In today’s modern global economy, it is no longer enough that a business graduate excels in business. They more often than not need to have an understanding of technological and international aspects, too.
Thus, most universities sought to integrate such knowledge into their programme. HFU Business School, however, found itself in the enviable position of being part of Furtwangen University (HFU), an established technical university of excellent standing. Thus, HFU Business School merely had to reach out and create links with their technical counterparts in their university.
In our search for ‘The Most Prominent Business Schools in Germany, 2022’, we caught up with Professor Dr Michael Lederer, Furtwangen University’s Vice President of International Affairs & Executive Education. Sharing his 25-year journey with the prestigious business school with us, he also explains what makes HFU Business School unique and how it became a prominent educational hub for international business in Germany.
Innovating Modern Business Education
Initially, HFU was a university dedicated to engineering and technology. As such, it took (and still takes) great pride in being a pioneer and innovator of engineering education. Thus, the inclusion of business studies amongst the study programme offered was an obvious step for HFU allowing it to continue moving forward as an innovative educator.
Based on the idea of globalisation and international business, the HFU Business School was established in 1995 at the university’s Schwenningen Campus. Over the course of the following twenty-seven years, the business school has seen steady growth both in student numbers and in terms of innovative academic content such as business psychology and international business management.
A Career Dedicated to Business Education
It was in early 1998 when Professor Dr Michael Lederer started as a professor of international finance and international management at the still-young HFU Business School. From the very start, he worked tirelessly for its success and continuous development and innovation. Both academic excellence and internationalisation were among the key issues for both him and the faculty as a whole.
Internationality is Key
From its inception, it was the HFU Business School’s aim to provide outstanding international business education for an ever more global world. Internationality is anchored in the HFU’s strategy and mission statement. And HFU Business School seeks to realise these goals by educating students from all over the world in a truly international environment, preparing them for careers anywhere in today’s global world.
Illustrating the university`s level of support for internationalisation, Professor Michael Lederer explains, “Individual support for our international students is provided by our International Center and staff within the faculties, language skills are taught by our School of Languages and Cultures, and third-party funding is acquired by Global Services. Additionally, HFU cooperates with more than 160 partner universities all around the world.”
Transcultural Business Education
For all HFU Business School study programme, intercultural and transcultural aspects have been integral study content from the start, as emphasised by Professor Michael Lederer says, “Our research and teaching on transcultural competence is an example of how international and experiential learning formats play an important role at HFU Business School to strengthen our students’ global cooperation skills and prepare them for an international career.”
“Through our participation in the innovative format ‘Global Case Study Challenge’ and as a member of the Transcultural Caravan Network, we offer our students the opportunity to work on current issues with partners from the business world from around the world. In this way, they experience and practice first-hand what it means to cooperate successfully and sustainably in contexts of cultural complexity,” he further added.
Building an International Community
Our world is becoming increasingly more global, not least through technical and digital innovation and improvements in communication. The importance of these developments has always been at the heart of both HFU Business School’s academic and its lived reality: it seeks to educate international business leaders for a global world who can work in multi-cultural teams and achieve sustainability and understanding.
Professor Michael Lederer asserts the special importance of global exposure to business students, “Most of our undergraduate students spend one mandatory study and one internship semester abroad. Given the high percentage of international students from around the globe, our students study in a truly international atmosphere. Around 75% of all our HFU Business School courses are taught in English. Almost all professors have worked and lived for several years abroad. The academic content of most lectures is oriented toward a global working environment. We have a professor exchange program with some of our international partner universities in order to expose our students to different teaching styles and gather first-hand knowledge from lecturers from different countries.”
Student Organisations at HFU Business School
Only a programme which does not just teach theoretical knowledge but also content, which is relevant and applicable in real life, will ever be successful in the long term. This is another premise at the heart of HFU Business School. But this is not just realised through internship semesters and theses written in companies: an important opportunity for the practical implementation of things learned are the numerous student organisations run by HFU Business School students.
Michael Lederer stresses their importance, “At HFU Business School, we are very proud of our student organisations. They all do a great job in making students feel at home, providing a community where they can get involved and a place to make lifelong friends.”
Some of the organisation HFU Business School students can get involved in includes:
- HFU Business School Faculty Student Council
- IB Consulting
- Business Talks
- AStA Schwenningen (student union)
- Initiatives for kids
- ISC – International Student Community
Combining Traditional Teaching with Modern Education Methods
When asked about how the school adapted to modern educational means, the school management said, “We think that experience-based learning plays a crucial role in preparing our students for their professional future. Therefore, case studies, classroom experiments, teamwork, and computer-based business simulations are key to a successful and satisfying learning experience for our students. Furthermore, in most study programs, project work to gain real-world practical experience plays an important role.”
Preparing Students for the Future
All HFU Business School programme are characterised by small group sizes, first-class lecturers with many years of professional experience, and an extremely international learning environment.
In conclusion, Professor Michael Lederer makes it clear that, “The high quality and strong practical orientation of the degree programs facilitate entry into professional life. As a result, our graduates are sought-after specialists for every company.”
Achievements and Accolades
- HFU is Germany’s first bilingual university of applied sciences
- Ideal for internationals: more than 80 nationalities on campus
- Consistently good track record in the CHE University Rankings
- Modern and innovative degree programme
- Strong research profile
- Personal and friendly: small group sizes (15-50 students)
- A clean, green, and safe environment in the Black Forest!
- Excellent job prospects for graduates
Roadmap to the Future
Explaining his vision for the future of the school, Professor Michael Lederer asserted, “We are aware that we have to modernise our study programs constantly. The business world is changing quickly, and so do we. One example: Sustainability is becoming an ever-greater concern for companies of all sizes. Taking the ecological and social impact of business activities into account is no longer a luxury for companies but has become an economic necessity. Therefore, lectures on the topic of sustainable development are incorporated into all our programs, and we offer more electives in that field.”
Explaining this with another example, Michael Lederer postulates that many companies need employees who fundamentally understand both business and its legalities. And in that way, he is planning to deepen and widen their teachings, offerings, and programs specifically in the field of business law. “We are also constantly updating and deepening our network of international partner universities, e.g., gaining new partners in Southeast Asia,” he further added.
Professor Michael Lederer is convinced that, “The war for talent means that international companies expect managers to be mobile, multilingual, stress-resistant, and excellent at communicating across cultural, professional, and geographical borders. Global job markets require flexible, communicative interface managers, and we show you how to become one.”