24. September 2021 | Magazine:

Multilingual study programmes as part of the internationalisation process Two new programmes start in the winter semester 2021/22

Those who have taken a close look may have noticed two new names in the range of study programmes offered by the Technische Universität Braunschweig in the winter semester 2021/22: “Data Science” and “Sustainable Engineering of Products and Processes” will start in a few weeks. The new study programmes have one thing in common: They both have a strong international orientation and offer its students the opportunity to study part of their degree programme or all of it in English. At TU Braunschweig this concept was previously only available in the Master’s programme “Computational Sciences in Engineering” (CSE). Reason enough to take a look behind the scenes of the development of multilingual degree programmes and talk to those responsible about the orientation and goals of the programmes.

International teaching prepares students and researchers for a global labour and research market. Photo: Marek Kruszewski /TU Braunschweig

In the sense of global education and learning, it is a declared aim of TU Braunschweig to prepare its students in the best possible way for the international job market. This includes a good education in English as the international scientific language. In addition, TU Braunschweig is a popular destination for many international students who would like to spend either part or all of their studies abroad. International and intercultural qualification measures have therefore long been an integral part of everyday university life.

With the Master’s programme “Computational Sciences in Engineering”, a bilingual and strongly internationally oriented course was already created in 1999. Four faculties are involved in the programme – the Carl Friedrich Gauß Faculty, the Faculty of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Environmental Sciences, the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Information Technology and Physics. “Our concept was very innovative at the time – an international and bilingual programme with an interdisciplinary approach,” says Annika Kleinwächter, programme coordinator of the CSE programme. “Our students benefit from a wide range of classes. During their first year, classes are taught in English, which gives especially international students an easy access to the programme. Internationals have time until the end of their first academic year, to achieve sufficient German language skills.”

For more than eight years, the programme has been running at full capacity and there are more applications than study places. According to Kleinwächter, the family-like atmosphere within the programme and the intensive mentoring programme, in which students meet regularly with their professors, also play a major role. All this leads to many alumni recommending TU Braunschweig and students from all over the world come together in the CSE programme. The special concept of CSE is also popular with the teachers. “International students have to get to know the German university system first; they are used to different types of exams, for example. Our teachers have to take this into account and give out test exams. But we get feedback that the teaching gains in diversity due to the different perspectives”, Kleinwächter adds.

Bilingual, German or English – a well thought-out concept is essential

With the Master’s degree programme Data Science, the only completely English-language degree programme with an international target group is starting at TU Braunschweig in the winter semester. Professor Ina Schäfer was one of the initiators of the new programme: “In our subject area, we communicate mainly in English – also in the job market. We want to prepare our students for this and at the same time attract international talents to TU Braunschweig. That’s why the decision for a purely English-language degree programme was made quickly.” Schäfer also sees a great advantage for teachers: “International staff can be better integrated and also involved in teaching. This ensures more diversity at our university.”

Annabell Körner from TU Braunschweig’s Project House (Projekthaus) also approves the study programmes’ different approaches to their language concept. She advises and supports members of TU Braunschweig in the development of English-language degree programmes and recommends: “It is important to think about the target group for which the degree programme is being developed from the very beginning: What does it look like? And what does this target group will need later on in the labour market?” The goal here, she says, is to create offers that would not displace German as the language of science, but to develop complementary study programmes in areas where it makes particular sense to offer them bilingually or exclusively in English.

International and sustainable – two important topics in focus

The initiators of the Bachelor’s degree programme “Sustainable Engineering of Products and Processes” – or “SEPP” for short – also gave a lot of preliminary thought to their concept: The idea of making the topic of sustainability more visible in engineering was born in a workshop among teachers. The bilingual and international dimension was quickly added in the subsequently founded working group, because issues such as climate change or resource scarcity can only be addressed with a global holistic approach. Engineering students at TU Braunschweig can now acquire the necessary qualifications to do this. As with the CSE degree programme, the bilingual language concept is intended to appeal to both international and German prospective students and prepare them for their professional life in a globalised working world.

Professor Georg Garnweitner, head of the working group for the conception and introduction of the SEPP degree programme, explains: “The new SEPP degree programme offers the possibility of taking almost all courses in the first four semesters in German or English, depending on preference – this lowers the entry barriers for both German-speaking and international students. Especially in the first semester, many lectures are held double, while in higher semesters we provide electronic content in the “second language”, as tested during the Covid pandemic. In exercises and tutorials, there are always groups in both languages. Students can also choose one of three specialisations from the 3rd semester onwards, giving them a wide range of options for shaping their studies individually.”

To support their international students in the best possible way and to make their integration easier, all three degree programmes offer special support formats in cooperation with the International House. Offerings like tutorial programmes, orientation events and language tandem programmes ensure a good start to studying and living in Braunschweig.

Symposium for International Teaching in November

The number of applications for all three degree programmes indicates that the concepts are well received by prospective students. It is also a sign that TU Braunschweig can use multilingual teaching opportunities to strengthen its attractiveness as a place to study. “We currently see a lot of development in this field at TU Braunschweig. We receive many enquiries from teachers who would like to learn more about the topic of multilingual teaching. Some of them already have concrete ideas – we are very pleased about this situation,” says Annabell Körner.

On 18 and 19 November 2021, the Project House at TU Braunschweig organises a symposium for international teaching. It offers the opportunity to exchange and discuss ideas, experiences and best practices in the field of international teaching. Furthermore, it aims to encourage networking between teachers and students within TU Braunschweig and with other universities. The event is open to all interested guests and is intended to bring more awareness to the topic of multilingualism at TU Braunschweig.

Text: Henrike Hoy / International House