previous budget have been achieved. The report is transmitted to Parliament in time for the debate on the next budget. Performance targets include “achieving a better distribution of paid and unpaid work between women and men on the basis of an adequate tax system” (Ministry of Finance), “stronger re-involvement of women in the labour force after career breaks” (Ministry of Labour), “strengthening women’s competencies in business” (Ministry of Economy) and “improvement of equality of opportunities in education” (Ministry of Education and Women Affairs) (OECD, 2015[60]). The government is required to undertake an ex ante assessment of the impact on gender equality for any regulation with the impact assessment process for all laws and ordinances (Wirkungsorientierte Folgenabschätzung) introduced in 2013. There is a set of rules for assessing impacts on gender equality, as well as a handbook and training for the users, and a mandatory ex post evaluation (Downes, von Trapp and Nicol, 2017[61]). The gender budgeting project provides resources to gender-related initiatives proposed outside of the Federal Ministry of Education and Women’s Affairs.

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Progress or impact: According to a 2015 OECD economic review of Austria, the gender budgeting project has some challenges, which include limited co-ordination across different bodies and levels of government, and a need to assess the budgetary impact of specific targets. The OECD advised that the monitoring of spending associated with gender targets be provided by an independent gender budgeting council.

Other work has also encouraged developing a better link between medium-term gender objectives and gender-related long-term strategies at the EU level (OECD, 2015[60]). By integrating gender equality objectives, measures and indicators into the impact-oriented (budget) management of the education system, the aim is that actors in the education system at all levels become more concerned with gender equality issues. This measure could raise awareness of gender inequalities and generate concrete budget-relevant measures at the various levels of steering (e.g. target and performance plans of University Colleges of Teacher Education and Boards of Education; performance agreements with universities).

Additional education policies of potential interest to other countries


  • The Universities Act 2002 (Universitätsgesetz) has undergone various recent amendments to improve governance and funding mechanisms in higher education. Before 2013, universities’ funding models consisted of a basic budget and a formula-based budget. The 2013 amendments of the Act introduced structural funds to replace the formula-based budget and ensure the competitive distribution of funds based on a more comprehensive set of indicators. For example, between 2013 and 2015, the government distributed 60% of structural funds for higher education based on the number of students enrolled in a Bachelor’s, diploma and Master’s degree courses with weighting based on subject groups. The amendments also introduced access regulations in fields of study that are in high demand to improve study conditions in these programmes and aimed to improve student-teacher ratios by raising the number of staff active in these programmes as part of the performance agreements. In 2014, amendments to the Act adjusted from 40% to 50% of the women’s quota of the Equal Treatment Act (Gleichbehandlungsgesetz, B-GlBG), as well as defined binding structures for university development plans and harmonised admission regulations (Eurydice, 2018[62]). In 2018, an amendment to the Universities Act brought considerable changes to how Austrian universities are funded. The “new model of university financing” provides capacity-oriented, student-related funding. This new financing model was applied in the performance agreement period (2019-21) for the first time.

  • The Austrian government has been developing a new set of principles based on goal-oriented budgeting since 2009. Implementation began in 2013 and is expected to end by 2019-21. For each budget year, the federal budget gathers a set of policy goals associated with specific quantitative and qualitative indicators. These goals and indicators will serve as a guideline for policy making and promote more transparency in assessing government performance. For the Federal Ministry of Education, the 2015 budget included the policy goals of raising the level of education of students and improving equity and gender equality in education. Examples of indicators used are graduation rates in upper secondary education and the share of new entrants in higher education (Nusche et al., 2016[63]).

  • Austria introduced a one-off levy on banks in 2016 to create an overall fund of EUR 1 billion entirely dedicated to education projects such as the expansion of all-day schools, creating a foundation for innovation and research in education and creating new student places at Universities of Applied Sciences (OECD, 2017[48]). Special consideration has been made for all-day education. Before the levy, Austria already had a EUR 654 million investment programme to increase the number of all-day schools between 2011 and 2018. The investment of the additional EUR 750 million from the bank levy has been postponed to school-year 2019/20 until 2032/33. The reason for this amendment is the availability of remaining funds out of the previous investment programme for all-day schools dating from 2011 to 2018. The aim is to provide a care rate of 40% for students aged 6-14 by 2032/33 (starting with a care rate of 26% in 2018/19).

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