The meeting of SAP University Alliances took place on September 11 and 12 at SAP headquarters in Walldorf and St. Leon-Rot. In addition to 300 university professors and lecturers from all over the world, the South African secretary of education Naledi Pandor and the minister of research and science of the German state of Baden-Württemberg Professor Peter Frankenberg were present and took the opportunity to learn about the latest topics in research and education.
In his opening speech, SAP cofounder and Supervisory Board chairperson Professor Hasso Plattner emphasized the importance of good educational institutions for a successful future. “If we want to maintain the level we enjoy today, we have to accelerate the speed of innovation.” He sees the greatest challenge in laying the right foundations: “As long as we can stay on top, we might be a good member of this global economy. And a prerequisite for this is education.”
Education as an investment
During the two-day event, the participants discussed how the concept of education as an investment for the future could be improved. Pandor is patron of the SAP University Alliance program in Africa. She emphasized the problem of the insufficient technical infrastructure in many African universities. There is also a great shortage of highly trained experts needed to keep up with economic growth. The universities, and with them SAP University Alliances, are playing a central role in solving this problem. “The program opens a window for growth and development in Africa.”
Companies are desperately looking for the next generation of IT specialists in other countries, too. In cooperation with SAP, universities worldwide are trying to use the SAP University Alliances program to meet the increasing need for graduates with a practical background. Knowledge of IT alone is no longer sufficient: Graduates also need a profound understanding of business processes because business and IT belong together.
New challenges for universities
SAP University Alliances
With this program, SAP supports practice-based training by giving teachers, lecturers, and students worldwide access to the latest SAP technologies. SAP University Alliances is directed at universities and vocational schools that want to actively integrate SAP software into their teaching of process-oriented business and computer science. More than 700 educational institutions in research and education are involved in the program, benefiting over 150,000 students around the globe.
The challenge of designing a practice-based curriculum lies in this combination. The meeting enabled the universities to swap experiences of different curricula. Professor Lisa Seymour from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, for example, hit the nerve of the economy: “Afterwards, many alumni write me how much they have benefited from my lecturers in their professional lives.” Seymour’s courses have contributed to their professional success. She is now passing on her experience to colleagues all over the world.
Combining process understanding with IT knowledge is not an easy job for universities or students. Professor Helmut Krcmar, head of the University Competence Center at the Technical University of Munich, Germany, pointed out that the ideas and expectations of students often deviate considerably from the actual study program. Good initial information and careful selection of students is therefore important to prevent frustration and a high dropout rate. Only in this way can universities satisfy the increasing demand on the labor market.