Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 22 September, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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core definition

Fachhochschule is a higher education institution, in Germany, Austria, Switzerland (and previously in Liechtenstein), focusing on vocational and professional education, notably enginering, technology, art and design, social wervices, and business and management.

explanatory context

Fachhochschulen emerged in Germany in the 1970s with a view to making closer links between higher education and employment also spread to Switzerland, Austria and beyond. Fachhochschulen are similar British polytechnics (pre-1992) and are undergoing a similar change in their status and degree-awarding powers. Fachhochschulen now usually undertake publicly funded or industry-sponsored research. Fachhochschulen, in Germany, used to award the Diplom (FH) but this has been phases out as part of the Bologna Process and they now award bachelor and master's degrees. Fachhochschulen do not make doctoral awards although some are also aiming at getting doctoral granting rights. In Germany, some Fachhochschulen run doctoral programmes in conjunction with a partner university or research instutute but the degree is awarded by the university.


Fachhochschulen are often referred to as “Universities of Applied Sciences (and Arts) ”. Their programmes are evaluated like other higher education institutions in Europe in accordance with the Bologna Process.

In Austria, the Fachhochschulrat (The FH Council as it describes itelf in English) outlines the FH sector as follows:

In 1990 the Austrian Federal Government decided to set up the FH sector. Apart from the goal, written down in the government accord, of diversifying higher education, increasing transparency and harmonising the Austrian education system with the systems existing in other EU member states, another important educational goal of the government was to strengthen the independence and accountability of the educational institutions for the purpose of increasing the quality and efficiency of the courses offered. By reducing the innumerable laws and decrees pertaining to the organisation of higher-education institutions and the courses they offer, the intention was to boost innovation in the educational sector, increase, flexibility vis-à-vis the employment sector and make it easier to meet general social requirements....

FH degree programmes offer vocational training and practice oriented courses at higher-education level. This means that the education offered qualifies the graduates for a profession, and the curricula of the courses are designed in such a way that the graduates will stand a reasonable chance of finding a job that matches their qualifications.

The basic concept for an FH degree programme has to describe the connection between the vocational fields of activity, the related qualification profile and the curriculum, which is a reflection of the qualification profile, and these connections have to be demonstrated in the teaching concept as well. The high priority given to teaching concepts in the FH sector is not least due to the fact that FH degree programmes have to put into practice the educational mandate of a practice-oriented vocational training at higher-education level subject to time constraints.

analytical review

Fachhochschule Liechtenstein (2004) stated that:

A “Fachhochschule” is a University of Applied Sciences and enjoys equal status with other universities and institutions of higher education. The focus of teaching at a “Fachhochschule” is to promote the practical application of knowledge and prepare students for their subsequent careers. In general the basic admission requirement is a high school diploma or an equivalent qualification.

As of February 2005, Fachhochschule Liechtenstein changed to Hochlschue Liechtenstein.


Fachhochschule Mannheim , 2004, stated:

The Fachhochschule (FH) offers science-based yet application-oriented education; it is active in industrial research, development and technology transfer, and is strongly involved in the field of continuing education. University of Applied Sciences is a good approximation to express its role. In the Land (state) of Baden-Württemberg, Fachhochschulen have the name "Hochschule für..." (Higher Education Institution for...) and the focus of their subjects included in their name. For example, the Fachhochschule Mannheim is called the "Hochschule für Technik und Gestaltung" ("University for Engineering Education and Design").


DAAD (2004), in answer to the question "What is a Fachhochschule?" stated::

Whilst foreign students will have no problems imagining what a university or technical college is, Fachhochschulen are a German speciality, with only a very short tradition to look back on. … 35 per cent of all higher education graduates now come from a Fachhochschule. In some areas, such as engineering, more than half of the graduates came from a Fachhochschule…. What primarily attracts students to the Fachhochschule is the shorter route to a later profession that they offer. For studies at Fachhochschulen — and this is a special feature — are highly practice-orientated. Tight organisation of the degree courses, teaching in small groups, examinations throughout the studies which count towards the final degree, and a choice of subjects which is orientated towards the necessities of professional practice, permit shorter average studies than are generally achieved at universities. The non-lecture periods (semester vacations) are normally shorter than at university. This does not mean a lack of academic or scientific orientation, for the Fachhochschulen not only teach but also research. This research, however, is also primarily directed towards practical requirements, is largely applications-based. The result of this is that "exotic'' or purely theoretical degree courses are not to be found at Fachhochschulen. The range of subjects offered is directed in particular towards the needs of professionals with a practical and academic education, in engineering, in business administration, in design and in the social services. Degree courses at Fachhochschulen end with a special Diplom degree.

