The difference between a university of applied sciences and a research university

There are two types of Bachelor’s programmes: a Higher Professional Bachelor’s degree at a university of applied sciences and a Bachelor’s programme at a research university. But which programme is right for you? Taking a look at the differences between the two can help you to decide which programme you should choose.

The main differences at a glance

The main difference is that the programme at a university of applied sciences is more practical while the programme at a research university is more theoretical, but it is not as simple as that. The main point is that each type of programme has a different focus. The differences between the two types of programmes are shown in the table below.


Higher Professional Degree programme Research university programme

H = How


You will learn how to apply existing knowledge in practice

  • The education focuses on answering specific questions.
  • You will learn how to solve specific problems.

W = Why


You will learn to investigate why things fit together in a certain way and how this can be documented.

  • The education focuses on asking questions and learning how to do this.
  •  You will learn how to investigate problems.

Collaboration plays a key role 

  • Assignments will often be carried out in groups. 
  • You will learn how to collaborate and communicate effectively and carry out evaluations properly.
  • An academic advisor will monitor your progress.

Individual study plays a key role 

  • You will often work on assignments on your own, either at home or in the library. 
  • You will need to be very independent. 
  • You will need to take the first step towards seeking guidance.

More relaxed learning pace 

  • Each topic will be discussed at length during the lessons. 
  • Almost all of the material that is to be tested will be discussed with you.

More rapid learning pace 

  • You will be expected to be able to absorb a great deal of the course material quite quickly (including course materials in English). 
  • Not all of the material will be covered during the lectures.

Lesson-based education 

  • Students are often taught in smaller groups in a classroom setting. 
  • Most of the teaching hours are compulsory.

Lecture-based education

  • Students are often taught in larger, more diverse groups. In addition to lectures, there are also small-scale seminars.

You will complete an internship 

  • You will usually do one or more compulsory practical internships.

You will complete a short internship or you will not do an internship at all  

  • Practical internships are often optional.

Clear notion about the types of professions at the start of the programme 

  • These are often executive positions, which include a clear outline of your options.

Notion about the types of professions is less clear at the start of the programme 

  • There is often a demand for a ‘high level of intellectual ability’ rather than specific knowledge.


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