Multidimensional learning: Cooperative State University
The Cooperative State University Baden-Württemberg combines theoretical academic instruction with practical experience in some of the state’s leading companies. For international students, the experience also includes immersive cultural and language learning.
Six years ago, Francis Goh, a young man from Singapore, had to make a difficult choice. He had received two offers from different universities: One in Singapore and one from the Cooperative State University Baden-Württemberg. He asked a mentor for advice. His answer: “Do what scares you the most.”
„I understood immediately what he meant,“ says Francis Goh. „We humans can overcome obstacles and grow in difficult circumstances,“ he explains. So, he chose to start his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering/mechatronics at the Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg, as the Cooperative State University is known in German.
PolygoesUAS opened doors for students from Singapore
Francis Goh was one of a group of about 30 students who participated in the PolygoesUAS program since its inception in 2016. The program gives polytechnic students from Singapore the opportunity to study for their bachelor’s degree in Baden-Württemberg while gaining valuable work experience. The students receive a stipend and in-depth German language instruction to prepare them for their stay.
The students are typically selected by small to medium-sized German engineering companies that have subsidiaries or branches in Singapore. The goal is to have highly skilled and well-educated people who can bridge both cultures and understand both markets.
After 6-10 months of language instruction at the Goethe Institute, the students from Singapore arrive in Mannheim to receive further instruction to prepare for their studies and the work life at a German company. As the PolygoesUAS program is currently being restructured, it is on hold. A restart date was not known at the time of publication of this article.
A partnership between the university and the participating companies
The Cooperative State University combines academic instruction with practical work experience. To graduate with a bachelor’s degree, the students attend lectures for three months and then apply their knowledge in the real world during the three practical months. The rotation continues for three years until the end of the studies. “Being part of the dual studies program basically means being brought into a partnership between a company and the university,” says Francis Goh.
Students need to have a contract with a company before they can enroll at the Cooperative State University. „The idea of combining theoretical knowledge and practical experience was really attractive,“ says Francis Goh who studied precision engineering in Singapore before coming to Stuttgart. „Germany is known to be a world leader in engineering,“ he cites as additional motivation to move to Stuttgart.
However, living in a different country on a different continent with a different language and culture is quite demanding. “Studying at the Cooperative State University has been really unique,” says Francis Goh who now works as a development engineer at Festo in Stuttgart. “But the beginning was hard. German was still a foreign language to me and many people at the university and at work speak dialect rather than standard German.” But he persevered: “I moved to Germany six years ago and haven’t regretted it since.” Quite the contrary. Francis Goh who used to be shy has made friends all over Germany and Europe and enjoys his professional and social life in his new home.
Theoretical knowledge and practical implementation for superb skillsets
He appreciates how the combination of theory and practice at the Cooperative State University has prepared him for his current job and further career opportunities. “We can use the theoretical knowledge immediately in the real world and see how it applies,” he says. Francis Goh also likes the fact that he not only learned from the professors at the university, but also from his colleagues at work. “Everybody was really helpful, open and friendly,” he says. Because his managers know what he has learnt at the Cooperative State University and which departments he has worked in at Festo, they can give him tasks that match his experience. He also enjoys the work culture: “People are very open and never afraid to speak up.”
Francis Goh was selected by the German engineering company Festo to study at the Cooperative State University Baden-Württemberg. After he graduated two years ago with his bachelor’s degree, he was offered a contract. For him, being sponsored by Festo was “game changer”. He was already familiar with Festo from his studies at the polytechnic and knew that the company had a whole department dedicated to education and knowledge transfer. That gave him the necessary confidence to take up this opportunity.
For Francis Goh, his studies at the Cooperative State University and his work at Festo have started him on a promising career path. “For the future, I intend to hone my skills in development before moving to a different department,” he says. “I would like to have a better understanding of the whole organization and maybe one day be part of the decision-making process.” Academically, he would also like to grow and develop further: “If the opportunity arose, I would really like to further my studies and take up a master’s,” he says.
Author: Siri Schubert