The ÖH (Österreichische HochschülerInnenschaft) is the Austrian Students’ Union. It represents approximately 290.000 students in Austria (also the exchange students) and plays an important role in negotiations with the government or the local universities. Whenever there are any changes in e.g. curricula or study conditions, the ÖH is also invited to represent the students’ view on the respective topic.
Address: Josef-Hirn-Straße 7, 6020 Innsbruck
The structure of the ÖH
There are local ÖHs at every university and every Fachhochschule (like the MCI) in Austria.
Additionally there is a national board of the ÖH called “Bundes-ÖH” which negotiates with partners like the minister of education. Their office is in Vienna.
Here in Innsbruck the ÖH can help you on several levels:
1) Help regarding your field of study
- Every field of study has a certain number of representatives (Studienvertretung / StV) who are your first contact persons if you have any questions about your field of study (besides of course your incoming coordinator). Most StV have office hours. Sometimes only the elected representatives work there, but especially the fields of study with a lot of students have additional students doing advisory service (so not everybody working in a StV-office is an elected representative).
- A certain number of compatible fields of studies then have a common board called Fakultätsstudienvertretung (FStV). For example, the representatives of the business studies (bachelor in business, international business, master studies at the SoWi, etc.) elect their board for the “Fakultätsstudienvertretung SoWi”. These also take part in negotiations about new curricula, new professors, etc. Find your StV or FStV here.
- There also are local and national students’ parliaments (Universitätsvertretung / UV and Bundesvertretung / BV), but they are not really relevant for your stay here in Innsbruck. If you want to learn more about them, click here.
2) General help
- In the main building of the ÖH there are approximately 15 offices which do not represent any fields of study, but provide help to all students. Their offer is manifold, from an office for students with handicaps and chronic diseases over an office for legal advice to an office which gives advice to prospective students who come from school about what they can study in Austria. Find a list of all offices (“Referate”) here.
- The two most relevant departments for you are
- Referat für Internationales: responsible for the incoming and outgoing students
- Referat für ausländische Studierende: responsible for the foreign students who do their whole studies here in Innsbruck (contrarily to the incoming students who just stay for one or two semesters)
Who chooses the students working in the ÖH?
Every two years elections are held in all over Austria to determine the new representatives for the students. Basically everybody can be elected, but like in real-life politics there are party-like associations who have their candidates, do an election campaign, etc.
All students are entitled to vote, also the exchange students. Going to the polls is really important as the voter participation is decreasing every time and thus the legitimation of the ÖH towards the politicians is weakened.
The students can vote the representatives of their fields of study (StV) as well as the members of the local students’ parliament (UV – well, students actually vote for one of the party-like associations who then chose their representatives for the local students’ parliament).
The members of the local students’ parliament then elect the heads of the offices like the Referat für Internationales and the head of the local ÖH (consisting of three people).
If you want to know more about the elections (including the results of the 2013 elections), click here.
What does that have to do with you?
The ÖH also represents the exchange students, no matter where you are from.
By paying the obligatory ÖH-fee you become a member of the ÖH and get the same benefits as regular students do. The amount of the ÖH-fee changes every semester, but it’s approximately € 18. You really have to pay it, if you don’t, you’re not accepted as a student and can’t do any courses, etc.
The ÖH-fee also includes an insurance which covers damages that occur during lectures and on your way to the university and back. Find more details on this insurance on the website of the ÖH.
Besides all the advice on your field of studies and the work provided by the offices in the main building, the ÖH offers even more benefits (find out more here):
- Jobbörse: You’re looking for a job? Then click here.
- Digitaler Kompass: If you don’t know where to find your lecture.
- Unipress: You can either get this monthly magazine at the university or have it sent home to your flat.
- Mensa-Bon: Get this little card at the ÖH secretary or in one of the offices of the FStV and save € 1,-- per meal at the Mensa.
- UNIT: Professional trainers give you interesting lessons in hard- and soft-skills for free.
What does ESN have to do with the ÖH?
Although ESN Innsbruck is a legally independent association, we work closely with the local ÖH. We also have our office in their main building (2nd floor, Referat für Internationales – find our office hours here).
And of course we’re really thankful for the priceless help through the secretary (ground floor) which gives students the chance to register & pay for our trips outside our office hours.