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Building of Cologne University of Applied Sciences
Building of The Hague University of Applied Sciences
Building of Breda University of Applied Sciences

A vocational university or university of applied sciences (UAS), less commonly called a polytechnic university[1] is an institution of higher education and increasingly research that provides applied professional education and grants academic degrees. It should not be confused with vocational schools or technical schools that do not meet the strict standards of higher education nor have the ability to grant officially accredited academic degrees.

In some countries, a vocational university more precisely grants professional degrees like professional bachelor's degree, professional master's degree and professional doctorates. The term is not officially used in many countries and an assignment to a certain type of university in a certain country's educational system is therefore difficult. The UK once had a very extensive vocational university sector with its polytechnic system dating back to the mid-19th century. Vocational universities are often regulated and funded differently (for example, by the local government rather than the state) from research-focused universities, and the degrees granted are not necessarily interchangeable.


See also: Vocational school

The education at vocational universities combines teaching of both practical skills and theoretical expertise. It can be contrasted with education in a usually broader scientific field, which may concentrate on theory and abstract conceptual knowledge. There is also the historical background that an educational institution was called a university in the Middle Ages only if a certain classical canon of subjects was taught (typically including philosophy, medicine and theology). In modern times, other subjects, namely natural and engineering sciences, became more important, but institutions of tertiary education focusing on these subjects and not offering the classical canon have been until recently or are still denied the prestigious denomination "university" in all countries. They had to use other, more general terms (which in many languages are false friends of the English term "high school", sometimes with modifiers), including Fachhochschule in German, Haute École in French (Belgium and Switzerland), Hogeschool in Dutch, Høyskole in Norwegian, Scuola universitaria professionale in Italian, etc.

There are different varieties, including vocational universities of applied sciences (also named polytechnics or institutes of technology), vocational universities of liberal arts, etc. In recent years, many vocational universities have received full university status, such as the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria (Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien, formerly Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien), or the Örebro University, Sweden (formerly Örebro Högskola). There are also some establishments which now have full university status but continue to use their former names, such as the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

In Europe


Main article: Fachhochschule


Main article: University of applied sciences (Finland)

In Finland, vocational universities are called Ammattikorkeakoulu (Yrkeshögskola in Swedish, translated "university of applied sciences", literally "vocational high school"). They focus on vocational education and do not grant licentiate or doctorate degrees.

Certain universities are called korkeakoulu because they effectively have only one faculty, e.g. Teatterikorkeakoulu, the Theatre Academy, whereas universities with several faculties are called yliopisto. The term ammattikorkeakoulu (AMK) creates some confusion with korkeakoulu, because traditionally AMK's were not considered universities. A graduate of university of applied sciences (ammattikorkeakoulu) is eligible for doctoral studies in Finnish universities (yliopisto).


Main article: Fachhochschule

The term vocational university is not used. In contrast to traditional German universities, a Fachhochschule (translated "university of applied sciences") has a more practical profile. Universities of applied sciences grant academic bachelor's degrees and master's degrees. In some federal states, research-intensive universities of applied sciences have the permission to grant doctoral degrees (e.g. Hesse or Saxony Anhalt). Otherwise, doctoral programs must be carried out in cooperation with degree-awarding institutions such as universities. Furthermore, Berufsakademie is a college type strongly inspired by the dual education system. A Berufsakademie is called a university of cooperative education in English and only grants bachelor's degrees. This type of institution was first created in the German state of Baden-Württemberg and now exists in Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Saarland, Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, and Thuringia, but not in the other German states. In 2009, Baden-Württemberg transformed its Berufsakademie into a new type of institution, which until now only exists in that state, a "Duale Hochschule". In English, this type of institution is also called university of cooperative education, but a Duale Hochschule also offers master's degrees.


Main article: List of universities in Greece § Technological educational institutes / Universities of Applied Sciences

In Greece, comparable institutions to the vocational universities (or perhaps better to the universities of applied sciences) are the technological educational institutes (TEIs). These constitute part and parcel of the higher education in Greece and offer in their own capacity bachelor's and master's degrees, and soon doctorate degrees.[2]

On the other hand, the term college in Greece may refer, among others, to the institutions that are officially titled Centres of Post-lyceum (secondary) Education. These have a solely professional, i.e. non-academic, orientation according to existing Greek law, and are so far only private. However, they run in collaboration with foreign authorities, such as universities and accreditation organisations, that may recognise them academically. They may offer professional bachelor degrees of minimum three years, as well as master's and doctorate degrees.


Main article: Istituto tecnico superiore

An Istituto tecnico superiore (abbreviated ITS – Higher Technical Institute) is an Italian tertiary educational institution. They were established in 2008, and are modelled on the Fachhochschule system of Germany. Programs have a duration of two or three years, and require a high school degree for access.


