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This was originally posted in a German-language site, but it was recommended to me to post it here as it might be more of a legal question than a language-related one, and similar questions were asked in the past in this community:

During a discussion about the challenges of applying EU regulations across different member states, the topic of academia came up, specifically the (admittedly edge-case) scenario of the combination of Austrian formality with regards to academic titles (where, as an example, one can be referred to as Dr. Dr. Dr. Otto Mustermann in case of three doctorates), and the exceptional situation in Italy where one does not need a Doctorate to be able to be called a Doctor (a Bachelor's Degree warrants the use of the title of Doctor already, or Dr. Mag. for a Master's Degree). This sparked a discussion about the legal recognition of titles across Member States where the same title is awarded at the end of different Bologna cycles.

For the purpose of this thought experiment, let's take the case of a student that is awarded a Master of Science degree in Mathematics from an Italian University (300 ECTS), therefore allowing them to use the title Dr. Mag. in Italy. Can they use the same title in Austria as well?

The Austrian rule in this regard seems to leave at least some room for interpretation:

If a foreign academic degree is validated in Austria, then the appropriate Austrian academic title should subsequently be used in place of the foreign title.

So if the academic degree is, conversely, not validated in Austria, it should follow that one should be able to use the title from the country that issued the degree - Dr. Mag. in this case.

On the other hand, this other page says:

Foreign academic titles may be used according to the same rules as Austrian titles.

This point would negate the previous interpretation, suggesting instead that the regulation with the highest priority would be the Austrian one. However, that same page also says:

Whether an academic title is to be placed in front of or behind a name is decided according to the rules of the country in which the award was made.

This acknowledges the importance of the source country instead. But it also mentions:

The use of a corresponding or similar Austrian academic title is not permitted.

Would the Italian Dr. title then correspond to an Austrian academic title, even though they refer to two different degrees?

More specifically then: would a person with a degree from Italy then be able to officially use the title "Dr." in Austria too?

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    Your question is already answered in the page you linked: you could use the precise Italian title (e.g. Dott./Dott.ssa or whichever form you obtained), or, if the degree is validated in Austria, use the Austrian equivalent. tl;dr use the title you have, perhaps spell it out in full on official documents to avoid confusion. Dec 12, 2023 at 14:26
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    It sounds like the only reason to try to use Italian Dr in Austria is to trick people into thinking you have a better degree than you do. Regardless of technicalities not a good thing to do regardless.
    – thosphor
    Dec 12, 2023 at 14:56
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    @thosphor The reason is irrelevant, but I find your comment beautifully ironic because it is exactly in Austria that a wife is allowed to use the husband's doctorate title and be called "Frau Dr" even without having a doctorate of her own (interestingly, the opposite does not seem to hold: nytimes.com/1988/05/22/travel/…) Dec 12, 2023 at 21:37
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    As a sidenote, this specific problem (Italian dottore versus German Doktor) is well-known enough that it has a joke name ("Brennerdoktor") and a Wikipedia page: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brennerdoktor
    – xLeitix
    Dec 13, 2023 at 3:09
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    @user1301428 "Allowed to use" is a strong term. It's an old-fashioned custom, yes, but it's not like a doctor's wife was ever legally allowed to carry her husband's academic titles.
    – xLeitix
    Dec 13, 2023 at 3:14

2 Answers 2

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Lawyer here. In Italy, you cannot use the title Dr. to imply you have a Ph.D. ("dott. ric.", dottore di ricerca); you can only use the title "dott. mag." (dottore magistrale) or "dott." (dottore triennale) which are the correct titles stated in the law. In Austria, you can use "dott." or "dott. mag.", better if followed by the name of your alma mater to avoid confusion [e.g., "dott. mag. (M.A./Msc. Università degli Studi di Bologna)"]. If you are a medical doctor, you can use Dr. as it is commonly used to refer to medical physicians. The abbreviation "Dr." in Italy is not commonly used to refer to BA or MA degrees, so you should not use it in Austria, in order to prevent litigation (better safe than sorry).

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This sentence:

The use of a corresponding or similar Austrian academic title is not permitted.

makes it clear: one cannot use a foreign title to imply the corresponding Austrian academic title. Therefore, using an Italian "Dr." title is wrong if used in Austria to imply one is an Austrian doctor (or Austrian-equivalent recognized doctor).

On the other hand, one can use the Italian "Dr." title if they clearly states that it is an Italian title.

The Dr. title in the name, as custom to the German-speaking world, can be done only with a Doctoral title, therefore using the undergrad "Dr." title to do that is a violation of the Austrian legislation (because in Italy the Dr. title is not officially prepended to the name).

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