A Fachhochschule (German: [ˈfaxhoːxʃuːlə] (listen); plural Fachhochschulen), abbreviated FH, or University of Applied Sciences (UAS) is a German tertiary education institution, specializing in topical areas (e.g. engineering, technology or business).
Fachhochschulen were first founded in Germany, and were later adopted in Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Cyprus and Greece. An increasing number of Fachhochschulen are abbreviated as Hochschule, the generic term in Germany for institutions awarding academic degrees in higher education, or expanded as Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaften (HAW). Universities of Applied Sciences are primarily designed with a focus on teaching professional skills. Swiss law calls Fachhochschulen and Universitäten "separate but equal".
Due to the Bologna process, Universitäten and Fachhochschulen award legally equivalent academic bachelor's and master's degrees.Fachhochschulen generally do not award doctoral degrees themselves. Combined with the rule that they appoint only professors with a professional career of at least three years outside the university system, those are the two major ways in which they differ from traditional universities. However, they may run doctoral programs if the degree itself is awarded by a partner institution.
Due to the Bologna process, most German Universitäten and Fachhochschulen have ceased admitting students to programs leading to the traditional German Diplom (FH), but now apply the new degree standard of Bachelor's and Master's degrees. In line with the Bologna process, bachelor's and master's degrees awarded by both types of universities (Universitäten and Fachhochschulen) are legally equivalent.
With a Master's from either, one can now enter a doctoral degree program at a Universität, but a graduate with a bachelor's degree from either is normally unable to proceed directly to a doctoral degree program in Germany (most US schools only require a bachelor's degree for admission to doctoral programs, but virtually all require additional coursework). Also, with the master's degree of either of the institutions a graduate can enter the höheren Dienst (higher service) career for civil servants.