DIY-Studies: be your own master

You probably didn’t know this, but in Austria you can study something called “individual studies” – studies which you can design yourself.

If you can’t find studies that fit your needs at one of Austria’s 21 public universities, don’t worry and make your own. In three (more or less) easy steps:

(1) fill out the application form
(2) design your very own curriculum
(3) give your studies a name

Names like “Migration Studies” or “International Development” are already taken. In fact, they were so successful that the universities decided to include them in the range of studies they offer. That’s why since 2009 you can study “International Development” in Vienna, and since 2012 there is a specialization called “Migration Studies” in Salzburg. This development shows that there may be a need amongst students for a more holistic approach to their future working life.


Room for interdisciplinarity

Judith, a young researcher on diversity, is the creator of the specialization “Migration Studies” in Salzburg. When she realized that all of the studies offered at the university were out of question for her, she decided to design a new curriculum for herself: an interdisciplinary combination of sociology, history, political science and law. “There’s the need for more diverse thinking in the working environment”, she says. Whether a future employer sees individual studies as a pro or as a con depends on the career path you’ve chosen. Judith mostly got good reactions from her employers.

Did she ever doubt her decision to do her studies her own way? “No”, she says. “In the course of my studies I grew more and more confident. Everything matched up.” With the knowledge of certain subjects from one discipline Judith had an advantage in other disciplines. With her interdisciplinary studies she had the possibility to look at the big picture of migration and integration, instead of being focused just on the legal or sociological side of it. And by studying her own individual studies she had a new take on her subject that nobody else had.

Of course, Austria’s universities offer a wide range of different studies. The University of Vienna states that it only sees “a marginal need for individual studies”. The possibility of doing interdisciplinary studies by integrating so called “Extension curricula” in your Bachelor curriculum should be enough to give your studies an individual touch, according to the University.

Well, some students might object. Students who study individual studies have a very clear idea of what they want their studies to include and in which detail. This level of individualization cannot be reached by complementary subjects like “Extension curricula”, which are composed of the most basic courses of studies and only give a short introduction to the subject. Furthermore, there is no possibility to individualize Master studies in any way. So, individual studies might be the way to do it.


How much will that cost me?

Some universities have already realized how big the need for individuality is when it comes to studying. The Danube University Krems offers a specific kind of studies: the “MBA Customized”. On its homepage, the university promotes the “unique study program which can be tailored perfectly to individual career goals”. Four out of eleven modules of the curriculum can be chosen individually. Of course, this kind of freedom will cost you: 24.850 Euro, to be exact. While you can get your completely individual BA and/or MA at 21 public universities – for free.

Unfortunately, most of those 21 universities don’t even mention the possibility to study individual studies on their homepages. This might be due to the fact that individual studies imply a lot of work for the university – and for the student. “It was very complex and time-consuming”, says Judith. The recognition of completed courses by the university can cost a lot of effort, especially when courses planned by the student in his or her individual curriculum change over the years. Studying off-mainstream can be an arduous task. But, as a student, one should be aware of the fact that studying individually is a possibility. And students who know exactly what they want won’t be discouraged by some extra effort. So, individual studies might be just the right way for you to study the special curriculum you need, without extra costs.

photo Someecard by Verena Ehrnberger

Header image credits royalty free

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