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A Fachhochschule (German: [ˈfaxhoːxʃuːlə] i ; plural Fachhochschulen), abbreviated FH, is a university of applied sciences (UAS), in other words a German tertiary education institution that provides professional education in many applied sciences and applied arts, such as engineering, technology, business, architecture, design, and industrial design.


Fachhochschulen were first founded in Germany and were later adopted in Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Cyprus, and Greece. An increasing number of Fachhochschulen are abbreviated as Hochschule, the generic term in Germany for institutions awarding academic degrees in higher education, or expanded as Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaften (HAW), the German translation of "universities of applied sciences", which were primarily designed with a focus on teaching professional skills. This is reflected in the fact that the ratio of the number of students to the number of professors is significantly better than at traditional universities. However, there are also a number of subjects, such as social work or the legal sub-discipline of social law, which are traditionally underrepresented at traditional universities. In these areas, universities of applied sciences make a significant contribution to research. UAS professors are also increasingly attracting national and international third-party funding. To support their research activities, they can apply for a significant reduction in their teaching load. Swiss law calls Fachhochschulen and universities "separate but equal". [1] In terms of student numbers, universities of applied sciences are on average smaller than traditional universities. However, there are also a number of HAW, such as TH Köln or UAS Frankfurt, which can keep up with large universities in this respect.

Due to the Bologna process, universities and Fachhochschulen award legally equivalent bachelor's and master's degrees. [2] Excepting research-intensive institutions in Hesse, Saxony Anhalt, Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria [3] [4] Fachhochschulen do not award doctoral degrees themselves but sometimes in cooperation with award-granting partner universities. [5] In the meantime, however, some professors at HAW also have additional habilitations and can therefore directly supervise doctoral students at their home university. This and the rule that they give priority to hiring professors with a professional career of at least three years outside the university system additional to the doctoral degree are the two major ways in which they differ from traditional universities.

Impact of the Bologna process

Due to the Bologna process, most German Universitäten and Fachhochschulen have ceased admitting students to programs leading to the traditional German Diplom (FH) , but now apply the new degree standard of Bachelor's and Master's degrees. In line with the Bologna process, bachelor's and master's degrees awarded by both types of universities (Universitäten and Fachhochschulen) are legally equivalent.

With a Master's from either, one can now enter a doctoral degree program at a Universität, but a graduate with a bachelor's degree from either is normally unable to proceed directly to a doctoral degree program in Germany. Also, with the master's degree of either of the institutions a graduate can enter the höheren Dienst (higher service) career for civil servants. [2] [6]

In Germany

The Fachhochschule or University of Applied Sciences and Arts is a type of German institution of higher education that emerged from the traditional Engineering Schools and similar professional schools of other disciplines. It differs from the traditional university (Universität) mainly through its more practical orientation. [7] Subjects taught at Fachhochschulen include engineering, computer science, business and management, arts and design, communication studies, social service, and other professional fields.

The traditional degree awarded at a Fachhochschule was the Diplom (FH). Coursework generally totaled six semesters (three years) of full-time study, with various options for specialization. In addition, there were one or two practical training semesters to provide hands-on experience in real working environments. The program concluded, usually after 3.5 – 4 years, with the final examination and a thesis (Diplomarbeit) which is usually an extensive project on a current practical or scientific aspect of the profession.

In an effort to make educational degrees more compatible within Europe, the German Diplom degrees were mostly phased out by 2010 and replaced by the European bachelor's and master's degree.

The Fachhochschule represents a close relationship between higher education and the employment system. Their practical orientation makes them very attractive to employers. [8]

Today, Fachhochschulen also conduct research. Research projects are either publicly funded or sponsored by industry. Nevertheless, in Germany the right to confer doctoral degrees is still generally reserved to Universitäten. [9] In 2016, however, Fulda University of Applied Sciences became the first Fachhochschule to be conferred this right for its graduate center for social sciences. [10] Several Fachhochschulen run doctoral programs where the degree itself is awarded by a partner university in Germany or abroad (similar to the doctoral programs in German research institutes, such as the Fraunhofer Society or the Max Planck Society).

There are a few universities, such as Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt and Bundeswehr University Munich, which run Fachhochschule courses in addition to their normal courses. It is also important to note that in the 1990s, some universities of applied sciences were developed from former GDR universities with the right to award doctoral and post-doctoral degrees in order to cut costs. These include, for example, the Zittau/Görlitz University of Applied Sciences. In these institutions, the classic university spirit lives on to this day.

In Austria

The Austrian government decided to establish Fachhochschulen (FH) in 1990. In the academic year of 2010/11, there were twenty-one institutions officially considered as Fachhochschulen plus a number of other providers of Fachhochschulstudiengängen with a total of over 27,000 students. About a third of the 136 Fachhochschulstudiengänge are organized as part-time courses of studies.

