First university to start a branch in another state

Representatives of the Technical University of Munich (TUM), in Bavaria, and the Dieter Schwarz Foundation have signed an agreement supporting the development of a Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University campus into a TUM branch. Funding via a specially set up endowment is to support a total of 20 new professorships.

The campus opted for, the Heilbronn branch of the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University or Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg (DHBW), used to be part of the Mosbach branch of the DHBW. The DHBW network was founded in 2009 and integrates academic studies with workplace training. DHBW Heilbronn became an independent institution in 2014.

Thirteen of the new professorships are to be established in Heilbronn and the remainder in Munich, at the TUM School of Management.

This is the first time that a German university located in one state has set up a branch in another state.

The new TUM Campus Heilbronn is to concentrate on issues such as how companies can shape far-reaching transformations of the digital age, the best conditions for rapid growth and the sustainable success of start-ups, and challenges that family-owned businesses face as the backbone of the German economy. Given that the TUM School of Management is oriented on the fields of management and technology, entrepreneurship education and technology-based entrepreneurship form a special priority.

Since family-owned enterprises are more a feature of the Heilbronn-Franconia region than the Munich region, the new site opens up new opportunities for the TUM school to investigate such companies in research partnerships with medium-sized high-tech companies. Heilbronn is to provide bachelor and masters programmes as well as executive education courses to train future leaders in management, preparing them to work in technology-driven companies. Doctoral studies will be offered as well.

Foundation's support

TUM President Wolfgang A Herrmann refers to the Dieter Schwarz Foundation’s endowment as a “milestone in the recent history of the TUM”. Herrmann adds that the foundation’s support validates the university’s decision to focus an entire economics department on technology issues, which, he notes, was “an incalculable risk at the time the faculty was founded in 2002”.

“It is the stated intent of the Dieter Schwarz Foundation to take action where economy and society place demands that state instances cannot fulfil adequately or not at all,” says Reinhold R Geilsdörfer, managing director of the foundation as of February 2016 and responsible for higher education affairs.

Geilsdörfer, who was DHBW president before being appointed by the foundation, stresses that the new campus will above all benefit companies in the Heilbronn-Franconia region by providing them with access to excellently-trained young professionals.

“The technological aspects and economic orientation embodied by TUM offer ideal prerequisites and development potentials at the Heilbronn campus,” adds Peter Frankenberg, executive officer of the Dieter Schwarz Foundation.

The foundation played a key role in financially supporting the establishment of the DHBW Heilbronn branch as an independent institution. Frankenberg, a former Baden-Württemberg minister of science, research and arts (and Christian Democrat), commented that “without its exemplary engagement, the project could not have been realised in its present form”.

Baden-Württemberg’s Minister President and Green Party member Winfried Kretschmann referred to the foundation’s initiative as “patronage at its very finest”. And Frankenberg’s successor, Green Party member Theresia Bauer, noted that the foundation’s “unflagging respect for the academic independence of higher education institutions commands the greatest credit”.

However, Geilsdörfer has been under scrutiny by the Heilbronn public prosecutor for already having worked for the foundation during his term of office as president of the DHBW, in breach of civil service laws governing secondary employment and, together with other foundation officials, for bribability and bribery.

A raid of the foundation premises in 2016 revealed that Geilsdörfer had already been under contract for the foundation months before starting work as its managing director, both as a consultant since mid-2015 and later on as a part-time managing director.

Bauer stated that her ministry had authorised his being a consultant, but that it had not been aware of his more senior position with the foundation at the time.

The funding concept for the TUM Campus Heilbronn also aroused controversy. In 2016, seeking to establish the private and public shares of funding for the Heilbronn institution, the Stuttgarter Zeitung requested access to contracts signed in 2014 by Geilsdörfer, his predecessor at the foundation and Minister Bauer. However, the passages stating the amounts transferred to the government treasury by the DHBW were blackened.

Dieter Schwarz, who is claimed to be Germany’s richest citizen, owns the Schwarz Group, the world’s fourth-largest retailer, comprising hypermarket and supermarket chain giants Kaufland and Lidl. Other higher education programmes his foundation supports include the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg’s Chair of Economic Ethics.

Michael Gardner Email: