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WIFI Academy courses in Austria
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Issue Austrian vocational education and training for adults is offered at public and private institutions of further education, schools, universities, and in the workplace. Within this spectrum, the WIFI Academies represent a step initiated by industry in the direction of further vocational education and career-related upgrading of skilled workers. It is a new way to combine vocational and general education. The dual qualification (continuing vocational education and specialised access to university) increases the vertical mobility within the system of education and reduces the gap between vocational and general education. (S.M. ed. 14/09/99)  
Measure Since 1991, courses have been organised at WIFI Academies all over Austria. These are institutions of vocational adult education that are run by the Austrian Economic Chambers. The subjects offered there cover the industrial and technical as well as commercial fields. A WIFI Academy course comprises six terms of part-time study alongside skilled work and it is made up, according to the subject field, of between 1,200 and 1,800 teaching units. Intermediate qualifications (with exams and certificates) may be obtained at certain points of the courses. 
    After six terms of tuition, a diploma and the degree of Fachtechniker (graduate of a technical college) or Fachwirt (graduate of a business college) may be obtained. A degree from a WIFI Academy serves as a preparation for the instructor’s examination, which is an essential prerequisite for the training of apprentices and which also represents a special module of further education for business persons and managers. 
    The possibility of completing a higher education entrance exam (Studienberechtigungsprüfung), or now a vocational matriculation (Berufsreifeprüfung), safeguards the possibility of progression from apprenticeship training to university education. This in turn makes the decision to start apprenticeship training more attractive. The Berufsreifeprüfung affords unrestricted access to higher education, in contrast to the Higher Education Entrance Exam which facilitates  subject-related university access only. From 1995, general education contents were offered in parallel to subject-specific contents throughout the programmes. Starting in the autumn of 1998, however, subject-specific contents are offered in the first two years and general education in the third year. This increasingly addresses the target group of Matura holders, who have already completed general education to university entrance standard, and who are now entitled to complete the Academy courses after two years. (S.M. ed. 14/09/99)
 
Impact In the autumn of 1991, 23 WIFI Academy courses were started. Since then already more than 1,500 Academy graduates have successfully completed the six-semester courses. At present, 894 students participate in 53 programmes.
    In a questionnaire, WIFI Academy students gave their reasons for joining the course: more than 70% emphasised personal development through improvements in the capacity for teamwork, the ability to achieve independent solutions to technical problems, communication and understanding as well as learning in general.  Additionally, they emphasised development of job-related knowledge and skills, general education, and the acquisition of precision in self-expression. For 50% of the participants, the acquisition of the university-entry qualification was an important reason for attending the courses. Immediately after completing the WIFI Academy courses, more than half of the students assessed the practical increase in their knowledge as extremely high. About two thirds of the graduates would again undertake such a programme, because they considered time and financial investments well spent and worthwhile. (S.M. ed. 14/09/99)
 
Reference The national case study on the WIFI Academies, prepared by  Thum-Kraft & Jonke-Hauptmann 1996a, was summarised in Brown & Manning 1998a (pp 24-26). The summary was extended and updated in Thum-Kraft 1999a,  including a presentation of the Berufsreifepruefung as a model in the European context  (the EUROBAC project). Detailed evidence on the careers of WIFI Academy graduates can be found in the topic study on "tracing careers" by Eckert et al. published in Brown & Manning 1998a (pp 99-118). (S.M. 14/09/99)  
Author Monika Thum-Kraft/ Sabine Manning (ed)  

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 First set up: 14/09/1999
Latest update: 24/11/1999
 Contact: Sabine Manning
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