Colleges of higher education between higher education and VET – development dynamics, situation analysis and international comparison of perspectives

University of Zurich

Lead researchers: Prof. Dr. Lucien Criblez, Caroline Suter, MA

Duration: 01.08.2018 – 31.07.2022

This project will examine the development, current situation and status of colleges of higher education (höhere Fachschulen) in Switzerland. Created back in 1995, universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen) were a new type of institution, positioned at tertiary-level, and more specifically within the Swiss higher education sector. This development forced colleges of higher education to re-position themselves and justify their existence, not only within the Swiss education system as a whole but also within the Swiss VPET system. Colleges of higher education underwent a redefinition and demarcation process, which raised questions regarding the value of the qualifications awarded by such institutions and prompted policies aimed at enhancing their profile.

Despite political pressure to act, very little research has been conducted thus far on the development and challenges associated with repositioning colleges of higher education within the Swiss education system. In order to gain systematic insights into this type of institution, the first step will be to analyse regulatory provisions and corresponding documentation; On this basis, case studies on five study programmes from five different disciplines (health, engineering, gastronomy and tourism, business and social sciences) will then be compiled. Emphasis will be placed on institutional development processes. Data will be gathered through qualitative social research (interviews with experts) and oral history (witness seminar) methodologies.

This project is intended to shed light on the following areas: the negotiation processes between the various stakeholders involved; education system structures and how they have evolved over time; and the impact that international reforms have had on the Swiss VPET system. This should lead to a deeper understanding of the (re)structuring processes that have taken place over the past two decades.