In 1999, the Private University Act passed the Austrian Parliament, making it possible to found a university in Austria. As defined by this law, the wording must include “private” university, thus differentiating private universities from state institutions. An extensive and strict accreditation procedure is in place and must be repeated every few years to meet the required quality standards. The Austrian authorities exclusively use foreign assessments for this procedure.
In 2003, Univ. Prof. Dr. Alfred Pritz, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Jutta Fiegl, Mr. Heinz Laubreuter and Dr. Elisabeth Vykoukal founded the Sigmund Freud University (SFU). They aimed at transforming psychotherapy into psychotherapy science, based on an academic foundation. They were inspired by Sigmund Freud’s “The Question of Lay Analysis” from 1926 which anticipated psychoanalysis as a separate discipline.
In 2005, the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs were accredited (the PhD program was accredited later on), pioneering such academic programs worldwide. Until then, training in psychotherapy required a professional background in the psycho-social field, plus further trainings. The SFU was the first to introduce a university education where practical and academic aspects work hand in hand and complement each other in a unique way. In addition, psychotherapeutic and psychological outpatient clinics were founded which today form a pillar in providing mental health services to people living in Vienna. The SFU also offers its degree courses in psychotherapy in English, currently to students from 56 different countries. Treatment in the outpatient clinics is offered in different languages and refugees are treated free of charge.
In 2007, the Faculty of Psychology was founded. The approach to psychology taught at the SFU is explicitly embedded within the cultural and social sciences. In this respect, the SFU offers an alternative to so far prevalent approaches of psychology as belonging to the natural sciences.
The SFU truly is a European university. The first branch abroad was established in 2006 in Paris, followed by Ljubljana, Berlin, Milan and Linz (Austria). All branches offer courses in psychotherapy and psychology in the local language and in line with local culture, but based on a common teaching approach.
In 2009, the SFU started to expand the range of offered degree programs. In 2015, a course of studies in medicine was accredited, followed by law in 2016. They are the SFU newcomers, but are among the oldest fields in the tradition of the sciences.
Innovative and student-centered teaching, finding and filling promising research niches and being the intellectual home for students keen on learning and wanting to grow, makes the SFU a unique place to study today.
Video (in German): Univ.-Prof. Dr. Alfred Pritz