Strategies of extremist organisations within the education sector

The research project analyses the objectives, strategies, networks and the concrete approaches of extremist organisations in the education sector in order to inform primary prevention against extremism in Austria.

Violent extremism as well as the increasing polarisation and radicalisation of societal discourses pose great challenges to contemporary societies. It is known that extremist groups recruit members and attempt to spread their ideologies in schools and through their own educational initiatives. There is, however, currently little knowledge about the dimensions of the phenomenon, and about the methods and strategies extremists use. This knowledge is particularly relevant, since schools are the most important sites for primary extremism prevention, which, in turn, needs to be evidence based in order to be successful. 

As of today, neither the extremists groups in Austria that attempt to have an influence on the education system, nor the capacity of these attempts have been examined. Additionally, the nationwide needs and prevention measures that are already in place on a federal level have to be assessed. Thus, this study generates important new knowledge in order to improve the prevention of and the fight against extremist recruitment in the education system. To this end, we will, first of all, conduct an analysis of existing prevention measures in Austria, especially at the local level, as well as of the needs of the local actors in the federal states. Secondly, we will provide an overview of the state of the art with regard to the influence of extremist organizations – nationalist/right-wing extremist, religious fundamentalist and subversive/anti-state, in the field of education, as well as of their own educational initiatives. Building on this analysis, we will thirdly examine particularly relevant extremist organizations and their activities in an ethnographic manner, that is, through in-depth field research. A further work package will deal with the transfer of knowledge and the exploitation of scientific results in practice. The high quality and relevance of the results is guaranteed by combining the essential players in this field as end-users (Ministry of Education, Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism) and the excellent expertise of the scientific partners in the consortium.

The research project will result in an analysis of the objectives, strategies, networks and the concrete approaches of extremist organisations in the education sector, including the results of three to five in-depth case studies. In a further report we will analyse the needs and existing prevention measures in the education sector, as well as international and national good practices. In knowledge transfer workshops with the end-users involved in the project and in exchange with the Federal Network for the Prevention of Extremism and Deradicalisation (BNED) we will jointly develop recommendations for primary prevention in the education sector, as well as multi-agency cooperation in this field. Additionally, the project aims to provide educational material for the prevention work in schools and thus strengthen schools as a primary prevention site.  

The project is funded within the Austrian Security Research Programme KIRAS.



Austrian Institute for International Affairs

Ministry of the Interior

Institute of Conflict Research (IKF)

Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DÖW)

Kinder- und Jugendanwaltschaft Wien (KJA)

Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF)

Project Period

January 2020 to December 2021

Project Leader

Veronika Hofinger

Scientific Management