Gender-sensitive language

The University of Vienna is committed to the use of gender-sensitive language.

The Affirmative Action Plan for the Advancement of Women and Equal Opportunities (in German) of the University of Vienna states (§ 2) that

  1. all institutions and members of staff (academic and non-academic) are to use discrimination-free and gender-sensitive language in all communications directed at members of the University or at the public.
  2. general statements like "women are included in masculine forms" are not acceptable.
  3. neither the University nor third parties are allowed to distribute materials on university grounds that don't comply with the principles of anti-discrimination and equality or that use discriminating stereotypes.

Common practice

What form of gender-sensitive language should be used is open at the University of Vienna. It is the basic principle of gender-sensitive language to mention the gender/genders that is/are meant. In some cases, it may also be appropriate to use gender-neutral terms (e.g. in German: Studierende or Lehrende) for reasons of simplicity. 

It is not sufficient to merely point out at the beginning or at the end of a text that the masculine form is used but that the female form is also always intended.


For further information, the Gender Equality and Diversity unit recommends the following guidelines:

Academic Degrees

According to section 88 of the 2002 Universities Act (in German), academic degree certificates use the respective masculine or feminine written form of the academic degree. This does, however, not apply to the abbreviated forms of academic degrees: the degrees may be used with a gender-specific addition, but may not be stated on the degree certificate in this form.

Examples: Award of academic degrees in their feminine form

  • Magistra der Philosophie, (usage: Mag.a phil.)
  • Doktorin der Rechtswissenschaften (usage: iur.)
  • Bakkalaurea, Bakk. (usage: Bakk.a)

For academic degrees in English language there are no gender-specific forms: 

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Pupils for gender-sensitive language

Gender-sensitive language doesn't start at university: A study at the Freie Universität Berlin shows that gender-sensitive language influences employment goals of children. In that spirit, pupils from Hamburg made a music video on the topic of gender-sensitive language. You can read more about it here (German).