While perennially popular in other countries, Masters in Management (MiM) programs did not take off in Germany until about 2005, but German business schools have made up for lost time, fairly quickly becoming leading providers of the flagship business programs for candidates with little or no work experience.
For decades the pre-eminent qualification in Germany was the diplom, which was widely considered by German employers to be akin to a bachelor’s and master’s degree rolled into one program. So there was little need for people to acquire another costly qualification like the MiM.
But in the last few years the MiM degree — which was established in the Grande Ecoles of France and is typically taught in English — has undergone huge expansion in Germany, partly driven by the Bologna process to harmonize European higher education systems.
“The process of adoption of the MiM instead of the diplom started to take off in 2005, when some universities decided to replace the diplom with bachelor’s and master’s degrees,” says Steffen Löv, assistant dean at WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management. “By 2011 nearly all diplom programs had been closed. Today, there are more than 19,000 study programs in Germany and less than 1.8 percent are diploms.”
Some of Germany’s business schools have been successful in transitioning to the MiM. Six are included in the FT’s ranking of the top 100 MiM programs globally, including the University of Mannheim and the Otto Beisheim School, which are in the top-20.
Schools put the feat down to their strong links to Germany employers, which are crying out for young talent to replace an aging workforce. Germany has Europe’s lowest birthrate and oldest population, setting it up for a looming talent crisis. This means that job prospects for graduates are particularly bright, given that Germany is also Europe’s biggest economy and many companies are struggling to find enough qualified candidates to fill their job vacancies.
It also means that employers have been heavily involved in the design of the curriculum, tailoring it to industry needs. German MiM programs have only proliferated in the past couple of decades, so the syllabus is relevant to today’s business environment.
This strong bond between education and industry is evident at ESMT Berlin, which worked with several top German companies including Daimler and Allianz to create its MiM program in 2014. Rick Doyle, head of marketing for degree programs, says the companies needed graduates with analytical skills who could innovate.
The involvement of German companies also means that ESMT’s MiM program takes a practical approach to learning, with groupwork prominent. Students are required to intern in a company for up to 10 months during the program, as well as work on a project that positively impacts society, such as bringing sustainable solar power to poor communities in Peru.
This practical approach can help students hit the ground running in the booming German job market. Most of ESMT’s Master in Management graduates stay in the country, and many remain in Berlin, which has developed a strong reputation for entrepreneurship, technology and innovation. Berlin attracted €3 billion in start-up funding last year, more than any other European capital apart from London.
Doyle says this has increased job opportunities with dynamic tech startups, while some graduates establish their own businesses, such as JetEight, an automated booking system for private jet hire. “The dynamic job market in Berlin adds to the diversity and opportunity for graduates, and Berlin as a study destination continues to be a big draw,” he says.
Overseas students find it relatively easy to land jobs in Germany because their student visa grants them 18 months after graduation to find employment. After that, a more permanent work visa is almost automatically granted. This means that many MiM programs in Germany attract a high proportion of international students.
A good example is HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management in Saxony. About 40 percent of MSc students overall are foreign and there are over 60 nationalities on campus.
“It is definitely a benefit that we have such a high number of international students, which creates a diverse learning environment,” says Jana Vogel, director of marketing and student recruitment. “Our students continuously learn from each other and highly value the intercultural exchange.”
Many German schools also include global study trips as part of their courses. At ESCP Europe, students on the Master in Management program can study at up to four of the business school’s own campuses in Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris, Turin, and Warsaw. Students can also do a semester or a full year abroad on exchange at one of 130 other business schools.
The course is also highly customizable, with students taking two out of several specializations. “A student can, for example, study core business modules
in the first year at the London and Madrid campuses, before spending the second year specializing in international business development in Paris, and in entrepreneurship in Berlin,” says Ulrich Pape, director of studies for the MiM program at the Berlin campus.
Another perk for overseas students is the relatively cheap tuition fees. Public universities in Germany generally do not charge for tuition, and this has kept fees even at private schools low, as the institutions compete to attract students. Mannheim Business School, for instance, does not charge any tuition for EU citizens and only €1,500 per semester for non-EU-students.
Despite these upsides, overseas students may be deterred by the nature of Germany’s Master in Management programs. They tend to be very theoretical initially so students can master the basics of business and management, before incorporating practical experiences later, says Pape.
This is because of the German tradition of education, which is based on the philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt’s model of a holistic combination of research and teaching, says Pape.
A bigger challenge for overseas students may be getting hired in Germany, in which a good command of the German language is usually required. “Although a lot of the actual business is conducted in English, there are still German customers that might feel more comfortable talking German, and many managers still see it as an important part of company culture,” says Juliane Oswald, director of the MiM at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
Yet she adds that the school, in one of Germany’s most international cities, still sends 85 percent of its graduates into the German job market, and some to leading German firms Bayer, Axel Springer and Roche. So while it is harder to find a top job without good German, it is not impossible.
[See the Top MiM Programs in Germany]