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3 March 2005

Export of Higher Education Teaching Products from Heidelberg: Presentation in Berlin

German Academic Exchange Service conference in Berlin: "Higher Education Products Abroad"—German universities face keen international competition—University of Heidelberg well placed thanks to excellent research results—Rector Prof. Peter Hommelhoff and Dr. Walter Eckel from the Heidelberg Center in Santiago de Chile presented export of higher education teaching products from Heidelberg

For decades now, Germany has been the export nation par excellence. But restricting one's view to precision machinery or the automotive sector is to forget one important area—the export of higher education teaching products from German universities. At presented there are more than 4,200 students enrolled in such courses. And, as the German Academic Exchange Service conference on "Higher Education Products Abroad" in Berlin made clear, this tendency is increasing.

Products of this kind have long since established themselves all over the world. Curricula "made in Germany" are taught in Chile and Cairo, in Russia and in China. The fact that German universities have seized the opportunities provided by internationalisation with such alacrity was welcomed by Wolf-Michael Catenhusen of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and Dr. Christian Bode, secretary-general of the German Academic Exchange Service. Speaking at the conference on Tuesday, both agreed that "the installation of higher education products abroad is a successful foray into hitherto undiscovered country."

But for many of the universities and other higher-education institutions participating at the conference this "undiscovered country" is by no means so unfamiliar as the term might suggest. Heidelberg, for example, has a number of successes it can point to, as Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff made clear in his remarks. "The most effective way of drawing attention to oneself in a national or regional education market is to export education products that are both attractive and of high quality," the Rector of the University of Heidelberg insisted. As examples of successful teaching products from Heidelberg he cited the School of German Law at the Jagiellonian University of Cracow, the Masters programme on Comparative Law at the Andrássy University of Budapest and the Masters degree courses at the Heidelberg Latin America Center in Santiago de Chile.

"The most flourishing example is probably the cooperation with Cracow, as evidenced by the numerous joint seminars, the doctoral programmes and the large number of German-Polish doctoral students," Hommelhoff reported. "Also we have now laid the foundations for a joint Habilitation programme between Heidelberg and Cracow, coming into effect at the end of the year."

Naturally Hommelhoff is gratified by these successes, though as yet they do not represent any financial gain. "So far the assets are bound up with the University itself, for instance making it more well-known locally and thus motivating potential applicants to inquire into further export products from Heidelberg. Another advantage is that greater familiarity can persuade highly qualified doctoral students or young scientists to come and do their doctorate in Heidelberg," the Rector explained.

"Unfortunately, however, financial gains from these enterprises are still a long way from fruition," Hommelhoff admitted. "The front runners on that score are still countries like the United Kingdom, whose education industry has a turnover of some 14 billion pounds a year, or Australia, which now earns more money exporting education products than it does from selling ore and coal abroad. We're still a long way from that goal in Heidelberg. But at least at an academic level we're competing on an equal footing. In that respect we have no need to hide our light under a bushel."

Financial success is most likely to be achieved in the near future by the Heidelberg Latin America Center (HCLA) in Santiago de Chile, Hommelhoff predicts. "The Center was conceived as a locus of academic dialogue with the universities of Latin America," adds Dr. Walter Eckel, the director of the HCLA. "That's why we've geared things so closely to cooperation. Our main partners are the two most important Chilean universities, the Universidad Católica and the Universidad de Chile."

Postgraduate courses and continuing education seminars have been designed and conducted in conjunction with these two universities and they have enhanced the reputation of the HCLA beyond the borders of Chile. One example is the Masters course on International Law, Investments and Trade, run jointly by the Faculty of Law of the University of Heidelberg, the Heidelberg Max Planck Institute and the Universidad de Chile. 15 students are enrolled for the course but only 8 of them come from Chile itself. The others hail from Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, New Zealand and Puerto Rico.

In his talk, Walter Eckel provided an overview of the export of higher education products from Heidelberg to the HCLA in Santiago de Chile and the significance of the Center as a "springboard" for other universities: "The success of this study centre supported by the State of Baden-Württemberg, the German Academic Exchange Service and German industry has prompted other universities from Baden-Württemberg to use the HCLA as a platform for the export of their own teaching products to Latin America. A pioneering institution in this respect is Offenburg, which offers a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree on energy economics in conjunction with its Chilean partner university, the Technical University Federico Santa Maria. There will be a symposium on the subject in May and teaching is scheduled to begin in the latter half of the year."

The dynamism generated by the export of education products is undeniable, sometimes surprising even the initiators themselves. Peter Hommelhoff illustrated this factor with reference to the School of German Law in Cracow. "Recently Cracow approached us with the request to assist them in exporting Polish teaching products to Ukraine," he reported with satisfaction. "It would hardly be an exaggeration to call this a snowball effect. And I find that very encouraging."

The German Academic Exchgange Service naturally takes a similar view. "Gains in reputation and international resonance, new partners and the attraction of young academics and increased cooperation with export businesses in general make education exports a highly promising field of activity for German higher education institutions," said Christian Bode. The significance of the education industry is undeniable and the 4,200 students now enrolled are the beginning of a development that will underscore Germany's reputation as an export nation by extending it to the sector of higher education.
Heiko P. Wacker

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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