Dr. Hedwig Natter: Create knowledge, share expertise – studying in Vorarlberg

Education and research are regarded as the pillars of the sciences sector and thus are essential components and/or sub­­systems in the process of innovations. Economic systems require innovation to provide sustained competitiveness and success; innovations are the result of knowledge.

Universities combine education and research and thus fulfil two functions at once. They produce knowledge as part of their research and they share their knowledge as part of their studies and transfer offerings. In addition to the direct knowledge transfer, this is also done indirectly, for example in form of students’ dissertations and as part of lectures, meetings and conferences. However, the major portion of the knowl­­edge transfer is represented by the graduates of a university, because they are lastly the ones who contribute their knowledge to the workplace.

The role of the University of Applied Sciences (FH) Vorarlberg and its offering in teaching, research and knowledge transfer. The FH Vorarlberg (FHV) positions itself among the leaders of the Universities of Applied Science in Aus­­tria and the Lake Constance region. The FHV provides makes a substantial contrib­­ution to shaping the future through its teachings and research and contrib­­utes to maintaining the competitiveness and sustained securing the economic and social attractiveness of the Vorarlberg.

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 Six courses of study are offered in the business sectors economics, technology, design and social issues, specifically International Business Administration, Mechatronics (including electrical and mechanical engineering), Information Technology, Industrial Engineering, Inter­­Media and Social Work. Nearly 40 per­­cent of the students study in addition to working. The FHV provides additional continuing education courses in all business sectors and is thus a competent partner when it comes to lifelong learning.

The FHV is the most research intense University of Applied Science in Austria based on the number of students. Inter­­disciplinary teams or expert groups in five research centres work on the topics micotechnology, user-oriented technol­­ogies, process and product engineering, social and business science and me­­chatronics. The research offering was expanded in January 2012 with the establishment of an endowed professor­­ship for energy and energy efficiency.
The FHV enjoys an excellent reputation as the organiser of scientific events and symposiums. Over 80 events per year are either organised by the FHV alone or in cooperation with external partners (for example chambers of commerce).

The FH Vorarlberg and its stimulus for the business and society. The offerings by the FHV are targeted at the requirements of the Vorarlberg economic region. This is in particularly characterised by business diversity, a high export quota and companies enjoying a worldwide repu­­tation. Diverse indicators document the success of the Vorarlberg economy: with respect to economic growth, gross regional product, unemployment rate, and the like, the Vorarlberg is better than the Austrian average and also holds a top position in a European comparison. This has a very positive effect on the interaction of university and business, because the Vorarlberg economic region provides graduates of the FHV with excel­­lent jobs at home and abroad.

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Universities, including the FHV, contrib­­ute significantly to the sustained development of the economy and society by providing highly-qualified graduates. The number of alumni has increased to over 2,600. The majority of the FHV alumni work in the region. On average, an additional 400 students complete their Bach­­elor and Masters studies every year. Annually conducted analyses show that 60 percent of the full-time students seeking employment already have a confirmed job offering at the time they grad­­uate, while the remaining students report that it generally takes them less than four weeks to find a job. Nearly 50 per­­cent of the Bachelor and Masters theses focus on application-oriented topics in or for com­­panies. The most innovative Masters theses are honoured with the “newwaya­ward” – an award presented in cooper­­a­­tion with the local industry association and various sponsors. The FHV also coop­­erates with these partners as part of the “Jobmesse” (Job Fair) – an annual event during which students and businesses can get to know each other and negotiate jobs, internships and topics for the theses.

The university makes a foreign semester available to all students as part of their regular studies and does so with a view to the export-oriented business and inter­­cultural qualification of its graduates. The facilitate this, the FHV provides a network of over 100 universities throughout Europe and abroad. Over 50 percent of the full-time students take advantage of this offer. The FHV has been honoured by Austria and the EU  more than once for this high percentage and the related services.
In the current year, the five FHV re­­search centres are working on 55 projects with a combined research volume of over three million euros. Nearly 70 percent of the projects are done for or in cooper­­ation of companies in the Vorarlberg. The FHV is successful in the procurement of research funds from the federal as well as EU levels. The millions of euros obtained directly benefit the region in form of knowl­­edge production and knowledge transfer.

A comprehensive offering of events com­­plement the services and knowledge transfer provided by the FHV. Multiple events series are held in cooperation with external partners, for example the event series “Innovation V” and “Unter­­nehmer sein heute” (Being an entrepreneur today). Thanks to a dedicated foundation is it possible for the FHV to host a lecture series on the subject of “Wirtschaftsethik” (business ethics).

Advisory committees in all business sec­­tors have been established in order to further intensify the cooperation and mutual exchange with real-life practice. The advisory committees are staffed with renown representatives from the occupational fields. The FHV uses these to pursue the goal to targeting its offers to an even greater extent to the current and future demands and jointly contrib­­ute tom the economic and social development of the Vorarlberg.

Dr. Hedwig Natter The author, a native of Vorarlberg, has been the Managing Direc­­tor of the FH Vorarlberg since 2008. Prior to that she gained her first years of job experience as Administrative Director and Controller in various hotel chains, graduate studies in psychology and business administration at the University of Inns­­bruck and subsequent doctorate in Cog­­ni­­tive Psychology at the University of Reading in Great Britain.