Six of the 21 state-funded universities in Austria are art universities, three among them devoted to the visual and applied arts. Traditionally, art universities are categorised according to their historically evolved main fields of study and not according to their significance for contemporary art. Although these institutions are relatively small, they enjoy high international profiles, indicated by the high numbers of international students from countries in Europe and Asia. Each art university has its own profile, reflected in the courses offered.
Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna)
The oldest art university in Austria goes back to the Academia für Malerei, Bildhauerei, Architektur, Perspektive und Fortifikation established by Emperor Leopold I. in 1696. It is noteworthy that the academy has its own paintings gallery and graphic collection – and that they are two of the most important collections of the country. Today, the Academy runs six institutes: fine arts, art theory and cultural studies, natural sciences and technology in the arts, education in the arts and conservation and restoration. The courses are based on a structure that focuses on the intersection of theory and practice and promotes inter- and transdisciplinary activities. In 2005, the University Council approved a re-structuring of the study programme, introducing a three-level degree system of bachelor/master/PhD. In 2011, the first all-female leadership team was appointed with Rector Eva Blimlinger and Vice-Rectors Karin Riegler und Andrea B. Braidt. The Academy of Fine Arts is also the only Austrian university with a women’s share of at least 50% at all staff and executive levels. Number of students: approx. 1,400.
Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien (University of Applied Arts Vienna)
The predecessor of the Angewandte, as its name is usually abbreviated in German, was founded in 1867 under the name of k. k. Kunstgewerbeschule. This “Imperial-Royal Arts and Crafts School” was associated to the Museum für Kunst und Industrie (today: MAK, Museum of Applied Arts). The university structured includes one centre and six institutes: architecture, fine arts and media arts, design, conservation and restoration, art sciences and art education, arts and technology and art and knowledge transfer. The available degree courses are diploma/bachelor/master/phD and teacher training. Artistic disciplines are complemented by a large number of scientific subjects. In its activities, the institution honours the fundamental notion that a university is a place of critical reflexion of one’s own thoughts and actions. The Angewandte wants to be a place of open dispute and a development lab of artistic visions that create an impact in the future. In the 1980s and 1990s, the rectors Oswald Oberhuber and Rudolf Burger masterminded the overall direction of the institution. As of 2000, Gerald Bast has been at the helm of the university with the declared aim of developing new study courses. (Vice-rectors; Barbara Putz-Plecko, Josef Kaiser, Maria Zettler). Number of students: approx. 2,000.
Universität für künstlerische und industrielle Gestaltung Linz (University of Art and Design Linz)
In 1998, the private Kunstschule der Stadt Linz (founded in 1947) was transformed into a university after having been raised to the level of Hochschule in 1973. Its foundation and mission were inspired by the wish to provide a clear counterpoint to the cultural policy of the NS regime and to uphold basic values such as the freedom of the arts and research and a commitment to contemporary art. Three pillars – intermediality, space strategies and artistic-scientific research – are designed to strengthen the profile of the university. Today, the university is covers a number of centres and four institutes: Institutes for fine arts and cultural studies, for art and education, space and design, media studies. Apart from Bachelor/Master/Diploma courses, the university offers teacher training degree courses and installed a PhD course for philosophy and natural sciences. As of 2000, Rector Reinhard Kannonier has been at the head of the university and its approx. 1,000 students.