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Since its establishment WUS Austria has changed the focus of its work in accordance with developments in higher education in Europe and the countries of project implementation. The table below provides an overview of these developments.





Early years


In 1920, „European Student Relief“ was founded as an interreligious British initiative in order to support students and professors of the University of Vienna, who found themselves in a desperate situation after World War I. In the 1930s, the activities were extended to Asia and Africa. In 1950, the name was changed to World University Service in order to reflect the involvement of the whole university community in the support measures. 




Since its establishment as a non-governmental organization in Graz in 1983, World University Service (WUS) Austria has been working on the promotion of the human right to education in various countries all over the world.




Since 1991, following the conflict in former Yugoslavia, WUS Austria has developed a regional focus on South-Eastern Europe (SEE) and implemented its activities mainly in Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.  Therefore, WUS Austria has set up local offices in Sarajevo (1994), Prishtina (1998), Podgorica (1998) and Belgrade (2001). Some programs have been extended to many other countries, mainly in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, where WUS Austria has been playing an integral part in the reconstruction and advancement process of higher education.




Following the emergency aid and reconstruction phases in the 1990s, from the year 2000 efforts concentrated on reforming the higher education system in the target countries with particular emphasis on the Bologna Declaration. In the course of this process, the context of WUS Austria’s activities shifted to medium-term EU expansion, which now forms the framework of cooperation in the field of higher education in South-Eastern Europe.


Since 2010


While higher education and South-Eastern Europe remained at the center of WUS Austria’s work, since 2010 the organization has extended the scope and geographic focus of its services.  This refers particularly to an enhanced knowledge transfer between universities, the business world and society at large, and to WUS Austria’s engagement in other regions of the world such as the ACP countries, Northern Africa, the Middle East and the Caucasus.