Macquarie has an amazing Staff exchange program for professional staff and I was lucky enough to be part of it. In October, last year I went to Germany for 2 weeks, spending my time between 2 universities – Hamburg University and Georg August University at Gottingen.
Needless to say, Germany was great (except for the food, if I may add, but that’s a whole different story.). It allowed me to see how similar (and different!) the education systems were, what priorities were focussed on, and overall, learn more about it. Rather than focussing on individual programs, I thought it might be interesting to contrast the German and Australian university systems.
Tuition fees: Before I left for the exchange, I remember being told that German Universities don’t charge tuition fees of their students. I had thought it was an interesting fact but really didn’t give it as much importance as I should have. I quickly stood corrected when I went there and noticed the knock-on effects of this.
- Infrastructure: a lot of German universities suffer from a lack of infrastructure as the government funds are stretched thin. Several of the people I met at both universities hinted at the fact that teaching quality is often compromised because of lack of funds. This was also especially visible when it came to the digitalisation of the education. Much like infrastructure, digital solutions are not something that can be afforded by German universities because of the lack of funds. With a greater focus on research, learning and teaching often takes the second priority. On that note, I think we can we all pat ourselves on our backs for a job well done! It is important to note that Macquarie’s teaching quality and student engagement initiatives are superior – something we should pride ourselves on.
- Co-operation amongst universities: Australian universities have a marked competition between them as everyone jostles for the same students. However as the students are non-fee-paying in the German system, the universities lose their competitiveness and indeed are very co-operative. Hamburg, for instance, has open access education and this is all done through a single platform for the entire city. Imagine that!
Student agency: The student body at German universities is very active and engaged. I sat through a day of orientation for a Master’s program – and most of the day was led by students. They do an incredible job of bringing the students together, organising social as well as academic events and overall, leading the incoming students to success at the university. PIASTA, that you’ve heard about, for instance, is a great example of some of the work they do. Similarly, at Gottingen University, I met with the students – two brilliant students who juggle seamlessly their studies as well as the considerable responsibility of being student leaders. And what is it that drives them? “I just want to make things better for the next batch of students.” #micdrop
Overall, spending a couple of weeks at a different university is a very good way of broadening horizons and kickstarting ideas. I know it has for me. Not to mention the benefits of experiencing a different culture, the injection of ideas as you have diverse conversations, listening to interesting legends, and making new acquaintances and drinking new drinks.
Hat tip to Macquarie International for organising this. Make sure you apply for the next round!