Fachhochschulen (polytechnics) in Austria
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 Comment (in Finnish)
Issue Fachhochschulen (polytechnics) were launched in Austria in 1994 (after a test-phase from 1993 to 1994). The main objectives of the introduction of Fachhochschulen were:
(a)  Post-secondary education for innovative vocational fields with fast reactions on labour markets and qualification trends;
(b)  Not only to provide skills within a specific vocational field, but also with a deeper understanding of a professional field with additive social competencies and basic knowledge;
(c)  Fachhochschulen should be a shorter post-secondary alternative to universities;
(d)  Fachhochschulen can be attended by persons without matriculation examination and therefore provide a specific further education on post-secondary level for professionals within the same vocational field. (S.H. 17/12/99)
Polytechnics have been established in Austria somewhat later than in Finland. While in Austria polytechnics operate only in the fields of technology and commerce, in Finland the polytechnic experiments were launched in all educational fields at the same time. 
    The objectives for the polytechnics in Austria seem to be partly the same as in Finland. On one hand the objectives are associated with the edu-cati-on system (polytechnics are a shorter alternative to universities and they can be attended by persons without matriculation examination), but on the other hand they are associated with the changes in labour market and qualifications. Enhancing  the status of the vocational education is not emphasized in the objectives. 
    According to the review the test-phase of polytechnics lasted one year, but it was not clear, whether all the polytechnics got a permanent status immediately after that.  In Finland all the polytechnics have worked on an experimental base before getting the permanent status and the experiment period has taken almost ten years. (K.K. 19/01/00)
Measure The implementation of Fachhochschulen is steered by the Austrian Fachhochschulrat (the national body for the decision about the implementation of Fachhochschule institutions). Part of the application for the implementation of a Fachhochschule is a feasibility study, a study about labour market needs in the professional field of the new Fachhochschule.
    Special emphasis in Fachhochschulen has been placed on developing practical training and co-operation with industries and on developing co-operative teaching forms and learning methods. 
    Fachhochschulen meet the labour-market needs. Graduates of Fachhochschulen find jobs very easily (often in those enterprises where they fulfilled their period of practical training), the unemployment-rate of graduates so far is very low. In most cases graduates find jobs somewhere between graduates from universities and graduates from higher vocational schools - their professional position is often defined by this gap. 
    Until now Fachhochschulen have provided vocationally oriented higher education degrees in the fields of technology and commerce. Administration and social and health care are new fields for Fachhochschulen - the first institutions within those fields will be established by 2001. (S.H. 17/12/99)
Developing the links between the polytechnics and labour market is very
important in Finland, too. An essential part of the stydy programme are the practice-oriented research and development projects, practical trai-ning and diploma work. 
     Polytecnic graduates as well  in Austria as in Finland seem to reach same level or status at labour market, but  do not yet fully  compete  with univer-sity graduates. In future, when the polytechnic system is totally esta-blished, it will be interesting to follow, how the graduates in both countries -enter wor-king life. (K.K. 19/01/00)
Impact The new post-secondary education at Fachhochschulen is highly accepted, although the number of students beginning a university study is not declining due to Fachhochschulen. This is a sign for the complementary role of Fachhochschulen within the post-secondary education sector in Austria, where they act more as an alternative for universities than as competing institutions. 
    The evaluation of Fachhochschulen is an important part of the work of the Austrian body for Fachhochschulen (Fachhochschulrat). Peer groups are visiting each polytechnic institution and evaluate learning and training methods and environment, the organisation, the curriculum, the periods of practical training for the students and so on. Each polytechnic course is approved for five years; after this period a new application is required which has to consider new labour market and qualification trends and the impact of the polytechnic course for the region. (S.H. 17/12/99)
In Finland even though the amount of polytechnic applicants continues to increase, polytechnics are not yet as popular as universities. 
    Evaluation has been an essential part of the development of polytechnics also in Finland. The main purpose has been to evaluate how the polytechnic experiments have reached the objectives and also to help polytechnics in developing their own activities. As examples of the evaluation are the evaluation made before reaching the permanent status, self-evaluation, evaluation made by international evaluation groups, evaluation of the quality of education and follow-up studies. (K.K. 19/01/00)
Reference More detailed research results dealing with evaluation of post-secondary education can be found in the research report by Kozar 1999a on evaluation of higher education . The report is in German. The Institute for Industrial Research has prepared a report (IWI 1998a) about labour market experiences of polytechnic-graduates from the very first polytechnic course. This is in German, too. (S.H. 17/12/99)
Author Stefan Humpl Kristiina Korhonen

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