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FIFTH: Facets and Indicators for Research and Third Mission at Universities of Applied Sciences

In 2013, a new funding stream of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) started. One of the funded projects is FIFTH (funding id 01PY13007). FIFTH stands for “Facets of and Indicators for Research and research-related Third Mission at Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS)”. Within the German higher education system, universities of applied sciences are a special type of institution that official bodies, such as the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat), distinguish from (research) universities. A distinction between the two types is seen as functional with reference to the science system as a whole, even though there are hugh differences in the profiles of universities of applied sciences (Wissenschaftsrat, 2013). There are some hints that these differences between different universities of applied sciences will increase so that the situation will even be more dynamic in the future.

In Germany, 423 HEI exist: a quarter of those are universities, one an eight each are either art colleges or the other higher education institutions altogether (such as pedagogical institutions, theological HEI, specialized HEI on administration). The largest group are the universities of applied sciences (UAS) with 212 Institutions in 2013/14 (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2014). Compared to the universities, the German universities of applied sciences have distinct profiles and own strengths with respect to their research and Third Mission activities.

Within the last 40 years the UAS worked on an own profile and developed own strengths. The most important profile of the UAS is the strong focus on teaching and on application-orientation. But over the course of time, they became also successful in areas such as applied research, industry-university cooperation, technology transfer, shared labs and centres of innovation. Also considerable efforts in lifelong learning activities, knowledge transfer, consulting or the founding of spin-offs are nowadays a visible trait of UAS.

Therefore they cannot and should not be compared with universities, which still focus on basic research. The German UAS seem to be suitable for Third Mission activities and are including many approaches of this mission in their everyday business.

Against this background FIFTH was designed as a three-year-research project. With FIFTH the CHE Centre for Higher Education in Germany strives to outline the multidimensional facets of research and research-related Third Mission within the UAS to make the wide scope of existing performance of this specific type of higher education institution transparent. Within the help of these facets FIFTH will develop a core set of indicators for research and research-related Third Mission-activities for German Universities.