Campus - 05.04.2017 - 00:00 

New business IT degree programme at the HSG?

With a new degree programme that combines IT and management, the University of St.Gallen (HSG) could create an attractive offer for the digital age. This has been revealed by the results of a feasibility study.

6 April 2017. "Program or Be Programmed!" With these drastic words, the author Douglas Rushkoff has pointed out that digitalisation is taking place both in the economy and in society. This calls for increasingly more competencies from all of us to ensure that Switzerland will be able to continue to safeguard its prosperity through innovation and a competitive economy in the future. Appropriate educational programmes are the key required to counteract the shortage of experts that is already palpable today.

Degree course focus on IT feasible and sensible

It is against this background that the St.Gallen-Appenzell Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) commissioned the HSG to conduct a concept and feasibility study in November 2015. This study was intended to clarify whether the establishment of a new degree programme focus on IT would be possible and make sense. The results are now available, and they are unequivocal: a degree course focusing on a combination of IT and management is feasible and sensible.

The authors of the study, Professors Walter Brenner and Jan Marco Leimeister, as well as Dr. Jochen Müller, have described three possible directions of such a degree programme. In the variant that they favour, they propose the introduction of both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree programme. In order to save time, the Master’s programme would be started first and would be open to graduates with suitable degrees from other universities. A short time afterwards, the undergraduate programme would also be launched. Once up and running, the degree programme would accommodate approx. 100 undergraduates and about 50 students at the Master’s level. If the Master’s degree programme could be started in autumn 2019, the first Master graduates would enter the labour market in 2022, the first Bachelor graduates in 2024.

Business IT degree programme with a technical bent

The authors recommend a business IT degree programme with a technical bent. The first third of the curriculum would consist of the fundamentals from the core subjects of IT (software engineering, programming, working with databases). The second third would focus on the core issues of business IT (design theory, product development) and questions of digitalisation. The third third would home in on economic sciences (business administration, economics, mathematics, law), which means that today’s strong points of the HSG could also be brought to bear on the programme.

A degree programme of this kind would require about eight professorships to ensure that the new topics could be covered in teaching and research. The authors assume that start-up funding would be required for a period of eight years, which would be tantamount to an overall investment of a maximum of 30 million francs. After these eight years, the degree programme should be largely self-funding, on the basis of other cantons’ contributions to the costs of their students’ education, as well as tuition fees, among other things.

The region and the economy would profit

The authors are convinced that the region and the economy would profit from such a degree programme, either through well-educated graduates, new research foci which might prove to be engines of innovation and start-ups, a wide variety of possible cooperation ventures with regional companies, and a reinforcement of the region as an IT location.

The spiritus rector of the feasibility study, the St.Gallen-Appenzell Chamber of Industry and Commerce, welcomes the positive result of the study and these future prospects. Dr. Kurt Weigelt, Director of the IHK says: "We’re pleased with the well-founded research and its results, and we expect a degree programme with a focus on IT to make an important contribution towards the alleviation of the shortage of experts. This will strengthen Eastern Switzerland’s economy and its innovative power. We hope that politics will now quickly take the next steps to ensure that the HSG is able to start the development of the programme." Also, the IHK is of course still prepared to support the degree programme through its know-how and its business network.

Digitalisation is not a passing phenomenon

"Digitalisation is not a passing phenomenon. It will have a great impact on society and on the economy," says Prof. Dr. Thomas Bieger, President of the University of St.Gallen. "To seize the opportunity for this development, however, we need appropriate educational measures. A degree programme focusing on IT would create clear synergies with the HSG’s profile as a business university. Also, it will be able to make a contribution to the reinforcement of St.Gallen as a business centre and an IT cluster." The HSG will be pleased to work on the concrete development of such a degree programme but will now have to be commissioned to do so and be allocated the necessary funds through the political process.

A digital version of the feasibility study can be ordered from the IHK office.

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