University college (Scandinavia)
A university college (Swedish, högskola, Norwegian høyskole/høgskole/høgskule, Danish professionshøjskole) is an independent institution in Sweden and Norway that provides tertiary education (Bachelor and Master degrees) and in some cases also quaternary education (PhD). It is somewhat similar to a Fachhochschule in German and to a university college in English.
Legally, the distinction between university and university college is largely obsolete in Norway, as the institutions are governed by the same legislation. The main difference is that the university colleges must apply to a central government agency to establish new master's and PhD degrees, whereas a university has the right to award degrees in any field and at all levels without applying.
The Swedish government is the only entity that can attribute university status, and it does that only to generally more research-intensive higher education institutions. However, the exact situation of Swedish university colleges varies in that respect, i.e. some of them may be engaged in substantial research and even grant doctoral degrees in a limited number of fields. The main difference between an institution with full university status and a university college lies in the larger variety of academic subjects offered at a university, and the traditional right of the university to award doctoral degrees in any field.
In Norway the difference between a university and a university college is that a university has received the status of university from the Norwegian government. Per current rules, any institution that offers at least four doctorate programmes can apply for university status; any Norwegian university college could therefore become a university, and in recent years several university colleges have received university status. Some university colleges have evolved into institutions more or less similar to small universities in the last decades. The distinction between universities and university colleges have been gradually phased out through legislative reforms in 1995 and 2005, the two types of institutions are now governed by the same law, they have the same structure and the same obligation to provide research-based education.
In Denmark, university colleges (professionshøjskoler) are similar to universities of applied sciences. University colleges offer professional higher education (PHE) at the level of bachelor’s and associate professional degrees.
The duration of bachelor’s programmes is seven semesters and corresponds to 210 ECTS. Specific to university college programmes is that curricula always include internships and placements. This focus on professional practice in combination with theory and project work is what separates a bachelor’s degree at university colleges from a bachelor’s from a university.
The difference between a university and university college degree is narrowing. Since 2012, university colleges have been awarded the right and governmental funding to carry out applied research.
In addition, several bachelor’s degrees are articulated with masters' degrees at research universities in Denmark and abroad.
Denmark has 7 university colleges, which all have a school of health and a school of education, pedagogy, and social studies. Some also have a school of technology, a school of business, and a school of design.
In addition to higher educational programmes, university colleges are important suppliers of lifelong education for public and private industries.
University college is the most widely used official English translation in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, although some such institutions use the term university in English instead (for instance Malmö University and Södertörn University). The terminology may be confusing to foreigners as university colleges are not constituent colleges of another university as some may understand the word literally, but rather institutions in their own right and standing.
The Swedish term högskola and the Norwegian term høyskole or høgskole would mean "high school" in a word-by-word translation. This translation is also misleading, as these institutions provide tertiary level education, not secondary education as American high schools do.
Some of these university colleges do aspire a lift to full university status by the Swedish or Norwegian government, and have therefore changed their translated English name to "university", although they are not a university by Swedish and Norwegian law. A full university in Sweden requires extensive own research, a breadth of academic disciplines and a licence to award doctor's degrees in all fields it teaches. In Norway, university status may be conferred to an institution offering at least four PhD programmes.
The term högskola or høyskole is also used by a number of specialised universities, especially the technical universities. Some subunits of the universities in Sweden also use of the term "högskola" to mark their status within the larger university or for traditional reasons. For instance, several engineering faculties call themselves "teknisk högskola" in Swedish, like Lunds Tekniska Högskola and Linköpings Tekniska Högskola which both were originally established independently of their respective universities.