Austria falls behind on education mobility

Austria’s vocational educational system has been rated highly in a new report comparing education in OECD countries but falls behind when it comes to education mobility, with only 21 percent of Austrians achieving a higher level of education than their parents.

Austria falls behind on education mobility
Austria lags behind other OECD countries in the number of university graduates it produces. Photo: University of Vienna

Austria achieved a mid-table result in the latest OECD ‘Education at a Glance 2015’ report on post-secondary education, with 30 percent of working age people completing some form of higher education, compared to an OECD average of 33 percent.

Together with Germany and Iceland, Austria has the best employment opportunities for recent secondary school graduates, due to its vocational educational system.

Under that system, 15-year-old students who are not interested in or do not qualify for university can enter apprenticeships or vocational training, and split their time between working and learning on-the-job skills while studying.

In 2013, 81 percent of graduates who were not enrolled in further education were able to find a job in the year following their graduation, well above the OECD average of 61 percent.

However, Austria lags behind other industrialised countries in the number of university graduates it produces – about 20 percent of university graduates versus the 30 percent average in the OECD.

Austria spent €4.5bn in 2013 on tertiary education, yet literacy skills remain poor compared with other industrialised countries.

Education reformers want Austria to offer two years of kindergarten before pupils enter formal education, to improve language skills. By the time they have finished primary school, many children still do not speak German well enough to read it.

Compulsory education starts at the age of six, and students are separated at the age of ten into one of three school types.

Students considered to be the most academically-able go to a gymnasium, and are expected to attend university afterwards. The majority attend middle school and move on to trade college. The bottom nine percent attend high schools, and tend to end up in low-skilled, low-paid jobs.

Statistics show that young adults with immigrant backgrounds are more likely to attend high school and more likely to be unemployed after leaving school.

In general, adults with higher qualifications have better employment opportunities and earnings increase as an adult’s level of education and skills increase.

The report also noted that there is a lack of new, young talent entering the teaching profession, despite teachers' salaries ranked as “very high” compared to other OECD countries.




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‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

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“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

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Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.