German ads up the ante

August 8, 1997

East German universities are discovering the power of advertising in an attempt to increase their popularity among western German students and to raise their academic standards.

Advertising campaigns this summer are emphasising the former eastern bloc universities' advantages, such as lower student numbers and quicker completion rates, over the traditionally more popular universities in large western cities.

The Technical University of Dresden last year became the first German university to advertise in national newspapers, declaring "Come to Dresden" and guaranteeing all new students a place in a hall of residence and a period of practical training with local companies.

The results were impressive, said the Technical University's spokesman, Rolf Sanders.

"Technical universities all over Germany are suffering from sinking student applications but last year we were the only ones who managed to break this trend," he said.

The university nearly doubled its applications for electronic engineering, and computer science applications were up 31 per cent.

This summer, the TU Dresden is still leading the trend. Its 100,000DM (Pounds 33,340) advertising campaign is being completely sponsored by local industry keen to attract local graduates.

National newspaper adverts are trumpeting the fact that 90 per cent of the TU Dresden's students complete their degrees within the standard period of study - something the vastly overcrowded western German universities can only dream of.

Marketing is also concentrating on the TU Dresden's latest coup. Next semester it will become the first German university to offer bachelor degrees.

The federal education ministry has made the introduction of the Anglo-Saxon style degrees part of its higher education reform plans, but Dresden has been quicker off the mark.

In October it will launch five new bachelors in engineering subjects, which enjoy a good reputation within the engineering industry.

As well as attractive lucrative foreign students, the bachelor degrees will give German students the chance to continue their studies in American or British universities, Mr Sanders said.

Until now, advertising has been a foreign concept to German universities and sneered at by traditionalists in the West.

But the higher education reform bill, which the government still hopes to pass before the next election, aims to give universities more autonomy to plan their own budgets and increase competition between universities.

Consequently, many universities are now looking over their shoulders at the TU Dresden's lead, especially those in former East Germany, which still suffer an image problem compared to their counterparts in the West.

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