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Recommendations for the Development of Art Universities in Austria

28 July 2009

It has been ten years since the leading arts schools in Austria have been awarded university status. This has resulted in a sort of Sonderstellung for higher arts education in the Austrian higher education system, and also in Europe: nowhere else are all major art schools independent universities.

Last month, the Austrian Science Council published its report on the challenges and potentials for higher arts education: Empfehlung zur Entwicklung der Kunstuniversitäten in Österreich. Importantly for ELIA, the report commends that further clarification and discussion is required in the field of Quality Assurance, because unpremeditated use of QA models can be positively harmful in the "creative domain" (art as well as science). Here (pp. 34-35) the report specifically recommends the work that has already been done by ELIA --- which is less surprising if you see the list of experts consulted by the Wissenschaftsrat on p. 11.

Furthermore, the report recommends:

  • further clarification on the specific role of arts universities within higher arts education, including potentially harmful effects of the transition to full university status;

  • specific attention to artistic excellence in teacher recruitment, and to artistic career perspectives in relation to teacher training;

  • support, possibly in the form of fellowship programmes, for partnerships between art schools and (small) creative companies;

  • more extensive review of teaching as well as management;

  • critical reflection on what artistic research should be.

Perhaps even more important than these official recommendations, the report makes a few observations that have a bite.

Since the Austrian art schools are independent universities, it makes sense for them to build a research infrastructure (and they are doing so, with seven new professorates at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste Vienna!) - but the reverse, universities starting art programmes, does not. Neither does the Wissenschaftsrat see any profit in mergers, neither between art universities themselves, nor with other universities.

The report is quite harsh on music education: there are excessively too many study paths, each with their own organisation, which makes the conservatoires at large unwieldly to govern and unnecessarily expensive. Also, according to international experts, Austrian music education is conservative and traditional in its orientation - which will make it lose ground international if it rests content with being good at what it does.

The Wissenschaftsrat devotes special attention to international competition and the income position of artists. The message is obvious: if nothing is done, they will go abroad and not come back. PhDs and postgraduate programmes are recommended, or rather presented as a necessity in keeping and attracting talent; and the report deplores the lack of funding for Lifelong Learning, because that would be crucial to improve the income position of artists and the possibility of a life in the arts.

Those who read German can find the full report at:


(there is no direct link to the file, but it can be found under "Empfehlungen/Stellungnahmen" at the home page.)

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