In a country not exactly known for its start-up culture, Handelshochschule Leipzig (HHL) has made the teaching of entrepreneurship a core mission. Andreas Pinkwart, the dean, reckons more than 130 companies have sprung from the school in Leipzig, eastern Germany’s traditional trading hub.
Since taking the reins in spring 2011, Prof Pinkwart, an economist and until recently a leading figure in the free-market Free Democrat Party, is building on HHL’s strengths – it duly added a junior professorship in entrepreneurship and innovation – with the aim of becoming one of Europe’s top schools.
“By 2023, the year of our 125th anniversary, we want to have secured our place in the top 10 of European Graduate Business schools,” he says. (The 2012 FT European Business School Ranking places HHL joint 44th.) To achieve this, HHL has rejigged teaching and research into five clearly defined areas: strategic and international management; finance, accounting and corporate governance; economics and regulation; sustainability and competitiveness, and innovation and entrepreneurship.
The idea is to grow and internationalise a teaching staff of 20 full-time and 30-40 visiting and affiliated teachers and to provide more courses, more opportunity for research and to strengthen the school’s alumni network.
The signs are that the world is taking note. Enrolments hit 189 this year, up from 120 in 2011. HHL currently has 500 students in total. Next to a full-time and part-time MBA for graduates of any subject with work experience, it is one of Germany’s first schools to offer a full-time and a part-time MSc for people who have a BA in business management. It now also offers a global executive MBA programme, taught, like all other subjects, in English.
Courses cost €30,000 on average and HHL says graduates leaving with its masters degree earn an average of €66,000 in their first year in full-time employment, which it claims is one of the highest levels worldwide.
The school’s penchant for entrepreneurship was coded into its DNA. Founded in 1898 by the chamber of commerce and the city’s goods traders, HHL was meant to add an academic component to its students’ practical experience of working for – or running – small businesses.
Subsumed into the University of Leipzig in communist East Gerrmany, it regained independence in 1992, and has since been funded by the Leipzig chamber of commerce and donations from companies across Germany – the hope is that Pinkwart’s prominence will encourage more to follow suit.
Another idea the dean is mulling is a venture fund to help alumni with financing start-ups. In that, Prof Pinkwart could draw a lesson from Lukasz Gadowski, an alumnus who with his Team Europe Ventures fund has become one of Germany’s most prominent internet entrepreneurs.