What is a "Fachhochschule"?

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A "Fachhochschule" (FH) or a university of applied sciences is a German speciality, with only a short tradition to look back on. Its establishment in 1976 was the result of educational policy debates held in the 1960s, when the German industry complained about education being too theoretical at traditional universities.

"Fachhochschulen" are well known for their practical, hands-on approach and close cooperation with commercial enterprises. Not only do these institutions of higher education provide up-to-date know-how, but they are also able to swiftly respond to a rapidly changing work environment. In recent years, universities of applied sciences have been regarded as the most successful type of higher education in Germany. This is evident in both their low dropout rate and their significant number of successful graduates.

What primarily attracts students to a "Fachhochschule" is its clear structure and organisation of degree courses, the small class sizes (up to 40 students) and the evaluation of each student's progress throughout the term. At a "Fachhochschule", students can pursue either Bachelor's or Master's degree study programmes. Degrees earned at a "Fachhochschule" do not differ from those of other traditional universities. At the Bachelor's level, programmes run for either six or eight terms, whereas Master's programmes run for either two or four terms. Some programmes still award the traditional German "Diplom" degree and have not yet been adapted to the new internationalised structure of Bachelor's and Master's degree study programmes. These traditional degrees are supplemented with the acronym "FH", which stands for "Fachhochschule", e.g. "Diplom-Ingenieur (FH)". German "Diplom" programmes usually consist of eight terms with an internship (one term) and a colloquium for the student’s final thesis, an extensive, independent and practice-oriented undertaking.
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