Volkshochschulen ( Adult Education Centres, literally "people´s universities" ), institutions of Adult Education; name and idea go back to the Scandinavian N. S. F. Grundtvig, developed independently in Austria. The first Volkshochschule institution in Austria was the "Wiener Volksbildungsverein", which started its activities in 1887. There were a number of other institutions devoted to education following the Volkshochschule principles. These, however, operated under different names, since "Volkshochschule" was a name whose use was prohibited by the authorities. They include "Volkstümliche Universitätsvorträge" (popular university lectures, held in Vienna from 1895), education organised by Volksheim associations (from 1901, 1st Austrian Volksheim centre built in 1905), and the Urania centre (founded in 1897). During the First Republic, a number of evening Volkshochschulen were founded as independent associations, or as branches of the Vienna Urania or of the "Freie Gewerkschaften". The rural Heim-Volkshochschule centres of St. Martin (Graz) and Hubertendorf (Lower Austria) also carried out educational work in the tradition of Grundtvig. Between 1938 and 1945, the activities of the Volkshochschule centres were mainly taken over by the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront). Thereafter, some of the provincial Volkshilfe centres were operated by the Chambers of Labour, and new locations were opened in all major towns (289 centres in 1994). The centres are organised at a provincial level, the parent organisation (Verband österreichischer Volkshochschulen) was founded in 1950. Supporting organisations are associations, municipalities and Chambers of Labour (sometimes jointly). In Salzburg and Tirol there are provincial organisations with branches in major towns. The work is carried out by some full-time and a majority of part-time workers or on an honorary basis. Teachers and trainers receive further training in seminars. Between 1955 and 1992, the main seminar and education centre was "Haus Rif" in Hallein. Activities include courses, activities related to what is known as the "Second Way to University Access", lecture series, and other events (excursions, lectures, exhibitions, educational journeys, etc.).
The "Verband österreichischer Volkshochschulen" has its main office in Vienna and, since 1990, has operated a teaching centre and research centre; it publishes its own journal ("Die österreichischen Volkshochschulen", founded in 1950) and other specialised publications.
Literature: W. Filla, V.-Arbeit in Österreich - 2. Republik, 1991; U. Knittler-Lux (ed.), Bildung bewegt. 100 Jahre Wiener Volksbildung, 1987; Die österreichischen Volkshochschulen, Strukturanalyse, 1995; Jahrbuch Volkshochschulen, 1991ff.
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