TWO private higher education colleges in Germany are offering students their money back if they cannot find a job within four or six months of graduating.
The private Fachhochschule or technical university of Gottingen has promised to give its graduates a DM12,000 (Pounds 4,140) refund if they have not found a job six months after graduation - equivalent to one year's worth of fees. The only condition is that students must have made an "active effort" to find a suitable job.
The International Management School in Malente, northern Germany, also says it will return DM10,000 study fees to graduates who have not found a job with a starting salary of at least DM55,000 per year within four months of graduating.
But to receive the refund, the jobless Intermas graduates must meet three conditions: they must have finished their diploma in the usual three-year period; have obtained a mark equivalent to a B-plus; and completed work experience with a company.
The two colleges say the risk of handing out refunds is one they are prepared to take, even in the pessimistic economic climate with 4.5 million unemployed.
"We have a duty to help our students if they are good," said Josef Neuart, a member of the Intermas supervisory board.
"If a good student is unlucky finding a job, he or she will need this money to be able to continue applying in peace," he added.
Bernd Sierke, a co-founder of the university, said: "I don't think it is a risk. We have a good reputation among companies. We have to show that we carry a responsibility for our students."
Critics have called this a cheap publicity stunt by the private sector in the face of the reform of Germany's state higher education system to make it more internationally competitive.
But Professor Neuart said: "We believe competition is necessary and that it will be a good chance for the private sector. We would not be doing this if we were afraid of the competition."
The first students to test the new offer will be Gottingen graduates in two years time. That is when the first intake of students at the school, established two years ago, are due to complete their degrees.
The Fachhochschule offers two degree courses, business studies and computer applications in economics, and already has a good reputation in the industry.
Its students pay DM11,700 in fees per year, and it is hoping to establish a student foundation which will offer bursaries to the brightest.
Intermas was set up ten years ago and offers three-year degrees in international business studies. Students take courses in cooperation with California State University or a French university and have the chance to win parallel degrees from them. Students pay DM6,900 in fees per semester.
Intermas is not state recognised but is accredited by the FIBAA - the Foundation for International Business Administration Accreditation - an organisation run by the main employers' organisations in German-speaking countries.
THE TIMES 7Jseptember 12 1997europe newsJ9 magnum