For-profit saviour for flagging system

December 5, 2003

A group of entrepreneurs is aiming to revive Germany's flagging higher education system by establishing a private university to be run as a profit-making business.

Businessman Peter Pedersen is behind the new Hanseatic University, which will be based in Rostock in the far north of Germany.

Courses are expected to start in autumn 2004. If projected profit targets are reached, the university will be floated on the stock market.

Germany's state governments are finding it increasingly difficult to cover university budgets. Many institutions are being forced to cut numbers of teaching and administration staff, and there are fears that a lack of government support may lead to a suspension of admissions in extreme cases.

Private establishments are also struggling to find funding. Mr Pedersen believes the new institute will bridge the gap between state and private universities and provide not only a high standard of education but also a supply of trained managers and leaders for the country's business sector.

He told The THES : "Universities and students are suffering because of the lack of money being invested in their future. I have been talking to education ministries from German states and they have admitted they are no longer able to finance their universities. But, instead of approaching the problem in a different way, they simply close the university down.

"We propose to turn our university into a business just like any other.

Unlike other private universities, which are non-profit organisations, we expect profits to be made and we plan to expand and grow over the years."

Hanseatic will be the first entrepreneurial organised private university in Germany, and investors are needed to cover the €5 million (£3.5 million) starting capital.

"We've already received interest from a number of large companies, including one of Germany's biggest private pension providers, BHW. We expect to have at least our starting capital by December," Mr Pedersen said.

In return for its money, industry expects to receive a steady stream of qualified economic experts, business planners and managers.

"Many companies have to create their own training programmes because graduates simply do not have adequate training to fill the top management vacancies.

"In future, companies that invest with us will be able to dip into a pot of trained graduates."

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