A topic that should not go amiss in conversations about the current work culture, is that there are many more non-traditional students (working students) pursuing degrees today than ever before. This means that the typical college experience looks a little different now. Working your way through college certainly doesn’t make getting grades any easier.
Fortunately, though, there is a university in Essen, Northrine-Westfalia, Germany, which has made its mission to aide those hardworking individuals who aspire to pursue college degrees whilst continuing their work full-time. This university is one of the largest universities in Europe and holds the crème de la crème of credentials. It is the one and only – FOM Hochschule für Oekonomie & Management (Henceforth, FOM) or the ‘FOM University of Economics and Management’.
FOM was founded in 1991 as an initiative of the non-profit foundation BildungsCentrum der Wirtschaft in Essen with the objective to offer professionals the chance to gain a state-recognized university degree without having to give up work or restrict their professional activity.
Alongside professionals from all sectors of industry and with varying functions, trainees wishing to combine in-company training with a Bachelor’s degree course as part of a dual-study programme also study at the internationally-oriented university. To enable the combination of study and work, lectures are held in the evenings and at weekends.
With 57,000 students, FOM is Germany’s largest private attendance university. Experienced lecturers from the academic world and industry give on-site lectures at 34 study centres throughout Germany and in Vienna/Austria. The university is consequently under the supervision of the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Responsibility for the academic organisation of FOM lies with the President, Vice-Presidents, regional Directors of Study and Deans. The Senate Advisory Board, the Boards of Trustees and the External Study Programme Evaluation Commission ensure that course content is linked to practice.
The Futuristic Thinking
FOM offers on-site study programmes, including affordable tuition fees, which are tailored to the special needs of students who work and study simultaneously. FOM ensures that the goals based upon this mission statement are achieved with a comprehensive quality management system that guarantees excellent standards in all aspects of its goals. FOM is committed to an equalityoriented university culture that nurtures all existing talents and potentials irrespective of sex, age, nationality, religion, and social background.
The Academic Rollout
FOM was founded as a university of business and industry and gears its study programmes to the needs of companies. More than 1,000 renowned cooperation partners from all over Germany provide their employees with academic qualifications in 6 different fields (Business & Management, Business & Psychology, Economy & Law, IT-Management, Engineering, Health & Social Affairs) in 43 Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes at FOM.
International students, for whom FOM offers full-time programmes in English, also benefit from the proximity to business and the practical orientation of the programme. They are supported by the International Office in all organisational matters to keep the hurdles of studying abroad low.
To achieve optimal study success, FOM has developed a special learning concept with the focus on transferring competence to systematically link academic content with professional practice. By applying the concept, it should be achieved that knowledge is not only internalised through pure reproduction, but above all through concrete transfer, so that, in the sense of constructive alignment, a constructive orientation of the teaching, learning and examination formats towards the learning outcomes is realized.
Making them Tech-Savvy
The topic of digital transformation runs cross-sectionally through all degree programmes and semesters. In addition, the university’s IT and engineering departments work together on topics concerning “Industry 4.0 (e.g. Machine Learning). Wherever possible, impulses from business are implemented and the demand reports from companies are taken over when updating the course content. University certificates (e.g. Legal Tech) are offered to deepen practicerelevant and subject-specific content during studies or for further academic training.
FOM operates 26 competence centres and research institutes whose results are directly applied in teaching. Moreover, FOM supports its students in finding practicerelevant research topics and offers an elaborate research forum on current topics every year.
The Visionary in Charge
Klaus Dieter Braun laid the foundation for extensive educational initiatives already during his time as Managing Director of the Essener Unternehmensverband (EUV) in the 1980s. He founded the BCW Foundation, which is an ardent supporter of FOM. More than 3,000 employees from 27 nations work in the BCW Group institutions. Braun was an early and tireless advocate of permeability in the education system, making it possible for anyone with the talent to study, regardless of the family or financial situation.
One of Braun’s guiding principles is to provide opportunities for ambitious people and to offer a contemporary and sustainable academic education at moderate tuition fees. He also holds numerous honorary positions (e.g. founding and board member of the Ruhr Research Centre Düsseldorf).
The FOM Experience
A unique characteristic of the learning experience in FOM is its part-time face-to-face study with lectures, based on the belief that personal contact between the lecturers and the students is at the core of ‘high motivational drive’ to learn and study successfully.
Digital learning materials can be accessed via the campus management system and organisational tasks (e.g., registering for exams) can be completed regardless of location and time. In this way, students are relieved of all organisational tasks as far as possible. Apart from the academic and practical experience, FOM lecturers need to have appropriate didactics in order to motivate and activate the students after work or on weekends after a 40-hour week. To provide optimal support for students and teachers, FOM maintains its own media development department. In addition, FOM is proud of the specially developed ‘FOM Transfer Didactics.’
A Household Name
FOM was the first university in North Rhine-Westphalia to receive the quality seal of the German Council of Science and Humanities in 2004 which was confirmed in July 2016 with a reaccreditation. In 2012, FOM was also the first private university in Germany to be accredited as an institution by the FIBAA (Foundation for International Business Administration Accreditation). This seal of approval from one of the world’s most important higher education assessment agencies proves that FOM’s quality management satisfies the highest international standards.
In June 2021, the Stifterverband – which presents innovative university projects on the topic of “Transitions in times of the pandemic” every month in 2021 and thus wants to make them visible beyond the region, has chosen the special programme “Study into the job” as “University Pearl of the Month June”. The programme paves the way for young people to take up dual studies, even in the difficult labour market situation caused by the pandemic: high school graduates can already start a Bachelor’s degree at FOM, even if they have not yet found a suitable apprenticeship, traineeship, or internship. The university supports them in their job search during their studies, among other things with active networking and virtual job application training.
Dynamic modes of knowledge delivery
FOM identified a new target group for whom distance learning was not an option, but who nevertheless could not reach a nearby university centre. “Digital Live Study” was developed (initially for 4 Bachelor’s programmes), in which lectures are broadcast in real-time from a FOM-owned studio. In addition, special teaching and learning materials, as well as additional communication concepts (e.g. counselling via video conference), are being developed.
“Digital live study” is to be offered as an additional alternative to physical face-to-face study, with the possibility of switching between physical and virtual presence on a semester-by-semester basis, so that students do not have to interrupt their studies even during business trips or longer (professional) stays abroad.
Making a Mark on the Labour Market
FOM is constantly adapting its curriculum to the needs of the labour market. The current revision of the Bachelor’s degree programmes aims even more intensively than before at transfer-oriented learning (instead of rote learning). Students are to be enabled to make evidence-based decisions in the long term beyond the duration of their studies. FOM wants to remain not only the market leader but also the quality leader in part-time study.