A story of and about personalities and visions

Chapter 1 (1997 - 2013) by Wolfgang Bauhofer


The story of the NIT's origins began in 1997 with initial considerations to establish a private, tightly organized campus university alongside the TUHH, primarily for foreign students. President Hauke Trinks formulated the motive for this: "We must bring the world to us!" The plans were soon modified so that the newly introduced English-language Master's degree courses would represent the engineering education and an attractive overall package would be put together with an additional non-technical range of courses. The increased international networking of medium-sized and small industrial companies had increasingly led to the realization that a successful engineer should be familiar with economic factors in a global environment in addition to profound specialist knowledge. The industry's need for such globally trained engineers, who complement their foreign background with further studies in Germany, made private funding appear possible. The original working title International Campus University (ICU) for the planned institution was soon changed to Northern Institute of Technology (NIT). The phonetic proximity to the famous MIT was consciously accepted.

These ideas were not only met with a positive response from Hamburg's politicians. For this reason, the concept development was driven forward by a handful of TUHH employees, the legendary Task Force, in the form of a part-time job. The ZEIT Foundation provided the funds for this with a generous donation. In mid-1998, the task force presented an interim report of almost 60 pages, which came very close to the final concept of the NIT: 

The aim of the Northern Institute of Technology as an international campus university is to offer Master's degree courses in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and process engineering in a network between the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg and this international study college as a first step for

  • outstanding students from Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe
  • combined with study-related industrial internships
  • and an accompanying study of the language, culture, economy and politics of Germany and Europe
  • with internationally compatible degrees
  • and a credit point system

By linking the English-language Master's degree programs of the Hamburg University of Technology with the additional offer of the Studienkolleg, divided into four study quarters, a maximum of combination of the excellent university offer of the TUHH with the special offer of a Studienkolleg is achieved On the one hand, German and foreign students are offered joint studies in the Master's degree programs of the Hamburg University of Technology and, on the other hand, the separate program tailored to the needs of foreign students through the Studienkolleg.

So the solution is: Enrol foreign students at Hamburg University of Technology in the English-language Master's degree courses already established and at the same time admit them as members of the international preparatory college Northern Institute of Technology to be founded as an international campus university.



The next steps followed quickly. First of all, a support association was established to found NITHH GmbH, consisting of over 30 TUHH professors. Each member contributed DM 2,000 to the share capital of the non-profit limited company by paying an admission fee. This out-of-pocket financing would later prove to be an invaluable advantage in the acquisition of industrial grants. On December 2, 1998, the supervisory board of NITHH GmbH was constituted and appointed Hauke Trinks as founding president and Jörg Dräger as full-time managing director (CEO). The development work could begin. Many people contributed to the creation of the NIT. These contributions ranged from full support to non-prevention. In the author's opinion, the achievements of four individuals deserve special recognition in this context. First and foremost, Hauke Trinks must be mentioned. He had the idea and, with his unique enthusiasm, was able to win over professors from the TUHH, Hamburg politicians and influential business leaders for the NIT project. One of these captains of industry was the then CEO of Körber AG, Dr. Eberhard Reuther, who was enthusiastic about the idea of the Global Engineer and convinced the Körber Foundation to get involved in financing the NIT building. Krista Sager played an important role in the birth of the NIT, stemming the political headwinds as Senator for Science. Her willingness to join the NIT supervisory board was a courageous decision.

In the end, the appointment of Jörg Dräger as the first CEO of the NIT proved to be an absolute stroke of luck. After several years as a management consultant, Dräger had the irrepressible desire to get something off the ground himself. The author, who succeeded Trinks as NIT President in April 1999, experienced Dräger's phenomenal drive first-hand: What was discussed that evening was already implemented the next morning. The key issues were: Developing the curriculum, engaging lecturers, organizing marketing, acquiring sponsors and selecting suitable students for the demanding double degree course. 

In the course of 1999, a real construction site was added, that of the future NIT building. at the political level, the foundation of the NIT had been finalized with the provision of the city-owned property through the Senate's communication to the Bürgerschaft in printed matter 16/2261 in March 1999. the foundation stone for the building was laid on August 24, 1999. in November 2000, after only 15 months of construction, the NIT building could be occupied.

In all areas, Jörg Dräger was the source of ideas on the one hand, but also played a key role in their implementation on the other. He created the first NIT homepage himself, probably in a single night shift. The curriculum was organized in eight quarters and was based on the task force's proposal, which did not provide for a state-recognized degree. According to the proposal, training at the NIT was to supplement engineering studies in the fields of business administration, economics, law, economic and social policy, culture, history and German. Apart from the German lessons, which were initially taught by the IBH and taken over by the Goethe-Institut after two years, English is the language of instruction. The cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, which operates worldwide, has proven to be particularly valuable to date. When recruiting lecturers in economics, Jörg Dräger was able to draw on the academic environment of the management consultancy Roland Berger, while the subject of law was covered by cooperation with an international law firm. Prof. Dr. Margarete Jarchow, who heads an institute of the same name at the TUHH, was responsible for the humanities. The biggest problem turned out to be the short-term recruitment of suitable students for the first cohort. It took some convincing to win over around 25 "high potentials", who naturally had many options open to them, as pioneers for the newly conceived double degree course.

In August 1999, this group started their NIT studies as "Class 01" with an intensive German course lasting several weeks. A coincidental but fortunate circumstance is that since then the class number has coincided with the graduation year (e.g. graduation class 13 in 2013). While the first two classes were reserved exclusively for foreign students, over the years the NIT program was increasingly opened up to German students, which was also facilitated by the switch from the Diplom to the Bachelor-Master system. Today, around a third of each year group is of German origin. The least of the problems in the early days of the NIT was, it is hard to believe today, the acquisition of sponsors. PPP, i.e. public-private partnership, was "in" and many companies wanted to participate in this innovative training concept for engineers.

