Switzerland Higher Education: UAS

The University of Applied Sciences (UAS) system has no direct equivalent in the American education system. It was instead adapted from the German system, specifically modeled after the ‘Fochhochschule’, around 20 years ago to allow for greater flexibility between the A-level and B-level tracks (M. Dell’Ambrogio, personal communication, 5 April 2012). UAS curricula are designed to build a theoretical foundation upon a base of practical experience. This base is critical to the differentiation between the UAS and university systems, and is therefore reflected in the standard entrance requirement of at least one year of relevant professional experience or a vocational baccalaureate degree (which includes a significant apprenticeship portion) [4]. The UAS system in this way puts emphasis on staying close to the professional world. Another way it does this is by collaborating with corporations to solve business problems and generate intellectual property, serving as an important link between industry and academia.

Classes in the UAS system differ from those in traditional university. There is a collaborative, project oriented style to the work. Class sizes are small, with low student to faculty ratios, and the UAS system uniquely offers several creative disciplines, such as theater arts. This practical education is highly valued by the Swiss labor market, with studies indicating that 96% of all UAS graduates are hired in their field of study within one year [4]. Unlike the typical VET curriculum, the UAS curriculum does not include an apprenticeship portion. Instead, students are encouraged to consolidate their knowledge in summer internships.

Universities of Applied Science offer studies at the Bachelor’s and Master’s level and at the postgraduate education. Postgraduate education here refers to short programs of just a couple classes leading to a Certificate of Advanced Studies to longer one-year programs leading to a Master of Advanced Studies degree. None of these courses of study are intended to be similar to a Doctoral degree, which are never offered in the UAS system. These courses of studies allow graduates to quickly gain the new skills relevant in their workplace, which supports lifelong learning among the workforce.

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