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Austrian Private Universities Conference ÖPUK Appoints New Board

Austrian Private Universities Conference ÖPUK Appoints New Board and Formulates Goals for the Next Four Years

The 16 domestic private universities came through the pandemic period well and, with 18,221 students in the 2020/21 academic year, recorded an increase of 11.4 percent compared to the previous year. The newly elected board of the ÖPUK presents the goals for the next four years.

For more than 20 years, Austrian private universities have played a pioneering role in terms of quality assurance in higher education. A key differentiator from state universities is the mandatory accreditation and regularly recurring reaccreditation of private universities. In addition, all new study programs are reviewed for accreditation by AQ Austria, which is responsible for quality assurance at universities. For ÖPUK Chairman Karl Wöber, this has been an important factor in the success of private universities so far, bringing them steady growth and excellent academic quality. At the same time, the bureaucratic burden of the state audit procedures has increased enormously. Necessary structural changes are needed here: "Private universities have established themselves as the third pillar of the Austrian higher education system. Each university has implemented quality assurance systems and has repeatedly demonstrated in international review procedures that it can autonomously and successfully implement quality improvement. For the future, we would therefore like to see more confidence in the performance of our institutions in Austria as well, a simplification of program accreditation and the application of the statutory option to accredit private universities for a period of up to 12 years. So far, even with an excellent assessment by AQ Austria, this has only ever been done for a period of 6 years."
It has long been a pressing demand of the ÖPUK that in the future significantly more expertise from private universities must be represented on the Board of AQ Austria. The election of new AQ board members is coming up again soon. An authority that is responsible for the quality assurance and accreditation of all higher education sectors also needs experts from all higher education sectors on its top management and decision-making body! The special challenges of private universities, which, with few exceptions, are subject to private law and operate on the higher education market without state funding, must be given equal consideration.
According to Wöber, a further important factor for the positive development of Austrian private universities is a significant improvement in the framework conditions for the large number of international study programs that already exist. "We would like to see a real internationalization strategy from the Austrian federal government, in which the recruitment and retention of international students is at the center of efforts. Especially now through Corona, international students and their culture-building contributions are missed at universities. There are many hurdles, such as travel restrictions, delays in visa applications, and economic difficulties triggered by the crisis, that need to be addressed. We need international students - they enhance the study programs in Austria and increase the attractiveness of the university location," explained ÖPUK President Karl Wöber.

You can read the current demands of the ÖPUK in detail here.

Authored on November 2nd, 2021