Whilst the mobility of students, teachers and higher education staff within the European Union has been simplified by the principle of free movement of persons and is supported to a significant extent by the Erasmus+ programme amongst other things, citizens of non-member states face a much bigger challenge.
Here too, greater use needs to be made of the opportunities presented by digitalisation in order to cut red tape. The overarching aim is to streamline the processes required to take up an academic post in Austria, complete a joint programme or carry out teaching assignments. A framework needs to be created that will give Austria visibility as an attractive centre for higher education.
This also includes ensuring that well-qualified students from non-EU countries who have completed a joint programme or doctorate in Austria have easier access to the Austrian job market in the future. These graduates are an important human resource, which is why it would be desirable from an economic point of view if they were to stay in Austria. At the same time, however, those graduates who leave the country after graduating must not dismantle the bridges linking them with their former host universities in Austria. Instead, they need to keep in touch so that the institutions can provide contacts for potential academic collaboration further down the line.
Expanding the grant programmes offered by the OeAD and further developing their content is another important element of an open and modern outlook for Austria’s higher education policy. Focus must be placed on supporting highly qualified doctoral students in this regard, as they play a significant role in the country’s capacity for innovation. Better opportunities for grants to be co-financed by the private sector need to be created, particularly in highly promising fields of research in which greater demand for key personnel is expected on the labour market.
Cooperation with higher education institutions in developing countries also needs to be strengthened as a contribution to international knowledge transfer. The Austrian government’s foreign policy priorities and efforts made to leverage synergy effects with Austrian development cooperation need to be taken even more into consideration in the future. Greater engagement in the field of sustainability also demonstrates how Austria is taking global responsibility. Many Austrian higher education institutions are setting a good example in this area and are already making important contributions towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The newly established network “Africa-UniNet” is a shining example of how cooperation with developing countries can be combined with engagement on sustainability issues.