German students used to revel in their reputation as Marxists and militants. A growing number, however, are more interested in the Dax and the Dow Jones than in demonstrations.
University investment clubs are one of the country's fastest growing student movements. There are now 48 clubs, with a total of 4,000 members, organised under the Association of Investment Clubs at German Universities (BVH).
Unlike conventional investment clubs, the students do not offer tips on where to invest and no money changes hands. "If students invest, they do it privately," said BVH spokesman Tim Klostermann, a student at Gottingen University. University investment clubs are filling an information vacuum by offering practical advice about stocks and shares and organising lectures, seminars and workshops as well as excursions and work attachments.
Although most members are economics and business students eager to get a foot on the career path, the clubs also draw students from other disciplines.
"I would say Germany's new shareholding culture stems from the universities," Mr Klostermann said. He may be right. Although students represent only 5.5 per cent of Germany's shareholding population, they are the fastest growing group of investors, according to Deutsches Aktieninstitut, which promotes share ownership in conjunction with the banks.
Statistics suggest that share ownership is still far less widespread in Germany than in the United States and other European countries: only 6.5 per cent of the population owns shares. The Wirtschaftswunder generation of postwar Germany tended to prefer safer ways of investing its capital: putting it in property, bonds or life insurance. However, recent high-profile share issues such as Pro-Sieben and Deutsche Telekom have spurred interest.
Many young Germans are at the forefront of this activity for the simple reason that they have money. As the postwar generation passes on legacies, some lucky recipients find themselves with capital to invest.
Although many recent mass student demonstrations in Germany have concentrated on university underfunding and fear of the introduction of student fees, Mr Klostermann said: "I think there is more money in student hands than people think."
Last year, BVH organised a Campaign Day Borse '97 at nine sites throughout the country. A total of 25,000 students turned up to hear expert lectures, and 150 companies used the platform to promote themselves as investment opportunities. In February BVH will judge an essay competition. The judges will include representatives from Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank. The prize: a trip to Wall Street.