In its current website (2011) DAAD states:

Fachhochschulen / Universities of Applied Sciences: There are 167 Fachhochschulen (FHs) in Germany. Their official English translation is "University of Applied Sciences". This name mirrors exactly what Fachhochschulen are actually all about: they stand for great practical relevance and focus with strong ties to applications in the working world. Those who study at a Fachhochschule have a better preparation than traditional university students for positions and assignments in specific industries and work fields. So the FHs above all offer degree programmes in the field of technology, business and management, social studies, media and design. On the other hand, those interested in studying for a degree in medicine, in education (school teachers) or law will not be able to study these fields at a Fachhochschule.
The strong applied or practical focus of the Fachhochschulen is also reflected in the profile of their lecturers and professors. Many of them have already gained career experience in industry, business or social work. This know-how qualifies and enables them to provide students with insights into the processes, working methods and expectations of companies or social and cultural institutions. Compulsory study internships (as a rule students are required to complete one or two practical semesters) round off the transfer of this knowledge and practice to students.


According to the University of Wisconsin-Maddison (2010), referring to Fachhochschule Aalen in Germany:

Programs are usually six semesters of academic studies and one to two semesters of practical on-the-job training. Most programs are in engineering. Classes are more closely examined and graded than at the universities. Because there is less emphasis on research and theory, the diplom-FH usually yields placement in German universities at the level of vordiplom (intermediate examination). Hence diplom-FH holders may obtain a second, university diplom in the relevant field. Usual admission requirement is the fachhochschulreife (12 year school leaving certificate) or the hochschulreife (13 year school leaving certificate).

associated issues

The History of the Fachhochschulen in Germany

DAAD (2004) also outlines the history of the Fachhochschulen. The establishment of the Fachhochschulen in Germany followed educational policy debates in the 1960s, which focused on the need to help German industry maintain its competitiveness in the international field. This led to an increasing demand for better-qualified personnel with the capacity to solve practical tasks quickly and successfully on the basis of an academic training. A Decree issued by the Ministers of Education and Culture of the Federal Länder in 1969  and the Federal Framework Law for Higher Education, passed in 1976, then raised the status of the Fachhochschulen to an equal standing with the universities and university-status institutions. Within the context of the laws passed by the Länder, the Fachhochschulen are also autonomous, meaning that freedom of teaching and research and academic self- administration are guaranteed rights. Since then, an express educational policy objective of the Federal and Länder authorities has been a differentiation of higher education through the further establishment and expansion of Fachhochschulen. With German unification this assignment has gained a new dimension. In the five new Federal Länder it was possible to build up on the colleges of engineering which existed on the territory of the former GDR and which were, from an academic point of view, related to the Fachhochschulen in the Western German Länder. Furthermore existing institutions such as engineering and other colleges were converted into new Fachhochschulen, so developing in a similar way to the Fachhochschulen in Western Germany. There are 153 Fachhochschulen (as for 2001) to choose from. In addition, some 30 administration-own Fachhochschulen are directly maintained by the Federal and Länder authorities to cover their own needs and consequently are only open to German civil servants. In addition to these, there are around another 30 state- recognised Fachhochschulen under private, mainly church, maintenance; not to forget the Fachhochschul-type degree courses offered at the five German comprehensive universities (Gesamthochschulen). Comprehensive universities are higher education institutions which have been formed by integrating university, teacher training college, Fachhochschule, and, to a certain extent, college of art. Thus, they offer students a still greater choice of degree courses and degrees, even during the course of studies.

related areas

See also





Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst [German Academic Exchange Service] (DAAD), 2004, Study and Research in Germany,, no longer available at this address, 9 March 2011.

Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst [German Academic Exchange Service] (DAAD), undated, Study and Research in Germany, Fachhochschulen / Universities of Applied Sciences, available at, accessed 16 July 2012, not available 21 September 2012.

Fachhochschule Liechtenstein, 2004, General information, What is a "Fachhochschule"?, undated accessed October 2004, no longer available at this address, 9 March 2011.

Fachhochschule Mannheim , 2004, Studies without Frontiers ‘What is a Fachhochschule?' Page no longer accessible at this address, 4 February 2011.

Fachhochschulrat, undated, FH sector in Austria,, accessed 16 July 2012, page not available 3 January 2017.

University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM), 2010, Wisconsin Directory of International Institutions, Fachhochschule Aalen, available at, last updated 21 October 2010, accessed 21 September 2012, still available 26 June 2019.

Thanks to Michael Blaim for reminding me that Austria too has fachhochschulen and to Hubert Jurgensen for further clarification of the changing context

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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