La Haute Ecole Spécialisée de Suisse Occidentale (HES-SO)
Founded in 1998 with its 28 universities located in seven different cantons (Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtel, Valais, and Vaud), the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland (Haute école spécialisée de Suisse occidentale, HES-SO) is the largest university of applied sciences in Switzerland. Education, research and development activities, and services are offered in the six UAS fields, namely: Engineering and Architecture; Economics and Services; Design and Visual Arts; Health; Social Work; Music and Performing Arts. For the Vaud-based universities of applied sciences, and for the canton, this organisation means reckoning with an additional level of decision-making.
Unlike the UNIL and HEP Vaud, what is negotiated at cantonal level for the UAS must still be approved at intercantonal level. That said, the canton retains a certain degree of autonomy with regard to its universities: it can finance them directly for research activities and other specific missions that fall within the cantonal strategy and specific local conditions. However, the HES-SO – through the strategic authority represented by the governmental committee and the operational authority of the Rectorate – has competence in matters of regulation, training, R&D policy, governance, and overall strategy. It is also worth noting that it is the HES-SO, as an institution, that is subject to the obligation of accreditation by the Confederation (Art. 28 of the Higher Education Act). Each of the HES-SO universities of applied sciences, including the six universities of applied sciences in Vaud, must have adequate accreditation mechanisms to contribute to the institutional accreditation of the HES-SO.