Fachhochschule Burgenland Wappen der Stadt Eisenstadt.svg Eisenstadt Flag of Burgenland.svg Burgenland Fachhochschule19941.4511.453+2
Fachhochschule Kärnten AUT Spittal an der Drau COA.jpg Spittal an der Drau Flag of Carinthia.svg Kärnten Fachhochschule19951.5181.664+146
Fachhochschule Krems AUT Krems an der Donau COA.svg Krems Flag of Niederosterreich.svg Niederösterreich Fachhochschule19941.7791.750-29
Fachhochschule St. Pölten AUT Sankt Poelten COA.svg Sankt Pölten Flag of Niederosterreich.svg Niederösterreich Fachhochschule19941.7151.698-17
Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt Wappen der Stadt Wiener Neustadt.png Wiener Neustadt Flag of Niederosterreich.svg Niederösterreich Fachhochschule19942.6582.763+105
Theresian Military Academy Wappen der Stadt Wiener Neustadt.png Wiener Neustadt Flag of Niederosterreich.svg Niederösterreich Fachhochschul-Einrichtung1751324314-10
Fachhochschulstudiengang Oberösterreich Wels wappen.jpg Wels Flag of Oberosterreich.svg Oberösterreich Fachhochschul-Einrichtung19944.1544.434+280
FH Gesundheitsberufe Oberösterreich Wappen Linz.svg Linz Flag of Oberosterreich.svg Oberösterreich Fachhochschul-Einrichtung2010
Fachhochschule Salzburg AUT Puch bei Hallein COA.jpg Puch/Urstein Flag of Salzburg.svg Salzburg Fachhochschule19952.1842.267+83
Campus 02 Fachhochschule der Wirtschaft AUT Graz COA.svg Graz Flag of Steiermark.svg Steiermark Fachhochschule19961.0281.106+78
FH Joanneum AUT Graz COA.svg Graz Flag of Steiermark.svg Steiermark Fachhochschule19953.3833.428+45
FH Kufstein Coat of arms Kufstein.svg Kufstein Flag of Tirol.svg Tirol Fachhochschule19971.0301.070+40
FH Gesundheit Tirol AT Innsbruck COA.svg Innsbruck Flag of Tirol.svg Tirol Fachhochschul-Einrichtung2007247413+166
Management Center Innsbruck AT Innsbruck COA.svg Innsbruck Flag of Tirol.svg Tirol Fachhochschul-Einrichtung19951.8832.052+169
Fachhochschule Vorarlberg Wappendornbirn.svg Dornbirn Flag of Vorarlberg.svg Vorarlberg Fachhochschule19891.0051.054+49
Fachhochschule des bfi Wien Wien Wappen.svg Vienna Flag of Vienna.svg Vienna Fachhochschule19961.4311.502+71
Fachhochschule Technikum Wien Wien Wappen.svg Vienna Flag of Vienna.svg Vienna Fachhochschule19942.6542.939+285
Ferdinand Porsche Fern-Fachhochschule Wien Wappen.svg Vienna Flag of Vienna.svg Vienna Fachhochschul-Einrichtung199785305+220
FH Campus Wien Wien Wappen.svg Vienna Flag of Vienna.svg Vienna Fachhochschule20012.4393.215+776
FHWien Wien Wappen.svg Vienna Flag of Vienna.svg Vienna Fachhochschule19941.7792.362+583
Lauder Business School Wien Wappen.svg Vienna Flag of Vienna.svg Vienna Fachhochschul-Einrichtung2003253296+43

In Switzerland

The Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences UAS are vocational universities established in Switzerland in 1995 following the model of the German Fachhochschulen. They are called Fachhochschule in German, Haute école specialisée in French and scuola universitaria professionale (SUP) in Italian. The Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences offer third level education, continuing education, services businesses and institutions, and produce applied research activities. In 2013 there are seven public UAS approved by the Swiss Federal Council in 1998 and two private UAS approved by the Federal Council in 2005 and 2008. [11] The public UAS are run by one or more cantons. [12]

UAS have the institutional mandate to provide degree programmes (Bachelor's degrees and Master's degrees), continuing education and training, to conduct applied research and to offer services to companies and institutions. Students with a finished apprenticeship and a Fachmatura (subject Matura) and students with the Matura and a practical year in a company can access further education within the Universities for Applied Science. The UAS and their Bachelor's and Master's degrees are federally accredited.

The Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) and is in charge of the accreditation of the UAS which are requested to meet the federal legislative requirements. [1] The UAS are supported by the cantons, the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) [11] and by the Rector's Conference of Swiss Universities (swissuniversities). [13]

University of Applied SciencesTypologyEstablishmentRecognitionNote
Berner Fachhochschule (BFH)Public1998
Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz (FHNW)Public1998
Fachhochschule Ostschweiz (FHO)Public1998
Haute école spécialisée de la Suisse occidentale (HES-SO)Public1998
Hochschule Luzern (HSLU, formerly known as FHZ)Public1998Not to be confused with University of Lucerne (unilu)
Scuola universitaria professionale della Svizzera italiana (SUPSI)Public19971998
Zürcher Fachhochschule (ZFH)Public1998
Kalaidos Fachhochschule Private2005
Haute école spécialisée Les Roches-Gruyère Private2008

See also

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