How to Build University of Applied Sciences?

University of Applied Sciences (UAS) hits headlines recently. The reason is simple. Countries like China and the United States whose higher education systems consist of mostly research universities, are finding it harder and harder for themselves to satisfy their job market demands. It seems that UAS provides a way out.

However, learning from another system almost always consolidates the widely known expression ‘easier said than done’. Changing the infrastructure necessitates labor, time, patience, and most importantly, a wholesome plan. For this purpose, we invited Madam Anne-Catherine Lyon, State Councilor and Head of Department of Education, Youth and Culture of the Canton Vaud, Switzerland, to share her experiences of establishing the Swiss UAS system in a workshop at swissnex on the topic of “how to build university of applied sciences’. Present were students from medical schools in Lausanne, deans and professors from local Chinese universities, experts from industries, and government officials.

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During the workshop, Mme. Lyon provided an overview of the current Swiss education system, and its development especially after the 90s when UAS project was officially established. She also addressed issues and challenges such as UAS internationalization, funding, gender distribution, degree program expansion, and Switzerland’s competitors. According to Mme. Lyon, the UAS system is a joint undertaking by the Cantonal and Federal government as it is funded by both. The private sector is engaged in funding UAS too, which leads to the fact that Swiss professional education accommodates real-world caliber demand very well – its practice-oriented pedagogy is one of the reasons why Switzerland has a low unemployment rate.

Following Mme. Lyon, Mr. ZHANG Zhi from National Center for Schooling Development Program, Division Research and Data Analysis of Ministry of Education briefed recent policies and developments in relation to the Chinese UAS blueprint. The workshop ended with a networking session where guests were invited to exchange insights with Swiss and Chinese experts and scholars.

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Chinese UAS is still testing the water. There is much more to be done. During a reform, experiences are borrowed and lessons learned. Switzerland has been holding mutually beneficial partnerships with China for decades and we have every reason to believe that many more are to be established in the coming future.

On the other hand, China has displayed good faith in cooperating with Switzerland and without doubt this message has been well received. In our interview with Mme. Lyon, we are delighted to hear that she finds Chinese universities and students extremely open to new concepts and ideas, eager to learn, and enthusiastic in international collaborations. We are looking forward to more joint ventures by China and Switzerland on higher education. We keep our hopes and expectations high.

– Contributed by Siwei YANG, Social Media Junior Project Leader, swissnex China