A First in Austria: The JKU to Receive a Newly Endowed Chair for Business Education

The JKU plans to welcome a new endowed Chair for Business Education at the Institute of Business and Vocational Education in 2025.

Stefan Koch, Matthias Reisinger, Georg Hans Neuweg, v.l.n.r., Credit: JKU
Stefan Koch, Matthias Reisinger and Georg Hans Neuweg (f.l.t.r.)

Together with funding partners and the public sector, the Foundation for Economic Education will fund Austria’s first Chair of this kind. The shared goals include providing young people throughout Austria with an education about business and economics.  

The world is growing increasingly complex, facing ongoing challenges that include inflation, a shortage of skilled laborers, and a global environmental and climate crisis. Young people need to not only understand how the economy functions, but also understand how a well-rounded understanding of business and economics serves as the foundation be successfully involved in business and community life.

A Call for Action in Austria

The importance of possessing a basic understanding of how business and the economy works is undisputed, however, many Austrians continue to lack a basic general understanding of economics. The Austrian School Organization Act emphasizes just how important business education is for young people in Austria, especially in terms of life and work skills. At present, however, basic educational instruction in the field of economics and business is only included in a very limited number of subjects taught in the Austrian school system.

To date, there is a distinct absence of institutional and systematic research in the field of general economic education in Austria. Aside from local and subject-specific research initiatives, there is no university chair or research structure focusing specifically on general business and economic education, even though this subject area is vital when it comes to teacher education programs and giving teachers the background to move it out of the world of abstract concepts and make it more tangible in the classroom.

The JKU to Establish the First Austrian Chair for Economic Education

In an effort to address these shortcomings and improve the quality of business education, beginning in 2025, the JKU Institute of Business and Vocational Education will establish a new Chair for didactics in business and economic education based on an initiative by the Foundation for Economic Education and with strong support by the business community and public sectors. Additional partners include the Economic Chamber of Austria, the Innovation Foundation for Education, the ERSTE Foundation, Sparkasse of Upper Austria, Fabasoft AG, the state of Upper Austrian and the Federation of Austrian Industries. The Austrian National Bank also supports the endeavor but will not contribute any funding.

JKU Rector Stefan Koch remarked: “The newly endowed Chair of Business Education will position the JKU throughout Austria as an educational hub supporting research in this crucial area. Our decades of expertise in social sciences, business and economics - along with our experience in teacher education and our close ties to the business community and industry - means the JKU is ideally suited when it comes to creating this chair.”

The new Chair will be based at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Economics & Business at the Institute of Business and Vocational Education. The Institute of Business and Vocational Education has been responsible for the degree program in Business Education for many years, working closely with the JKU Linz School of Education.

An Important Alliance: Bringing Business, Academia, and Education Together

The JKU intends to drive education and research in pivotal fields forward, including areas such as consumer education, financial literacy, career and work placement, entrepreneurship, civic studies, and economic education.

Univ. Prof. Dr. Georg Hans Neuweg, head of the JKU Institute for Business and Vocational Education, explains: “The newly endowed Chair gives us an opportunity to push the development of teaching and learning materials in general business education forward and educators-in-training will be able to teach the subject effectively in the classroom. We would also like to become more involved in the area of teacher education studies. By working closely with the business community and academia, we can invest in educating the next generation.”

Matthias Reisinger, the managing director of the Foundation for Economic Education, stresses the significance of the Chair when it comes to teacher education studies: “Young people are interested in learning how to handle money, understanding how the economy works, and what they can do to actively play a part in the future. The key to providing a more true-to-life education in business is having well-trained and highly motivated educators. The JKU has already demonstrated its expertise in this area by including business education and business didactics as part of its teacher education program. We want to continue building on these strengths with our flagship endowed Chair of Business Education so that many educators and students can benefit from it.”

The university is currently welcoming applications for the endowed Chair for Didactics in Business Education and expects to fill the position at the beginning of 2025.

Statements by Funding Partners in regard to the Chair for Didactics in Business Education

Markus Achleitner, Minister of Economics and Research in Upper Austria: “In terms of personal development and for Upper Austria, business education is crucial. Financial education is particularly important to prepare young people to face business and economic challenges as well as equip them to actively take part in the community. This special Chair is an opportunity for Upper Austria to successfully continue as Austria’s leading economic state.”

Jakob Calice, Chairman of the Innovation Foundation for Education: “In order to respond to life’s everyday challenges in the future, young people need to understand economic processes. The endowed Chair will not only have a wide reach among educators (and ultimately to a large number of children and teens), the position also supports academic research into general business education and this is undoubtedly the key to more educational innovation.”

Helmut Fallmann, Board Member at Fabasoft AG: “A general business and economic education will boost young people’s self-confidence, and this is an important factor when encouraging entrepreneurship. This is the reason Fabasoft has been actively supporting civic study initiatives for many years.”

Joachim Haindl-Grutsch, managing director of the Federation of Austrian Industries Upper Austria: “Conveying up-to-date, fact-based and a real-world understanding of business and economic to students is a fundamental premise to support a successful career and understanding economic and financial policies in our complex global economy. The endowed Chair will contribute significantly to educating teachers in our industrialized region of Upper Austria.”

Eva Höltl, Board Member of ERSTE Foundation: “An astonishing number of people - particularly young people – struggle to understand the basics of business and economics despite the fact that it is essential to being able to lead an independent life. For society as a whole now, identifying new approaches and methods that support basic financial literacy is more important than ever before.”

Stefanie Christina Huber (CEO of Sparkasse of Upper Austria), and Gerald Gutmayer (chairman of the Board of Management at the Allgemeine Sparkasse): “Business and financial education is very important to us. Learning business and financial skills at a young age is essential in order to learn how to handle money properly, understand economic relations, and make well-informed life decisions. Education is the key to success and we are extremely supportive of the JKU's initiative.”

Mariana Kühnel, deputy secretary general of the Economic Chamber of Austria: “84% of companies believe that providing more business education in schools is crucial in order for young people to better understand basic economics, finance, and business actions. The newly endowed Chair at the JKU will facilitate a comprehensive academic approach to pioneering school projects and in doing so, young people will have a stepping stone to help them successfully lead an independent life.”

Petia Niederländer, head of the Payment Transactions, Risk Monitoring and Financial Education Department, Austrian National Bank (OeNB): “Being able to successfully manage financial situations in life is more important than ever before, helping both the individual AND our society and community. The OeNB believes that a broad, collaborative, informed, and evidence-based approach is the key. In this respect, research is an important factor in effectively advancing business education.”