However, DM 80,000 did not seem too much for a scholarship without the scholarship holder being tied to the sponsor. The recalculation of the value of the NIT training carried out a few years later resulted in 27,000 euros, a price that has now remained unchanged for over ten years. In particular, the economic and financial crisis from 2007 onwards had a negative impact on the willingness of businesses to donate, although Heike Bläsig has been working with great dedication as a fundraiser for the NIT since this time. The decline in donations was partly compensated for by the commitment of foundations (Claussen-Simon, Nordmetall, Joachim Herz) and self-payers. From the very beginning, the Industry Advisory Board, which meets several times a year, has been an important link between NIT and its sponsors. Dr. Rüdiger Grube, then Daimler, now DB, was an extraordinarily valuable chairman of this committee. The idea of the NIT Dialogue, a very successful event with outstanding participants from politics, business and science, also goes back to Grube.


The fall of 2001 was important and memorable for the NIT for several reasons. Firstly, there was the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, in which TUHH students were also directly involved. From today's perspective, it can be said that neither the TUHH nor the NIT were permanently damaged by these events.

On October 12, the graduates of Class 01 celebrated the completion of their two-year double degree program at TUHH and NIT in the Kaisersaal of Hamburg City Hall. Following the parliamentary elections in September, Jörg Dräger was appointed Senator for Science and Research of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg on October 31 as a non-party member. This was a great personal success for Dräger, but a painful loss for the NIT. This was all the more so as it was not possible to find a similarly suitable successor for some time, and it was only with the appointment of Dr. Christoph Jermann as full-time Managing Director that this gap was filled. Jermann also joined the NIT in 2001 as program manager. With a doctorate in philosophy, he brought with him a new and important skill. Responsible, ethically impeccable conduct has always been an outstanding educational goal of the NIT. Together with Gunter Menge, a qualified teacher with experience abroad, who was responsible for all student matters almost from the outset, and the author, Jermann formed a reliable team that guaranteed stable conditions at and around the NIT. In December 2001, there was another significant event for the NIT, namely its participation in an evaluation of private higher education institutions by a commission of experts from the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft. The remarkably good assessment was seen as a great recognition of the development work carried out so far.

The curriculum of the degree program at the NIT was developed further at regular intervals. The first major need for reform arose from the understandable desire of the first-year students to be rewarded for their efforts with a recognized degree. This was only possible by increasing the proportion of economics subjects to over 50%. The proportion of humanities subjects had to be reduced accordingly. However, ethics and German remained the cornerstones of the program. In 2002, the title "Master in Global Engineering" was awarded for the first time, which was then changed to "MBA in Technology Management" in the course of accreditation. Since then, the slogan "Two Masters in two years" has been used to advertise the program. In further reform steps, the controversial presentation of the propositions was replaced by a Master's thesis, the MBA degree was linked to at least two years of professional experience, and finally the new focus on entrepreneurship was introduced. The public image of the NIT has been significantly improved in recent years thanks to the professional work of Daphna Horwitz, but there is still room for improvement. Over the years, several attempts have been made to increase the visibility of the NIT by expanding its range of services. Even in Dräger's time, cooperation with the media industry failed due to the dotcom bubble. 

An Executive MBA in cooperation with the Norwegian Business School BI Oslo did not meet with sufficient demand, nor did an offer for doctoral students in STEM subjects in Hamburg. In contrast, the NIT's core business of management training for Master's students in engineering proved to be extremely robust. Other private-sector companions had long since had to give up or were only able to survive thanks to substantial financial injections. The attempt to export the NIT model to China currently appears extremely promising. Since the first visit of an NIT delegation to Nanjing University for Astronautics and Aeronautics (NUM) in 2005, an increasingly close partnership has developed, which is now set to culminate in the joint NIT China project.

Now that the not uncritical approvals from the Chinese supervisory authorities have been obtained, studies can begin in the fall of 2013. Good luck!

In addition to a number of promising professional careers for graduates, NIT teams have been able to successfully assert themselves against strong competition in national and international competitions on several occasions. These include the "Case Challenge" at the Leipzig Graduate School of Management, the virtual marketing simulation game Marga lndustry, the "mai Bangkok Business Challenge" and finally the world's largest business plan competition, the "Rice Business Plan Competition" in Houston, Texas.

One of NIT's particular concerns has always been to achieve the most lasting bond possible between graduates. On November 23, 2002, the NIT alumni association was founded under the name "NIT Alumni Network". Since 2006, a Horne Coming Weekend has been held regularly, in recent years together with a celebratory ball. Friendships are strengthened and experiences exchanged. The NIT alumni community has now grown to an impressive number of almost 400. Successful graduates are living proof of the success of the NIT concept.

After a long period of stability, the personnel carousel in the management of the NIT has been turning again since 2012. First, Dr. Gottfried von Bismarck (formerly Körber AG) handed over the chairmanship of the supervisory board to Dr. Bernd Drouven (formerly Aurubis AG) after many years of service. The next change followed in the presidency; after thirteen years, the author was replaced by Prof. Dr.-lng. Otto von Estorff for reasons of age. Finally, Dr. Jermann will leave the NIT in September 2013 to seek a new challenge as managing director of a private medical school in Hamburg.

What do we hope for in terms of further development? The new management team will bring in new ideas and, with the accompanying spirit of optimism, will shape the future of the NIT successfully.

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