Getting an MBA in Germany

Getting an MBA in Germany main image

If you're looking for an MBA program, Germany may deserve a place on your application map.

With one of the largest economies in the world and few rivals in certain industries – automotive, chemical and electrical products in particular – Germany is one of the world’s leading industrial nations.

A high-wage driven economy and a successful history in business and industry in recent years have also seen her develop into a leading finance centre, particularly in Frankfurt.

Despite this and its population of over 82 million, large by European standards, Germany is not a powerhouse in terms of business schools and MBA programs. The UK, Spain, France, Switzerland, and Italy all have internationally renowned business schools.

So why has powerful Germany lagged so far behind? And what do German business schools have on offer?

MBAs in Germany: the Bologna Process

The Bologna Process, designed to level the playing field for education across Europe, has had a complex impact in Germany and divided opinion perhaps more than in any other European country.

In spring 2009, ten years after the process began, there were still protests to Chancellor Angela Merkel against the restructuring of the German education system.

The changes to the system had to be radical in many cases. German undergraduate programs, which are legally bound not to charge fees, had previously been based on a five- or six-year diploma system.

Many Germans valued the system of education for its own sake, and felt that forcing students into the new three-year system was a mistake.

However, according to Bärbel Schwertfeger of German-based website mba-channel.com, under the previous system, too many Germans left university too old to get the work experience necessary for business school.

“After six years study and three years of work experience, this didn’t fit with the German culture, which favours education within a company which the employee would then never leave.”

International students in Germany

Germany’s problem attracting international students – though it must be said that, proportionately, most MBA programs in Germany have an enviably high proportion of international students – has been partly down to the accreditation process.

Currently, Mannheim Business School is the only one to have received the enviable triple-accreditation.

The problem is more to do with time than quality, says Dean Professor Wulff Plinke at ESMT in Berlin. “The key international accrediting bodies, AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA, take at least three years to accredit a course and it can take a school the same time to even be prepared to apply for accreditation. We’re delighted to have the AMBA accreditation for our course so early.”

Sabine Weinheimer of Goethe Business School in Frankfurt agrees and shows that this lack of accreditation heavily affects the performance of business school in the rankings.

“Before Bologna, there were not many programs held in English. As a consequence, the programs are relatively new and they do not show up in the rankings yet, a circle we are currently breaking out of.

“It will take a few years before prospective students get a real feeling for what they get out of the [German business] schools. Only then will the market get a boost in awareness which it needs to grow further.”

Despite recent bad press, Germany is an extremely multi-cultural nation and very welcoming of international students and workers. The level of English is also generally very high, particularly among the younger generation.

However, additional problems lie elsewhere. Says Bärbel Schwertfeger, “if you don’t speak German you can forget about a job [in Germany], even in an international bank and even one that is English-speaking.”

Sabine Weinheimer says, “for foreigners the German education system has a good reputation but mainly among those who seek employment and want to stay in Germany.”

However, according to more than one MBA graduate interviewed, work is “difficult to find” in Germany at the moment, as the nation suffers from the economic downturn, and this is true “especially for non-German speakers.”

Finding her way: Top MBAs in Germany

Despite a relatively slow start, in business school terms, Germany is beginning to find its way and MBA recruiters are taking notice, choosing six business schools in the top 100 European business schools (see table 1).

Dean Plinke of ESMT, a school created by funding from 25 leading German companies and associations and particularly strong in executive education for middle-level employees of those companies, puts this down to Germany’s “great strength in the automotive industry. Germany is well-known to be a technological innovator,” he says.

Professor Dr. Stephan Seiter, Dean of MBA Studies at ESB Reutlingen Business School provides a more academic approach.

“[Students] study in Germany because the education system is well-organised and the quality of the faculty is high due to a strict selection process.

“Furthermore, many professors show a high level of experience as they worked in companies for many years, which holds true for ESB too. Germany holds many jobs for MBA students because of its export-oriented industries.”

Current students feel that they have stumbled upon a fledgling business management education system too, and that this is to their advantage.

“Germany has a tradition of high standards and its industry is famous for its technological innovation, both of which were important to me when choosing a business school and its location for my MBA,” says Indian student Ranjith Sirusanagandl at ESMT in Berlin.

Students and academics acknowledge that Germany has some way to go to establish itself as a world leader in this regard, however the smaller class sizes, rigorous academic reputation, opportunity to learn a foreign language and close proximity to financial and industrial giants make it a decent bet for MBA education.

Written by QS Blogger

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Hi There..Thanks for this article..A helpful post for sure..I am also a student aspiring for MBA in Germany and visited many different sites regarding the information..Your site provided me with good information..Thanks again..