Hochschule Pforzheim (Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences) has a long tradition of close collaboration with industry – you could say it’s part of our DNA given our origin as a University of Applied Sciences! At Pforzheim Business School in general, but also in particular in our MBA International Management programme students work together with companies such as MANN+HUMMEL at a wide variety of levels: in company projects, during thought-provoking presentations by industry practitioners, at ‘company excursions’ and during internships – and in the best-case scenario these students afterwards go on to gain employment within these companies.
It is the world-renowned AACSB accreditation which really makes the Business School Pforzheim stand out from the crowd – we are currently the only University of Applied Sciences in Germany with this seal. This accreditation is important when it comes to attracting highly talented international students and setting up international partnerships with the best universities. But it is also helpful as a signal for companies that our education at Pforzheim Business School guarantees top quality.
All of our professors are required to have several years of practical experience in addition to their academic qualification. The same also applies to our MBA students, who all have collected profound industry experience after completing their undergraduate degrees – experiences which are stimulating for our discussions in classroom as well as for our collaboration with practice. Our MBA students are expected to have at least two years of professional experience after completing their undergraduate degree, but the average is five.
The AACSB seal draws in many international applicants. The most recent group of graduates from the MBA International Management programme included 20 international students representing more than ten countries, coming from: China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Latvia, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Turkey, the USA and Vietnam. The international flavour guarantees a wonderful intercultural mix in our classroom and on our projects. This means that for our students the international learning experience begins during group projects at the university and is completed at companies like MANN+HUMMEL.
To be ‘practical’ to us means that close collaboration with companies is core in many respects. Every semester, we invite industry practitioners from different companies to be guests in our classroom. Thereby, they share insights from their line of work and provide our MBA students with the opportunity to ask questions and to discuss hot topics of future business. As an example, a few months ago we received a visit from Mr Wilde and two other employees from MANN+HUMMEL, who gave very stimulating presentations about strategic management and innovation management at MANN+HUMMEL. It is fascinating for the students to be able to see that the concepts they work on in their lectures are exactly what is required by companies in industry.
Second on the list are our regular ‘company excursions’, which have seen us visit also MANN+HUMMEL in the past. These on-site visits usually consist of presentations, discussions with industry practitioners and tours of production facilities. During our last excursion, our students even had the chance to meet the MANN+HUMMEL board member Manfred Wolf, himself a graduate of Pforzheim, who took time out of his busy schedule for us. This shows how much he values the students and how valuable the collaboration also for MANN+HUMMEL is.
Last year’s winter semester saw even more fruitful collaboration with MANN+HUMMEL in the form of two ‘company projects’. Such projects see the company set the students a concrete task, which they are expected to complete in small teams and finish within four months, i.e. over the course of the semester. For the MBA students, these kinds of projects are a great way of securing internships, thesis projects and in the best case scenario even a job offer.
In the past few years, an American, a Singaporean and two Indians have been given the opportunity to gain practical experience at MANN+HUMMEL over longer periods. In my opinion, it is also enriching for a company to be able to work with people from different cultural backgrounds. That is exactly what we are aiming for too, as collaboration is most enjoyable when it is clearly a win-win situation for both parties.
What do I think are the most important things to be gained from this relationship between the university and the company? For the students, it is without doubt the special learning experience they gain. I believe that the learnings that students take from classroom are taken to another level in terms of conclusions drawn and insights gained if they have the opportunity to critically reflect on this knowledge during practical phases in companies. This was certainly also apparent when Mr Wilde visited us with his team. Afterwards, I received a large number of emails from students asking for information and wanting to apply for an internship. Not all guest speakers manage to drum up this level of interest in their companies.
The main focus of our MBA programme is not to produce academics qualified to doctorate level who then go on to work in an academic setting, but rather to train people to think critically, to innovate and to be creative when making decision in and for companies. The importance of thinking ‘outside the box’ should not be underestimated. It isn’t simply a case of going to classroom and learning, but also of getting our students to scrutinise things, to do things differently, and to focus on real problems in practice. And the collaboration we have in place with MANN+HUMMEL is a great way of doing that.