The institution that would later become today’s WU was founded over 100 years ago on October 1, 1898.
Innovation has a long tradition at WU. When the Imperial Export Academy, the institution that would later become today’s WU, was founded in 1898, it was a completely new type of higher education institution, offering a comprehensive education in the field of international trade. In addition to commerce-related subjects and the study of trade goods, the curriculum also included foreign languages, economics, economic geography, and public and private law. In 1917, the first female graduate completed her studies at the academy.
1919: The University of World Trade
In 1919, the name of the institution was changed to University of World Trade, and it also adopted a six-semester curriculum.
It didn’t take long for the academy to outgrow its original building on Berggasse. Before the start of WWI, a decision was made to construct a new building in Vienna’s Währinger Park. The institution eventually moved to its new home in 1916.
There had already been plans to grant the academy the legal status of a university during the final years of the Habsburg monarchy. In 1919, the academy was transformed into a public university and its name changed to University of World Trade (Hochschule für Welthandel). Just like the Imperial Export Academy before, the University of World Trade also awarded a diploma to graduates who completed the institution’s six-semester program. As of 1930, graduates received the academic degree of “Diplomkaufmann,” pursuant to a decree passed in the same year. In the field of commercial studies, the university offered courses on international trade and banking, complemented by economics and law. In 1930, the University of World Trade was granted the right to award doctoral degrees, which transformed it from a completely teaching-oriented institution to a place of research.
1939-1945: Years under Nazi rule
The University of World Trade did not remain unaffected by the National Socialist regime. Immediately after the Anschluss to Nazi Germany, Austria and its institutions were subject to Nazi law.
The new Nazi laws had dire consequences, particularly for students who were regarded as “non-Aryan” under Nazi doctrine and forced to leave the university immediately. The university also expelled faculty members who expressed dissenting political opinions or were considered “non-Aryan.” Professors from German universities and Austrian academics known to be staunch Nazi supporters were brought in to replace the ostracized teachers.
New, German-style study regulations were adopted in the 1939 winter semester. Under the new curriculum, the academic program taught had a duration of six semesters but included only one major diploma examination, which covered general business administration and specializations in business administration, economics, law, and an elective. Academic degrees earned during the war years were recognized and remained valid after the end of the Nazi regime. The faculty was depleted after the defeat of the German Reich: No fewer than 60 professors, assistant professors, lecturers, and civil servants were expelled from the university because they had been affiliated with the Nazi regime, and the professors who had been brought in from German universities returned back home.
1946 and the following years: Return to Austrian study regulations
In the 1946/47 winter semester, the University of World Trade reintroduced the old Austrian study regulations and curriculum with their broad range of different examination subjects.
One of the most important changes was the return to two mandatory foreign languages, which had merely been voluntary electives during the war years. The students preferred the German-style curriculum, however, because they found it less demanding.
In 1948 and the following years, the University of World Trade started creating new chairs and research institutes again. It remained the only Austrian university to offer degree programs in business administration until 1966, when changes in Austria’s political landscape brought about reforms in tertiary education and new degree programs in social sciences, business, and economics were established at several other universities.
From that time on, the University of World Trade offered four specializations: retail and trade (still available exclusively at the University of World Trade), business administration, economics, and business education. Graduates of the eight-semester program were awarded the degree of Magister, and doctoral graduates received the title of doctor of social and economic sciences.
1975: A new name: Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien
As part of a restructuring of the Austrian university system, the institution was renamed Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (WU, Vienna University of Economics and Business) in 1975.
Further reforms brought about additional changes: Following the adoption of the Austrian Universities Act 2002 (Universitätsgesetz), WU became a public university with full legal autonomy and authority to make its own decisions. With the foundation of the ZBP Career Center in 1983, WU was the first Austrian university to establish its own career center to help students get off to a good start in the job market. In the years following 2005, WU once again played a pioneering role: It introduced a new organizational structure based on departments and was the first university in Austria to implement the Bologna architecture in all of its degree programs, transforming its diploma programs into bachelor’s and master’s programs.
2007: EQUIS accreditation – an international seal of quality
In February 2007, WU received the prestigious EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System) accreditation from the renowned EFMD (European Foundation for Management Development).
The EQUIS accreditation came as the most prestigious international distinction WU had received up until that point and made WU the first Austrian university to join the elite circle of EQUIS-accredited schools. Aside from WU, only three other universities from the German-speaking area were EQUIS accredited at the time (University of Mannheim, WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management, University of St. Gallen).
2013: WU moves to a new campus next to Vienna’s Prater Park
After just four years of construction, WU’s new, modern campus with approx. 90,000 m² of net floor area was completed on a piece of land between the Messe Wien exhibition grounds and the Prater Park in 2013.
The central building, the Library & Learning Center, is surrounded by six building complexes designed by internationally renowned architects. 35,000 m² of the campus area is built up, the remaining 55,000 m² are publicly accessible grounds.
Campus WU is a unique university campus that provides an ideal environment for studying and teaching. 25,000 students and 1,500 teachers, researchers and administrative staff study and work on Campus WU.
2015: Triple accreditation
Attaining a place as one of the world’s top business and economics universities has always been a high priority at WU. With its prestigious triple international accreditation, WU has achieved this goal.
Since 2015, WU has held triple accreditation by EQUIS, AACSB, and AMBA, the 3 most prestigious accreditation agencies for business and economics universities. Only 3 universities in the CEE region*, 8 universities in the DACH region, and fewer than 1% of universities worldwide can claim triple accreditation from these organizations. In the CEE region*, WU shares this extraordinary status only with the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Kozminski University (Poland).
* This includes the following CEE countries: CZ, EE, HU, LV, LT, PL, SK, SI, AL, BA, BG, HR, MK, ME, RO, RS, XK, BY, MD, RU, UA, AT
thousand square meters of net floor area
A modern campus
Campus WU is located in Vienna’s second district and consists of 8 building complexes clustered around the Library & Learning Center, the centerpiece of the campus. The campus boasts modern auditoriums with state-of-the-art equipment, Austria’s largest business and economics library, plenty of workstations for independent study, and generously sized PC labs. The buildings on Campus WU take up a total built-up area of 45,000 m².
Bringing the world to Vienna
WU counts about 6,000 international students and more than 1,300 outgoing exchange students every year. They benefit from WU’s extensive program portfolio: three bachelor’s programs, seven German-taught and nine English-taught master’s programs, three German-taught doctoral and PhD programs, and four English-taught doctoral and PhD programs.
faculty and staff members
Close cooperation with the business community
WU’s almost 1600 researchers, faculty, and academic staff members represent a diverse range of academic disciplines, from business administration and economics to law, social and formal sciences, and linguistics and language studies. Thanks to their excellent work, WU’s academic output is highly regarded, both in the fields of fundamental and applied research.
Vienna reaching out to the world
Three prestigious international accreditations (EQUIS, AACSB, and AMBA) confirm WU’s high quality standards. WU also has an extensive network of respected international partner universities, among them institutions like the HEC Paris, Copenhagen Business School, ESADE, London Business School or TUM School of Management.