Universities of Applied Sciences are focused on the transferability of professional skills. The Swiss lawmaker calls Fachhochschulen and Universitäten "separate but equal. Just like more academically oriented traditional universities, the UAS are able to issue both Bachelor and Master degrees. In Switzerland, they may run doctoral programs when the degree itself is awarded by a partner institution which is allowed to, as some German Fachhochschulen also co-run doctoral programs, with doctoral degrees being awarded by the partner university.
The traditional degree awarded at a Fachhochschule is the Diplom (FH). Actual coursework generally totals eight semesters (four years) of full-time study with various options for specialization. In addition, there are one or two practical training terms to provide hands-on experience in a real working environment. The program concludes with the final examination and a thesis which usually is an extensive investigation of a current practical or scientific aspect of the profession.
In an effort to make educational degrees more compatible within Europe, the German Diplom (FH) degree will be phased out and replaced by the European bachelor's and master's degree by 2010. The Diplom (FH) is considered equivalent to a four years Bachelors degree in U.S. or UK.
The Fachhochschule represents a close relationship between higher education and the employment system. The students’ up-to-date knowledge of the field enhances their preparation for their profession. Their practical orientation makes them very attractive for employers.
Today there is also research done at Fachhochschulen. The research projects are usually sponsored by industry. The German universities of applied sciences enjoy a high importance for the German industry and they have several partnerships with the local industry. Nevertheless, in Germany the right to confer doctoral degrees is still reserved to Universitäten. So some Fachhochschulen run doctoral programs where the degree itself is awarded by a partner university (like doctoral programs in German research institutes like Fraunhofer Society or Max Planck Society).
Due to the Bologna process, most German Universitäten and Fachhochschulen have ceased admitting students to programs leading to the traditional German Diplom, but apply now the new EU degree standard of Bachelor 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. However, the Diplom (FH) is legally equivalent to a bachelor's degree, while the Diplom awarded by a Universität is at Master's level.
With a Master's from either it is now possible to 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 (US schools only require a Bachelor degree for admission to doctoral programs, but require additional coursework for students lacking a Master). Also, with the Master's degree of either of the institutions a graduate can enter the höheren Dienst (higher service) career for civil servants.
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