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Interview with Prof. Dr. Herbert Grüner

07.03.2011

Since 2007 Prof. Dr. Herbert Grüner, a qualified economist, has been a professor at the Art School of Berlin. Since the early 1990s, he has held several managerial positions at companies and universities of applied sciences, and has served on numerous university policy bodies, organisations and associations. Prof. Dr. Herbert Grüner was Vice-Chancellor of bbw University of Applied Sciences from May 2010 to April 2012.

Interview with Prof. Dr. Herbert Grüner

Economist, since 2007 Professor at the Berlin School of Art, since the beginning of the 1990s in various leadership positions in universities and companies, as well as a variety of university political bodies, organisations and associations, since May 2010 Rector of the bbw University of Applied Sciences.



What do you find the most exciting thing about your new job?

There are a few things! I come from state universities of applied science, some of which have a long tradition. The bbw University of Applied Sciences, on the other hand, is a private university - and very young. Here you can do things that are not possible in traditional state structures. For example, the bbw University of Applied Sciences is the only university of applied science that is so closely connected with the economy of the Berlin-Brandenburg region and the Federation of Commercial Enterprises (UVB). This shapes and enables our application-oriented profile in a special way. In addition, the hierarchies are flat - clocks run faster and ideas can be implemented more quickly. As a new rector I am pleased to be able to lead, accompany and shape this university.


No other city in Germany has such a comprehensive and differentiated university landscape as Berlin, with more than 30 universities and about 130,000 students. As a young university, it is certainly not easy to find one’s place and permanently occupy it ...

Correct. So we should pay more respect to the way it has been built up. In only three years, three courses of study were implemented and accredited, with a large number of specialisations. The student numbers show that we have already found a good spot in the field of applied engineering and economics in the university landscape of the metropolitan region. Every degree can be completed full-time or part-time alongside a job. We recently handed over the first Bachelor of Engineering to the first students of engineering sciences. In addition to Berlin, there are branches of the bbw University of Applied Sciences in Frankfurt (Oder), Prenzlau and Hamburg. The advantage enjoyed by the young bbw University of Applied Sciences is certainly its excellent cooperation with the HTW Berlin - University of Applied Sciences and the fact that we as members of the bbw Group are supported by the Berlin and Brandenburg economy and its Federation of Commercial Enterprises. We will enrol more than 200 new students for the coming winter semester 2010/2011.


The bbw University of Applied Sciences has been launched in an extremely dynamic way. Where should it be aiming for in the next five years?

We want to grow still further. Of course, we do not see ourselves as a new university giant and also not as a special cluster of scientific excellence. That is what the others are. We want to help meet the educational needs of competent specialists and managers in the domestic economy. Against the background of decreasing student numbers, this is a particularly important task. We are on the way to becoming a metropolitan university of applied sciences, at least in the Berlin and Brandenburg region, where no company with requirements for staff and no potential student with a desire to take up application-oriented study can ignore. We want to make ourselves even more attractive for companies that want suitable employees to gain further academic qualifications. But also for those in work who want to prepare themselves for the next step in their careers by studying. We are looking for people with competence and potential, rather than merely with formal qualifications such as the baccalaureate certificate.


Studying, even without such a certificate, with professional experience and alongside professional employment, is that the critical growth area?

Yes, I assume that the student numbers at the bbw University of Applied Sciences will rise - especially in the area of in-service education. To this end, we will be expanding our offer in business and engineering sciences and will be focussing even more on the needs of students and their (potential) employers. This will be without diminishing our claim to offer an academic higher education.


In your view, what are the most important challenges at present?

In the first place, I see the need to meet the needs of practical experience, profession and enterprise with academic knowledge, understanding and skills. Here, we are guided by the competences that are actually needed in professional life to make companies and their employees more future-oriented. In second place is our accessibility. It must be possible for more people in work with the right potential and practical experience to obtain academic degrees. Even if they do not have a baccalaureate or equivalent . The third challenge is the management of the university's growth and, in parallel, the implementation of quality standards in both study and teaching.


The new President of the Free University of Berlin would like to create new learning concepts in the future, for example, implementing more small work groups and introducing individual forms of mentoring for students. Do the big state universities now learn from the small private ones?

Certainly! They must. But every structure has its advantages and disadvantages. The strength of the small universities of applied science is that they are generally more flexible and agile. Every one of our professors knows every student personally and is literally accessible to her / him from early to late. Studying is more pleasant and probably more effective than what we know from the big universities. Social learning, small group work, e-learning, internships at partner companies, free job application coaching, optimised and strict study organisation - this is no vision of the future, but rather a science-based education in well-equipped seminar rooms and laboratories in smaller universities like the bbw University of Applied Sciences. This performance profile is an important competitive advantage, one which we are already making good use of.


In your view, are students at private universities more demanding than those at state institutions?

Private universities usually offer special conditions from which students benefit. For example, students who are studying alongside their professional lives need clear structures and an individual support for effective study. Everything has to fit. They are therefore very demanding on this point. After all, time is more precious to them than it is to full-time students. Many students who are studying alongside their work already have families that they want to take care of as well as their studies and their profession. These are established people, with extensive professional and life experiences, some of them already coming from management positions. Their knowledge and experience should be taken into account. This is enriching for the students - but sometimes a challenge for the study organization team and the teachers. But the low drop-out rates show that we are up to it. Students who are studying alongside their work are very goal-oriented. They have grit, and are therefore able to overcome the double strain over a couple of years quite well. However, the general conditions in the university must be right. At the end of the first three years, the results have been remarkably good: The conditions and the contents are right!


And to what extent do full-time students benefit from the structures at private universities?

Of course, they also profit from a tailor-made study organization, from the proximity to both the professors and to business. In addition they have up close experience of the career patterns and professional paths of the students who are also in professional work. This can reinforce their motivation to study quickly and get out into the practical world.


Are there advantages that large state universities have compared to the small ones?

Certainly, some. For example, they have significantly more resources and can handle certain tasks comprehensively - e.g. in the field of research.


Is research also a topic at the bbw University of Applied Sciences?

A university of applied sciences without research does not really work! Now that the university has successfully completed the construction phase, from my point of view it is now time to get more involved with this topic. For the accreditation by the German Council of Science and Humanities, we have to work out and document our activities in the field of research. We are currently designing a series of university publications with which we would like to publish outstanding papers and essays by the lecturers at the bbw University of Applied Sciences on subjects of applied economics and engineering sciences at regular intervals. To this end, we are strengthening our activities in the area of conferences on current topics in business and technology - always application-oriented. The first subjects - innovation and SMEs, health in the metropolitan region and current developments in the tourism / event sector - have already been defined. Such activities will also be fruitful for teaching and for our students.

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