By Philipp Lemmerich
Bright rooms, glass facades: It is clear at first sight that the brand new main building of the “htw saar”, the technical university of Saarbrücken, accommodates an up-and-coming university. Much older than the building though is a joint institute that also resides here: The Franco-German Institute of Technology and Business (DFHI), a cooperation between the htw saar and the Université de Lorraine (Metz, France), was founded 40 years ago and offers curricula in the areas of management, engineering and computer science.
For several years now, there has constantly been a high number of African students at the DFHI. Pascal Hoffmann, a director’s advisor at the DFHI, underlines the quality of the study programs and the good job prospects afterwards. “Currently, we have 75 Africans students enrolled in our programs but we have never done promotions in Africa. Word-of-mouth recommendation seems to work very well. If the older brother has succeeded here, the younger brother will try the same.”
It is a combination between professional training and the orientation towards an international market that defines the special profile of the university. In many student projects, German, French and students from African countries collaborate regularly. Intercultural management forms a part of the curriculum, and there are many language courses being offered.
African students can be found in the areas of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science. For most of them, the compulsory internship at the end of the study program is the entry point into their professional life. They first gain working experience and in doing so create a professional network, Pascal Hoffmann explains. “During the internship the companies notice that our students are highly qualified, educated and can be employed directly. Most of our partner companies were quickly convinced.”
Until today, workshops especially designed for African students have not been offered at htw saar and DFHI. “What could we do better when it comes to our African students? Where can we cooperate more closely with companies that are active in African markets? These questions have not yet been asked”, Pascal Hoffmann says. A new cooperation between htw saar and AfricaWorks will change that. In the future, events for African students will be offered on a regular basis, providing information on career paths and fruitful networks in the corporate world.
For Pascal Hoffmann, it is decisive that students feel comfortable at his institute. “The best indicator to know whether they are happy or not are the final results. Only those who feel comfortable can write good grades.” If Hoffmann is right, that means that African students feel particularly comfortable at the DFHI. In recent years, many African students have notably been among the best. “Despite the high linguistic and intercultural barriers, most of them manage to get along very well during their studies. One reason is certain: “It is their high level of motivation. That is simply remarkable.”