A vocational university, sometimes called professional university or applied technological university college of higher vocational studies, is an institution of higher education and sometimes research, which provides both tertiary and sometimes quaternary education and grants academic degrees at all levels (bachelor, master, and sometimes doctorate) in a variety of subjects. 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. 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.
The education which takes place at vocational universities combines teaching of both practical skills and theoretical expertise. Higher vocational education might be contrasted with education in a usually broader scientific field, which might concentrate on theory and abstract conceptual knowledge. This has to do with the fact that, in the Middle Ages, an educational institution was called a university 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 still, institutions of tertiary education focusing on these and not offering the classical canon were denied the prestigious denomination "university", so they had to use the general word (High School in English) Fachhochschule in German, Haute Ecole in French (Belgium and Switzerland), Hogeschool in Dutch, Høyskole in Norwegian, Scuola universitaria professionale in Italian, etc.
There exist 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.
Notice: 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 are not considered universities. A graduate of university of applied sciences (ammattikorkeakoulu) is generally not eligible for doctoral studies in Finnish universities without formally completing a master's degree from a university (yliopisto).
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 Bachelor degrees and Master degrees. Some Universities of Applied Sciences run doctoral programs where the degree itself is awarded by a partner institution. 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 degrees.
While the terms vocational university and professional university do not have a clear legal definition in India, the University Grants Commission (UGC), which is the body that recognises universities in India, drawing its power from the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, shares power with 15 professional councils. These councils are "responsible for recognition of courses, promotion of professional institutions and providing grants to undergraduate programmes and various awards" in the relevant areas. The bodies relevant for professional education are:
As of January 29, 2008, a Dutch hogeschool (hbo) is called a university of applied sciences in English. See List of universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands. Universities of Applied Sciences offer Bachelor degrees, Master degrees (but neither "of Arts" nor "of Science") and no doctorates.
Hogescholen in the Netherlands have been provided with the right to conduct research by the revised Higher Education and Research Act (WHOO)2010.
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.
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