Wednesday, February 13, 2013

WANTED! A Vocational University with Ambitions to Expand into Germany or Europe

It has been a long time since I updated this blog, in the scheme of life and other writing commitments, priorities have to be taken, and a new book with CABI (Entertainment Management: Towards Best Practice) that I am providing several chapters for as well as co-editing chapters from other contributors with my former colleague Dr Ben Walmsley (now at the University of Leeds), has for the past 12 months taken over most of my other writing and research commitments.

I am however, taking a short break from that to make a plea on behalf of a superb educational institution located in the beautiful baroque city of Dresden, in the state of Saxony in the East of Germany. If you are unsure as to where Dresden is, then Google Maps can certainly show you, but as a rough guideline, it is roughly equidistant between the German capital city of Berlin, and the Czech capital city of Prague, and has both road and rail links to both cities. Dresden also has an excellent international airport.

Since 2006 I have been working with a vocational business school in Dresden called Europäische Wirtschafts Und Sprachenakademie Dresden, which is abbreviated to ‘EWS Dresden’, and is part of a larger EWS Group of colleges, who are a collective of private vocational business and language schools with branches in several German cities, including Dresden, Leipzig, Köln and Rostock, historically going back to 1908. The Dresden branch has been in operation since 1991.

EWS Dresden is located adjacent to Dresden Neustadt railway station within the area of central Dresden known as the Neustadt or ‘new town’. The school specialises in teaching vocational courses including Events Management, Office and Administration Management, Business and Management, Project Management and Marketing Management. Students at the school participate in 2 ½ year courses, (which includes a substantive work placement), successful completion of their course entitles the students to a ‘State Certificate’. At Leeds Metropolitan University, we have mapped the learning outcomes, course content and student assessment of the state certificate against our own curriculum, and have found them to be equivalent to Higher Education levels 4 and 5 – in other words, equivalent to either a HigherNational Diploma (HND) or a Foundation Degree (FD). Many students learn languages alongside their chosen courses, and through my own experience of teaching at EWS, many students are multi-lingual. English is taught to the equivalent of IELTS Level 5.

The school has a specialist and dedicated staff team including academic, management and support staff, excellent buildings with teaching rooms that are as good as any university I have been to, a very modern IT setup, and strict rules around attendance. The net result of this is that the school produces highly proficient students who go on to become, valued members of society both in Germany and around the world. At Leeds Metropolitan University we have a progression agreement with EWS Dresden (along with other EWS branches), which allows their graduates to ‘top-up’ at level 6, on selected Degree courses, to get a Bachelor’s Degree. Historically these have allowed EWS students to ‘top-up’ on various Business and Language degrees, various Events Management degrees and the BA (Hons) Entertainment Management, (specifically for those students who have studied Events Management at EWS). The general standard of work produced by EWS top-up students at Leeds Metropolitan University, has been higher than the average student body, with the majority of EWS top-up students achieving good first class honours (1st) or high upper seconds (2:1).

Typical EWS Dresden class room

For the past 4 years, EWS Dresden students have organised a major international conference called the ‘EWS Congress’, to which several hundred students from various EWS branches, as well as students from other European educational institutions, particularly the Katholieke Hogeschool Limburg (KHLim) attend. The conferences have included a number of speakers from both education and industry, and I have had the privilege to participate in these conferences on three occasions. I can confirm that these student organised conferences have been absolutely as professional as any conference which I have ever attended – this is testimony to both the calibre and discipline instilled within the student body, as well as the mentoring of students by dedicated and specialist EWS staff.

EWS Students take the stage at the Messe Dresden for the EWS Congress

My reason for making this post, and singing the praises of EWS Dresden, it’s staff, programmes and students is that due to political reasons, which are outside of the control of EWS Dresden and indeed every other private business school or college in the German state of Saxony. Is that EWS Dresden and every other Saxon private vocational school is faced with closure, due to a change in political will of the Saxon government, who are withdrawing funding to such institutions from 2014.

The Saxon government, has a seemingly unrealistic vision of how vocational courses should be structured in terms of the balance of formal educational and work experience elements, making it virtually impossible for vocational schools to adhere to the Saxon ideal of roughly 50% study and 50% work throughout the course. Work placements by their very nature are often ad-hoc, many are seasonal and a number are dependent on events taking place at particular times of year, therefore maintaining a continual 50 / 50 balance throughout the year is virtually impossible for a number of vocational schools to realistically manage.

One ugly truth is that there is a need for more lower skilled workers in Saxony, so removing vocational courses and encouraging more teenagers to take low-skilled, low-paid jobs instead of continuing in education will help fill a shortage of low-skilled workers in the East of Germany. This is of course an unsustainable stance for the Saxon government to take, and will lead to a future skills shortage in this region. Another ugly truth is that there is an inherenet snobbery in ‘the German establishment’ around the value of vocational courses against more traditional university disciplines, despite indications that suggest students who participate in vocational degrees particularly with work placements, are more likely to prosper in their future jobs and careers, than those who take un-vocational ‘classic’ courses of study, see here.

So who can help EWS Dresden? Do you represent or know of a University ANYWHERE in the world, who has ambitions to expand into the German educational market? Would your university or another university benefit from opening a ‘branch’ or school within Dresden? The staff at EWS Dresden would be eminently capable of delivering a range of vocational educational courses to the specifications required by another university, certainly up to Higher Education level 5 and even beyond up to full Bachelors Degree level or further.

A model currently employed at Prague College in the Czech Republic, is that the college wholly delivers a range of qualifications on behalf of Teeside University, in the UK, and for tuition fees which are considerably less than what they are in the UK, in effect becoming a Czech branch of Teeside University. Would your university, or another university that you are aware of benefit from such a partnership using the ready-made facilities that are already in place at EWS Dresden?

If you are interested in exploring such a partnership, please contact me either through this blog, or at , and I will gladly put you in contact with the School’s management team.

This School really does deserve to continue, and could in future become a valued partner to (or part of) a vocational higher education institution who has ambitions to expand into the German Higher Education market, or the European Higher Education Market.