StudiumPlus is connecting theory to practical education. (Images: Maik Scharfscheer)
StudiumPlus is connecting theory to practical education. (Images: Maik Scharfscheer)


Best in Class

In 2001, the University of Applied Sciences Gießen-Friedberg initiated a dual university study program that was unique in Germany. Ten years on, StudiumPlus has proved to be a stroke of fortune for a highly specialized industrial region like Wetzlar.


There’s a lot of activity in and in front of Building A1 of the former Spilburg Barracks on the southern outskirts of Wetzlar. The young people standing together in small groups or taking a stroll across the former parade ground are not even remotely reminiscent of the military drill of bygone days. They carry laptop bags and briefcases and talk about microsystem technology and optronics, business information technology and process management. In the foyer, they take a brief glance at syllabuses and room plans - displayed not on dusty notice boards, but on flat screens. None of the students is surprised by the modern way the university is run – it’s part of everyday life here.


Foundation of the StudiumPlus initiative

Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about the national and regional Excellence Initiative. It came to Wetzlar ten years ago already. At that time, the initiative called itself StudiumPlus – invented by the Academic Center of Dual University Studies (ZDH) of the University of Applied Sciences Gießen-Friedberg, implemented in close cooperation with the IHK Association of Central Hessen under the management of the IHK Lahn-Dill, the associations, local authorities and the organizing committee of the partner companies under the umbrella of the CompetenceCenter Duale Hochschulstudien – StudiumPlus e.V. (CCD). On April 25th, 2001 the then Secretary of State in the Hessian Ministry of Art and Science, Frank E. Portz, gave the official go-ahead for StudiumPlus, and it started the very next winter semester with 31 students in the dual bachelor course ‘Business Engineering’.


650 students at three locations

Today, StudiumPlus offers a comprehensive selection of dual study courses, in which almost 400 companies in the region meanwhile participate as cooperation partners. About 650 students are currently preparing for their professional life in the bachelor’s and master’s degree courses, dividing their time between university and company and specializing in one of 16 fields. In the winter semester 2010/11 alone, 231 first-year students enrolled for StudiumPlus – some at the main location Wetzlar, others at one of the branches, of which there are now three - in Frankenberg, Bad Wildungen and Bad Hersfeld. Here too, StudiumPlus cooperates with regional partner companies in the dual bachelor’s and master’s degree courses.


University studies plus Practical experience plus Interfacing competence

The teaching concept was devised by the Academic Center for Dual University Courses (ZDH) of the University of Applied Sciences Gießen-Friedberg and is subject to constant further development. It is based on a simple equation, described by Prof. Anita Röhm, Managing Director of the ZDH, as follows: “University studies plus Practical experience plus Interfacing competence equals StudiumPlus. Our primary aim is to ensure that studying is not an end in itself, but enables students to train and plan their careers in a way that satisfies their personal and individual expectations while meeting the needs of the partner companies at the same time.” The curriculum concept is accordingly designed to teach professionally sound content at a high academic standard and yet with a high degree of practical relevance. The close cooperation with the partner companies is a vital part of this concept, as the founding director of StudiumPlus, Prof. Harald Danne stresses: “The StudiumPlus concept developed by the university and the regional businesses has proved successful for many years.”


The practical experience is invaluable

The approach certainly seems to be working. Christoph Stach is currently in the fifth semester of his business engineering course – specializing in mechanical engineering. He hopes to take his Bachelor of Engineering degree at the end of the summer semester 2011. When asked exactly what he likes about his course, he particularly mentions the competence of the methods and the immediate application of the theory learnt in the lectures to the practical work in his partner company Voestalpine BWG GmbH und Co. KG. “I am very pleased with it and would recommend anyone to start studying under the StudiumPlus scheme if they get the chance. The practical experience is simply invaluable!” Graduate Henning Jung is already two steps further. His Bachelor of Business Administration and Engineering degree got him a job in industrial engineering at Leica Microsystems. Two years later, it became possible for the first time to do a master’s degree course under the StudiumPlus scheme, and Henning Jung seized this opportunity, too. Today, the engineer is in charge of the production of several groups of products, besides being responsible for the process development for new product launches. “My practical experience and a lot of the things I learnt at university come in very useful – even in complex business situations,” says Jung.


Teaching skills that the companies need

The StudiumPlus concept is not only highly rated by students and graduates, but also by the almost 400 partner companies that participate in the unique university project by helping to finance it and providing practical support. They are permanently integrated into the university structure and represented in both the Board of Consultants of StudiumPlus and the CompetenceCenter Duale Hochschulstudien. The CCD is a cooperation partner of the University of Applied Sciences Gießen-Friedberg, acting as a representative of regional industry for StudiumPlus. “We make sure that the university courses teach skills that the companies need, and keep an eye on the quality of the studies,” comments Dr. Uwe Schäkel, Chairman of the CCD. “We also ensure that the students are supported by their particular company in their practical work phases.”


Bachelor’s and master’s degrees

Conversely, the companies are important partners for the knowledge transfer between practice and theory, on the basis of which major fields of study and curricula are continuously developed. In May 2006, for example, StudiumPlus introduced the master’s degree course Process Management after close consultation with the partner companies. This course builds on and consolidates the knowledge learned about management and processes in the bachelor’s or diploma course. Besides system-oriented, integrative process management approaches, social competence, team spirit and communication skills are encouraged. Basically, therefore, the Process Management master’s course teaches the interfacing competence that is a key professional qualification nowadays and ultimately guarantees team-oriented, targeted cooperation in companies. Again at the request of the partner companies, StudiumPlus will be introducing the new master’s degree course Systems Engineering in the winter semester 2011/12. Here too, all the curricula were compiled by the Board of Consultants with the collaboration of the representatives of the companies to guarantee high practical relevance.


StudiumPlus is unique, successful and future-oriented

“The Systems Engineering master’s course rounds off the range of courses in Wetzlar,” says a pleased Prof. Anita Röhm. For now! – one can’t help thinking. After all, as student numbers and partner companies increase, the range of courses will no doubt widen as well. StudiumPlus is unique, successful and future-oriented. Or let’s just say – excellent!


Ralf Christofori


Additional Information:

StudiumPlus is leading its students to highly skilled experts.
StudiumPlus is leading its students to highly skilled experts.