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Best basis for management jobs

For 20 years, Kiel University has offered the degree programme in Electrical Engineering, Information Technology and Business Management. The combination of technical and business know-how opens up bright career prospects.

Three persons
Photo: Friedrich Wilhelm Fuchs

In 2004, Carsten Lehmann (centre) was the first industrial engineer graduate at the CAU. Sharing the joy of his success were the degree programme coordinators Achim Walter (on the left) and Friedrich Wilhelm Fuchs.

At the end of the 20th century, the traditional understanding of innovation in business changed: new products should no longer primarily originate within individual companies, but through cooperation between company employees and external sources of knowledge such as experts, customers, suppliers, research institutes, etc. At the same time, and in order to take this into account, the CAU started its new degree programme in Electrical Engineering, Information Technology and Business Management in the winter semester of 1999/2000.

The degree programme is a fruitful combination of engineering training at the Faculty of Engineering, and business training at the Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences. Electrical Engineering, Information Technology and Business Management graduates from the CAU are highly sought-after and extremely well-trained experts in the technical field, who also have the business processes and requirements of the company firmly in focus. The degree programme trains students to be "entrepreneurs within the company," said Professor Achim Walter, head of the business part of the training programme.

The Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the time, Professor Ulrich Heute, and the founder of the business preparatory course (Studienkolleg), Professor Jürgen Hauschildt, who passed away in 2008, as well as the now-retired Professor Friedrich Wilhelm Fuchs, were the driving forces behind the successful combination of business and technology. "We wanted to make the Electrical Engineering degree programme more interesting by supplementing it with business," said Fuchs. The first eleven students who started were all young men. The initiators recruited them through newspaper and radio announcements. Fuchs clearly remembers the beginnings: "It was a close call. Approval by the ministry was only granted four weeks before the semester started." Interest in the subject has grown quickly. While there were only a few students at first, by now 95 students can be accepted every winter semester. Around 400 students have successfully completed the Diplom, Bachelor's and Master's degree programmes in the past 20 years. About 25 percent of them are women.

They can build bridges which can go in both directions - they are the interface.

Achim Walter

"Two thirds electrical engineering, one third business," is how the director of the Institute of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, Professor Ludger Klinkenbusch, describes the special concept of engineering training at the CAU. "This concept is well-received, particularly in the predominantly small and medium-sized companies in Schleswig Holstein, who gladly employ the graduates," said Fuchs, who developed and introduced the concept. He supervised the degree programme for 13 years. In the Bachelor's degree programme, the young people first of all acquire a broad fundamental knowledge in the first seven semesters, which forms the basis which the Master’s degree programme can build on. The lecturers place great importance on the students developing skills based on this fundamental knowledge, so that they are able to rapidly familiarise themselves in other areas. The important thing is that they can quantify the problem quickly. "That's why the students only learn about future technologies by way of example. To us, more important than knowing them is for students to develop the ability to devise solutions in the shortest possible time. The concept of life-long learning is our primary focus," summarised Professor Walter.

And there's something else that's special at Kiel University: in the three-semester Master's degree programme, the students can freely choose their subjects. The aim is to promote individual creativity as much as possible. "The students can acquire special skills in the fields that are typical for Kiel, such as renewable energies, medical technology or communications technology," said Klinkenbusch.

For the Bachelor's degree student and industrial manager Karoline Seidel, the wide range of specialisation courses offered at the CAU was an important reason for choosing to study in Kiel. There is virtually no unemployment among the Kiel graduates in this field, according to Klinkenbusch. And Walter added: "They have brilliant career prospects. Technologies are key value drivers for business. Understanding them is also important for those who occupy management positions in companies. That is why industrial engineers are often found at board level or in business consulting companies. They can build bridges which can go in both directions - they are the interface."

And that's how it should stay. The curriculum is constantly being further developed so that students are prepared for the challenges of the future. "To do so, we also take into account the requirements by the industry: what is needed now, what are the technologies of the future?" said Klinkenbusch. Soon, the Master’s degree courses should be held in English, to make them even more interesting for international students.

Professor Catherine Cleophas stands for the future of the subject. She teaches courses such as Business Analytics, Service Operations Management and Computational Modelling for Business Research. Digitalisation, big data or artificial intelligence - information processing methods are becoming increasingly important for the successful and sustainable management of companies.

"This is a truly successful model at Kiel University," summarised Walter with pride. In May, the 20th anniversary will be celebrated on the premises of the Faculty of Engineering.

Author: Karena Hoffmann-Wülfing