Education Exports

Trying to Make the Grade in Germany

Iserlohn PR
The American way in Germany.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany has free university education but private, state-approved universities continue to pop up around the country, often controlled by American education conglomerates unfamiliar with local education structures.

  • Facts


    • Apollo Education Group, Inc. currently holds $3.6 billion in debt. Laureate International Universities is in debt to the tune of $4.7 billion.
    • Laureate operates more than 80 institutions, both campus-based and online, in 28 countries.
    • Former World Bank president Robert Zoellick is on Laureate’s board and, for a fee, former U.S. President Bill Clinton was the company’s “Honorary Chancellor” from 2010 until 2015.
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The Business and Information Technology School, or BITS, a private university in Iserlohn, a town in western Germany, is a cog in a bigger machine, belonging to Laureate Education, an education conglomerate with over 80 universities worldwide.

And it is part of a flock of corporate-run education models recently imported to Germany, a country better known for its history of state-subsidized university education.

Recently Apollo, another American education company set up shop, and a subsidiary of Apollo Education Group now owns the International University of Bad Honnef-Bonn and its holding company.

This reflects the increasing allure of the German college market to investors. However, insiders told Handelsblatt that the academic newcomers are coming up against a very different education culture.

Two sources close to BITS told Handelsblatt that a culture clash was in full swing and criticized the private university’s fixation with numbers, its frequent and unrealistic goals, and the fact it gave little leeway to those in charge.

But BITS Rector Stefan Stein rejected these claims, arguing that the institution he runs is ambitious and has goals: “BITS would be a badly-run corporation if it didn’t have a strong business plan,” he said.

He also refuted talk of a “hire and fire” policy at BITS, a reputation generated by the exit of both the university’s chancellor and its managing director last year. But Rector Stein, who filled the top post shortly after, played down the changes as “strategic decisions.”

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