Main article: List of universities in the Netherlands

As of January 29, 2008, a Dutch hogeschool (HBO) may call itself a "university of applied sciences" in English.[3] Just like the German 'Fachhochschule', these HBO institutes firstly have a practical profile. They focus primarily on teaching the practicing of a profession at the highest professional level and applied science research, at the state of the art. This as opposed to research universities (Dutch: "universiteiten"), that focus on the highest level of professional practice, as well as practicing theoretical research.[4] This so-called binary system of professional and academic education co-exists with upper secondary vocational education, which provides vocational education at EQF levels 1-4 for equal, similar or different professions.[5]

Universities of applied sciences offer associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees and master's degrees.[6] From 2022 onward there will be pilots on Professional Doctorates.[7]

Hogescholen in the Netherlands have been provided with the right to conduct research by the revised Higher Education and Research Act (WHOO) 2010.[8]


The main difference between universities (universitet) and vocational universities (högskola, official translation university college) is that only the former ones have the right to award doctorate degrees in all subjects they offer. Some vocational universities have been given such rights within limited areas of research.


Main article: Fachhochschule

United Kingdom

Main article: Polytechnic (United Kingdom)

In Asia

Mainland China

China is home to the largest vocational education system in the world. In 2018, Mainland China had a total of about 11,700 vocational schools.[9]


Hong Kong


University of Applied Science and Technology

Main article: University of Applied Science and Technology

The University of Applied Science and Technology (UAST) is a public university administrated by Ministry of Science, Research and Technology with various branches all over the Provinces of Iran. This university helps to increase skill level of employed personnel in various sectors of economic field and graduates of higher education and professional skills that are lacking in administrative. It is an educational system inspired and derived from 'Community College' in the United States. With more than 1500 education center in all corner of Iran. UAST confers degrees in over 100 programs at the associate, bachelor's and master's degree levels.

Technical and Vocational University

Main article: Technical and Vocational University

The Technical and Vocational University (TVU) is one of Institutes of Higher Education under control of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology. The university has more than 176 schools and colleges across the country and more than 220 thousand students is one of the largest universities in Iran.


There are five public vocational universities in Malaysia:

Sri Lanka

In 2009, the first University of Vocational Technology was established under the purview of the Ministry of Vocational and Technical Training. There are also nine College of Technology in Sri Lanka.[10]


In Taiwan, vocational university is called University of science and technology or University of technology.

See also



  1. ^ "Google Books Ngram Viewer". Retrieved 2024-01-06.
  2. ^ "Διδακτορικά από ΤΕΙ- Η επιστολή του υπ. Παιδείας προς τους προέδρους των ΤΕΙ" [Doctorates from TEIs - The letter from the Ministry of Education to the presidents of TEIs]. Καθημερινή Ηλεκτρονική Εφημερίδα για την Παιδεία (in Greek). 9 April 2017. Retrieved 2024-01-06.
  3. ^ "Nuffic - Nederlandse organisaties - Nieuws & Evenementen - Nieuwsarchief - 2008 - Februari - Engelstalige naam voor Nederlandse hogescholen" [English name for Dutch universities of applied sciences]. Nederlandse organisaties - Nieuws & Evenementen - Nieuswarchief (in Dutch). 2008-02-06. Archived from the original on 2011-08-15. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
  4. ^ Ministerie van Algemene Zaken. "Wat zijn bachelor, master en associate degree in het hoger onderwijs?" [What are bachelor's, master's and associate degrees in higher education?]. Informatie van de Rijksoverheid (Information from the National Government) (in Dutch). (Ministry of General Affairs). Retrieved 2024-01-06.
  5. ^ van Houten, Maarten Matheus (2018-01-02). "Vocational education and the binary higher education system in the Netherlands: higher education symbiosis or vocational education dichotomy?". Journal of Vocational Education & Training. 70 (1): 130–147. doi:10.1080/13636820.2017.1394359. ISSN 1363-6820. Retrieved 2024-01-06 – via Taylor and Francis Online.
  6. ^ "Regeling van de Minister van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap van 11 december 2013, nr. 528477, houdende een wijziging van de Regeling andere toevoeging aan wo-graden in verband met het vaststellen van de referentielijst internationale herkenbaarheid titulatuur hoger beroepsonderwijs en het vaststellen van graden met toevoegingen" [Regulation of the Minister of Education, Culture and Science of 11 December 2013, no. 528477, containing an amendment to the Regulation on other additions to university degrees in connection with establishing the reference list for international recognition of higher vocational education titles and establishing degrees with additions]. Staatscourant van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden (in Dutch). Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap. 2013-12-19. Retrieved 2024-01-06.((cite web)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  7. ^ van der Zwan, Frank (2021-10-25). "Professional Doctorate - The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences". Vereniging Hogescholen (in Dutch). Retrieved 2024-01-06.
  8. ^ "Archived copy - Research report 2007/2008". Research Institute for Innovation & Business - Hogeschool Utrecht. 2008. Archived from the original on 2013-04-06. Retrieved 2013-02-19.
  9. ^ "Statistical report on China's vocational education in 2018". Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China. 2019-06-04. Retrieved 2020-09-26.
  10. ^ "University of Vocational Technology". SriLanka Today. 2009-03-30. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2024-01-06.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)