Saarland’s university of applied sciences was founded in 1971 and renamed the University for Applied Sciences of Saarland (HTW) in 1991. Considering its forerunner intuitions, the HTW can look back on 200 years of tradition. 200 years, throughout which it shows how educational institutions can actively shape the transformation of society. In 2009, 115 professors tought at the HTW in 24 courses. Since 2001, international courses have been introduced and completely new areas of study were opened up without neglecting the traditional disciplines such as engineering on the side of the engineering sciences, or business administration on the economics sciences side. In 2005, the HTW course offer was completely changed to bachelor and master degrees.
Since 2000, the number of applications for a place at the HTW has nearly tripled and the number of enrollments and total number of students doubled.
A similar expansion at the HTW can be seen in its research activities. Both the research areas and the number of research projects have increased significantly. Research and development is for universities of applied sciences an activity that can’t be taken as a matter of course, because they do not receive the same basic government funding as the universities. The philosophy of the HTW, however, is that good teaching is inextricably linked to innovative research. Current methods and in-depth knowledge can best be taught if the instructors themselves keep at practise as researchers.
This is confirmed by our partners in business and institutions, who strongly emphasize the need of the industry and society for distinct application-oriented research and development work. In addition to the undoubtedly important basic research, a significant need for solutions for specific problems is documented. This could be specific questions about automation or technical quality monitoring in a company of engineering, or also the question of integration of young foreign citizens into sport clubs – to mention an example from the social sciences.
Universities of applied sciences are ideally suited for such questions because of the professional background of the professors.
After all, it is a central requirement for the selection of the academic staff that after their doctorate they must have worked for several years outside of academia and outside of the public service as well.
The vast majority of professors from HTW have worked in companies, often in development-related areas and therefore know from personal experience the entrepreneurial way of tackling problems pragmatically. From modest beginnings, an extensive research and development (R&D) landscape has grown in recent decades. In 2008, more than seven million euros in R&D-related external funding was earned at the HTW and its associated institutes. Measured by the public budget of the university, of (then) just under 15 million euros, the success of R&D at the HTW is obvious. Thereby one of the most important success factors is the intense cooperation with the companies.
HTW interns and graduates shorten the time lag between gaining knowledge at university and implementation of innovation at the companies.
The much quoted “technology transfer by the heads” brings HTW students in contact with business practices early on. The Cooperative Study program of the HTW, a parallel to the studies organized regular job of the students in companies whose work fields are in direct relation to the chosen field of studies has proven to be an ideal solution. Independent of federal financial aid (BAFöG) or side jobs, students can concentrate and carry out their studies quickly and find intensive contentual and personal contact with working life. For companies, broad opportunities not only through transfer of knowledge but also efficient staff recruitment are opened.
Short distances from university research into the business world are also secured by the membership of Saarland entrepreneurs in the Research Advisory Board of the HTW, which evaluates the research projects. Technology transfer for projects is provided by the research institutes and groups of the HTW – currently there are nearly 20, amongst others such distinctive institutes as the INFO Institute, IZES or FORGIS. Even the founding of most of the HTW institutes was promoted by companies and institutions which are involved in the HTW research. In 2006, in the framework of the second pact for technology transfer, ten new HTW institutes could be founded with the support of the state government. From the perspective of the HTW, the innovation strategy of Saarland contributes substantially to the optimization of knowledge transfer, most recently through the foundation of the joint Centers for Mechatronics and Automation technology (ZeMA) of the HTW and the Saarland University.
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Wolfgang Cornetz is rector of the University for Technology and Economy of Saarland and vice president of the German-French University Institute for Technology and Economy (DFHI/ISFATES). Cornetz studied economics at the RWTH Aachen and at Bremen University and among others did research work at Harvard University. From 1997 to 2000 he was rector at the Harz University.