GERMANY: University opens with five students

A private university of applied sciences that has begun teaching activities with just five students is said to be running the most expensive higher education courses in Germany.

The Fachhochschule des Mittelstandes - FHM-TEC Rheinland, in Pulheim, North Rhine-Westphalia - offers courses in areas including business management in civil engineering, energy management and environmental management.

It caters for the demand for skilled staff in the small businesses sector and its central facility has been set up in a former rolling mill, although it also has branches elsewhere.

FHM-TEC Rheinland is run by the Rhein-Erft Academy, in nearby Hürth, and the Bielefeld Fachhochschule des Mittelstandes in Bielefeld, also in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Rhein-Erft administrative district, in which the institution is situated, is providing it with just under EUR2 million (US$2.8 million) in start-up funding.

Social Democrat councillor Klaus Lennartz and Guido van den Berg, Social Democrat district chairman, have calculated that if student numbers do not increase, the public will be funding each student with around EUR100,000 a year.

"So the district is probably paying for the most expensive university courses in Germany," they said.

The university says that its two courses in business management in civil engineering and in technology management are meeting with considerable interest, and that several companies in the region are already offering internships for students.

"With the FHM-TEC Rheinland we are developing skilled labour and strengthening the local small businesses sector," said Christian Democrat Werner Stump, head of the district authority, at the institution's opening ceremony on 7 October. "And we may also be able to keep these young people in our district."

Karl August Morisse, Pulheim's mayor, said that providing funding for the institution was unacceptable for the district's cash-strapped municipalities.