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Summer, Sunshine, Seminar

By Marike Frick

An overview of German "Summer Universities".

Summer, sunshine, seminar© pertusinas - iStockphoto.com
In the USA they're commonplace: seminars during semester breaks, so-called summer schools. American students can earn credits there outside normal university schedules; students and even school pupils from Germany are also welcome. More and more universities in Germany are discovering the summer too; the courses are however mostly aimed at foreign students. But names like »Summer University« or »Summer Academy« may also designate offerings for Germans.

Summer Courses for Foreign Students

What are they? A kind of summer university with affiliated language courses. The seminars on, for example, management or political topics are usually held in English, and allow students from the USA, Russia or Italy to gain credits towards their degree courses while improving their German in the language course.

For example: The Freie Universität Berlin offers courses such as »Transatlantic Relations« or »German Exile Literature« at its Summer University. In addition to their courses, foreign participants visit the Reichstag or go ice skating, take trips to Dresden or Stralsund. The desired outcome: students discover that Germany is beautiful, and are thus inspired to take a semester or even a Master's program at a German university.

What do they cost? In Berlin, a six-week course costs 1,200 euros. Elsewhere, prices may be far below 1,000 euros or come to as much as 1,900 euros, for example at the Wiesbaden University of Applied Sciences.

Why are they attractive? Because they offer universities the opportunity to promote Germany as a whole and their university in particular as a place to study. »During their visit, we bring courses such as English-language Master's programs to the students' attention«, says Carola Ossenkopp of the Summer University Fulda. And Kristina Rödder of the FU Berlin explains: »We want to whet foreign students' appetites, so to speak. The threshold is fairly low here because our courses are mostly held in English. And the language courses show the students that German isn't so terrible after all.« By the way, German students are also welcome to join the FU Berlin's courses - and take in a little international ambience without leaving the country.

Summer Courses for German Students in Germany

What are they? Seminars at German universities, aimed predominantly at their own students.

For example: The University of Düsseldorf offers a five-day seminar on »The Bible in the Middle Ages«, and even leadership training. The Bingen University of Applied Sciences holds a summer school on the subject of »Climate Change« together with partner universities from Norway and France. These offerings are however still quite rare and often the result of initiatives taken by specific individual departments. More common are language courses during the lecture-free period - they are available at almost every university. At the Wiesbaden University of Applied Sciences you can also take courses such as »Networking« or »Confidently Managing Your Time«. However, it's up to the respective departments to decide whether key qualifications of this kind are rewarded in hard credits. Some summer schools aimed predominantly at foreign students, for example at the FU Berlin, are also open to Germans.

What do they cost? Language courses are often significantly cheaper than at private institutes. The fees for international summer schools are the same for German students as for guests from abroad - at the FU Berlin that would be 1,200 euros. »But paying that much money for courses is still considered unusual in Germany«, says Kristina Rödder of Berlin's FU. Some summer seminars may also be entirely free of charge if they have been set up by departments on their own initiative.

Why are they attractive? Because you can use the time between semesters to gain credits or do more in-depth work on a subject. Participating in an international summer school at one's own university also provides an opportunity to meet people from many different countries.

Summer Courses Abroad

What are they? Seminars at foreign universities that are also open to German students and sometimes even school pupils.

For example: The University of Helsinki offers students 16-day seminars such as »Russia-EU-Relations« or »History of Art and Architecture in Finland«. The seminar »(Re-)approaching the Americas« in Graz is a two-week look at the North and South American continents. In the USA, students can choose from hundreds of seminars on subjects such as politics, drama or biology every summer, for example at Harvard or Berkeley. These mostly four- to six-week summer unis are mainly intended for the universities' own students, but foreigners are also welcomed. Universities in Costa Rica or Thailand now also offer fee-paying summer tuition.

What do they cost? In Helsinki you pay a moderate 450 euros in registration and course fees; foreign students have to add another 300 to 500 euros for accommodation. In Graz, the fee for two weeks is 700 euros. Prices are somewhat higher in the USA: »Introduction to Economics« at Berkeley for example will set you back 1,160 dollars in course fees, plus a registration fee of 685 dollars and over 1,000 dollars for a place in the student dormitory.

Why are they attractive? Because they are miniature study periods abroad: for students who are unable or unwilling to leave their home country for a longer period of time, summer schools constitute an alternative to a semester abroad. This also applies to students who feel that their Bachelor degree course does not allow for a lengthy stay in a different country. Participants gain credits and improve their language skills at the same time. A summer school in the USA may also be of interest for German school pupils soon to complete their school-leaving certificate: anyone over 18 years of age is eligible to participate.

Summer Taster Unis for School Pupils

What are they? Lectures and seminars, especially in technical and science subjects, intended to interest more pupils in these degree courses and combat reservations.

For example: In Berlin, school pupils from years 10 to 13 take science lectures. Wuppertal offers a similar program aimed specifically at interested girls. »Because young women are often afraid to approach these subjects or have even had negative experiences in school«, says Susanne Achterberg, who manages the project.

What do they cost? For the pupils: nothing.

Why are they attractive? It is important to universities to arouse the interest of female school pupils in order to attract more women to scientific and technical degree courses. Generally, the courses are of course a good opportunity for boys and girls alike to become acquainted with the natural sciences outside physics or biology classes, and may make it easier for them to choose corresponding degree courses.

From DIE ZEIT :: 12/03/2009