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The Main Differences Between Universities and Universities of Applied Science

February 2, 2023

When finding the right university to study at, some institutions are simply called ‘universities’, whereas others are referred to as ‘universities of applied sciences’ (also known as polytechnics or technical universities). Although they may seem the same, these are two types of higher education institutions that offer different types of programs and focus on different goals. We’ve listed the biggest changes below for you: 

  1. Curriculum: universities typically offer a wider range of academic programs, including arts, humanities, and sciences, as well as professional fields such as law, business, and medicine. Universities of applied science, on the other hand, tend to focus more on practical and vocational programs that prepare students for specific careers. According to data from the European Association for International Education, the majority (77%) of students at European universities of applied science are enrolled in vocational programs.
  2. Research focus: whereas universities place a strong emphasis on research and often have well-established research centers and institutes, universities of applied science tend to focus more on applied research and practical problem-solving. 
  3. Teaching methods: universities tend to use more traditional teaching methods, such as lectures and seminars, while universities of applied science often use more hands-on, experiential methods, such as internships, case studies, and project-based learning. This does not mean that either type of institution completely excludes the other institution’s teaching methods, but they do typically prefer their own methods.
  4. Admission requirements: in general, universities typically have higher admission requirements, including higher grades and standardized test scores. Universities of applied science on the other hand may have more flexible admission criteria and may place more emphasis on practical skills and experiences. Again, the exact requirements depend on the institution (and some universities of applied science may have higher requirements than universities), but on a general note this holds true. 

It is important to remember that one is not better than the other, but instead, that one may fit your learning requirements much better. When selecting where to study, take into account what your preferences are. 

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