Second-Tier Higher Education Institutions and the Diversity Challenge: Structural Components Adopted Through a Germanic Lens

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This contribution seeks to elaborate on second-tier higher education institutions (HEIs) in the context of Europe, and more precisely in the Germanic world, with the aim to identify differences and communalities to US-specific Community Colleges. By drawing on the specific example of the higher education system in Austria, an in-depth analysis of the historical development of the sector of universities of applied sciences (UAS) is provided. In addition, it is sought to outline the profile and mandate of this 23-year-old sector and to discuss why it seems particularly suitable for addressing issues such as lifelong learning, third mission, and the social dimension. Finally, a dynamic student lifecycle management is introduced that takes account of an increasing demand for a diversity-sensitive orientation of institutions of higher learning. It is argued that in view of the growing individualization and the rising heterogeneity of the student population, student lifecycle services have to allow for a variety of different paths to meet the needs of professionally qualified students, students with family commitments or differing demographic diversity challenges. In sum, second-tier institutions not only differ with regard to their selectivity, prestige, curriculum, and practical orientation, they are also believed to adopt different approaches towards diversity management. This is all the more relevant since they appear more likely to act as gate-openers for nontraditional students and allow for vertical expansion to previously excluded social groups. This, among others, is certainly a common denominator between community colleges and the European UAS sector.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Comparative Studies on Community Colleges and Global Counterparts
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-38909-7
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Second-Tier Higher Education
  • University of Applied Sciences
  • Diversity
  • Nontraditional Students
  • HEAD Wheel


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