When I came to Austria to study at TU Graz, I realised that in comparison to studying in Croatia, there were many differences. In the following post I will try my best to share my learnings and experienc
Each country has its unique culture and tradition, and that reflects on any form of education as well. Through the Bologna reform, the higher education did become more standardised, but nonetheless, some differences remain. In this article I will try to consider both the big and small differences I noticed, and hopefully help students to make an easier transition from one educational system to another.
Enrolling at Croatian universities as Croatian/EU citizen:
Prospective Croatian students have to collect enough points throughout 4 years of high school (Through their grade average), and after finishing high school, they have to write the Matura exam. The Matura exam consists of three main exams, and those are in Croatian language, mathematics and English or German language, depending on the preference. The three main subjects can be written in the A level (more demanding) or B level (less demanding). Whether one writes an exam in A or B level depends on the demands of higher education institution he or she wishes to attend. University decides whether a student gets a study place or not based on notes and overall points collected by the student. For an international student from EU, the only difference is that when applying for graduate programme, prospective students have to have a language proficiency certificate in English or Croatian language, depending on the programme they are applying for.
Enrolling at Austrian universities as Croatian/EU citizen:
Enrolling at Austrian public universities for an international is a pretty much similar experience as in my home country. Anybody who has a Croatian Matura exam (any Matura equivalent of Austrian Matura suffices) can apply for a place at an Austrian university. However, the grades of the Matura exam play much smaller a role for enrolling in Austrian Universities than in Croatian. Furthermore, an international studying at an Austrian state university has to enclose the Certificate of German or English language proficiency required by the educational institution.
You will find the whole explanation about the admission requirements on the website www.studyinaustria.at, which is by the Austrian Agency for Education and Internationalisation OeAD and answers questions about studying in Austria
As for the Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) specifically, one can find all the necessary information regarding admission on the website for International Degree Programme Applicants.
Tuition fees and ECTS credits comparison
The tuition fee in Croatia has to paid at the start of every academic year, and the fee is around 40 euros as of 2023. The obligatory subjects for every semester are predefined by the study programme and all together amount to 60 ECTS annually. If a student achieves less than 55 ECTS points, at the end of the year for every missing point they have to pay around 20 euros, which means if a student for instance only achieves 50 ECTS points, their ECTS fee is 200 Euro.
In Austria the tuition fee has to be paid at the start of every semester, and for EU students it amounts to 20 euros per semester. Students can accrue as many or as few ECTS credits as they want without worrying about paying for the missing ECTS credits. However, a student must finish their bachelor studies within eight semesters – six regular and two additional tolerance semesters – and their master studies within six semesters – four regular and once again two additional tolerance semesters. If a student does not manage to meet this deadline, they have to pay around 363 euros per semester until the end of their studies..
If you want to study at TU Graz, you will find more information about finances on the website Financial Matters.
Organisation of studies – Personal experience
Since this topic can be different for a lot of people, I am limited to write only from my personal experience of studying mechanical engineering bachelor studies at Technical university of Rijeka compared to my master studies at TU Graz.
In Croatia, my every subject consisted of both lectures and the practical part, and during the semester I was obligated to attend both, otherwise I would fail the subject automatically. During the semester, colloquiums and homework had to be written in every single subject. If a student has accumulated enough points in a subject, he or she is able to apply for the exam, which he or she can repeat a total of three times per year. If the student fails the exam the third time, he or she has to repeat the subject again.
At TU Graz, the organisation is a bit different. Lectures (VO which means “Vorlesung” in the subject description) don’t have to be attended, but on the other hand, attendance of the practical part (UE for “Übung”) is obligatory. There are also many other types of subjects such as seminars, laboratory practicals, excursions and so on with obligatory attendance. Lectures almost always involve exams, and all the other types are usually completed by getting a positive grade on a project. Another important distinction is that TU Graz allows its students a total of five attempts to pass an exam – three regular and two with an oral exam before a committee. If a student fails all five attempts, they can no longer study their chosen study programme.
Student dorms are usually privately owned in Austria, hence much more attractive than the dorms in my home country. They are an amazing option for someone who is just moving to Graz and is looking to meet new people.
In order to get a room in a Croatian student dormitory (hall of residence), the student has to send to the dormitory office their study grades, parents’ salary details and many other documents. Student accommodation is heavily subsidised in Croatia. The Ministry of Education provides a room in a dormitory for students who are really in need and do not have the financial means to rent a room in a flat. There are no private student dormitories, so students who don’t get a place at a student dormitory usually rent a room in a flat.
Most of the students who study in Austria live in a student dormitory, but they are usually privately owned and a room in a student dormitory usually costs the same as a room in a flat. Living in a flat is also an option, everything depends on your own preferences.
My colleague Veronika Novak wrote an interesting blogpost about student accommodation in Graz, where she explains the first steps for finding accommodation and gives good personal advice.
Student life: Croatia versus Austria
Regarding financial matters, while Austria is definitely the pricier of the two, it is also more organised and tends to offer better student experiences than in Croatia.
Croatian people are a bit warmer and more welcoming while Austrians can be a bit reserved until you get to know them better. There is also not much diversity in Rijeka where I was studying, but in Graz I met people from all over the world, and made some amazing connections this way.
While studying on the Croatian coast was an amazing experience because I could go swimming at any time, I must say I prefer being surrounded by mountains here in Austria. However, I might be biased since I am a passionate mountain biker, but the natural landscape around Graz is stunning and I spend a big part of my free time enjoying it.
On the other hand, night life is slightly more interesting in Croatia, but Graz offers many different options for everyone, so it is definitely never boring at weekends.
If you want to know more about Student life in Graz, Austria, and especially at Graz University of Technology, please browse the TU Graz blog by topics, as for instance City of studies, Campus life or Finances.