The academic head Prof. Dr. Sarshar explains the focus and the special features of the dual undergraduate degree programme in Business Informatics.
Dual Bachelor's programme at the interface between business studies and IT
With a comparatively large share of practice-based content for a business informatics degree, the study programme is geared to activities on the interface between traditional business functions on the one hand and IT on the other. While all important aspects of business (finance, marketing, accounting, economics, human resources …) will be dealt with in the business administration part of the programme, the business informatics part will focus on software (design, programming, software engineering and project management). Other central areas of informatics, for example database systems, will round off the course schedule. Students can use electives to specialise either in business administration or in business informatics.
The dual programme integrates phases of theory at the university (on average 32 weeks a year) and practical phases of training in their training company (on average 20 weeks a year).
Students acquire an in-depth knowledge of informatics in combination with a wide range of business knowledge. In the first two years of study, students will be taught the fundamentals in the core business subjects and introduced to the basics of informatics and programming. They will complete several independent programming projects alongside their studies. Methodology modules, business English and law will complete the course schedule. In the second year of study, the share of informatics modules will increase. The third year of study features extensive elective options (required electives).
The dual business programme at HSBA opens up excellent career opportunities. Due to the practical training in the company flanking the theoretical degree courses, more than 90% of our students receive a job offer for the next career step immediately after completing their studies. Whether in human resources management, controlling, marketing, sales, auditing or as a data scientist - with a dual study programme at HSBA, a career in the upper management of nationally and internationally operating companies is virtually guaranteed.
Sören Spiegel successfully completed his dual BSc degree in Business Informatics at HSBA in 2019 and has since been working as a Data Scientist at his training company Ipsos, an international market research company. He was one of the first to write a final thesis on Artificial Intelligence - with great success. His work on the use of artificial neural networks for the text classification of open responses in questionnaires has already been tested in a customer project.
Dear Sören, after your graduation in 2019 you continued working at your partner company Ipsos, currently as a data scientist. What exactly does this imply? What do you actually do as a data scientist?
As a data scientist, it is my job to generate helpful information for our customers from a wide variety of data. The projects have a very wide range of different activities. For example, I am working on a project in which we develop a model for our customer that analyses the buying behaviour of buyers and determines a jump-off probability for each customer. The model thus provides a forecast of how likely it is that the buyer will remain loyal to the company or switch to another supplier. Based on this, our client takes marketing measures to keep the "at risk" buyers loyal.
For another project we developed an application that determines and graphically displays the follower relationships of influencers on Twitter, that are of interest to our customers. This means that we can determine which influencers share how many followers. In this way, our customers can see how their information is spread within the network and which target groups they actually reach.
Even though the two projects are very different, they do have some things in common that hardly any project in data science can do without: the acquisition, processing, analysis of data and the preparation of results.
Did you feel well prepared by your study programme and fit for the new job?
Already within the first semester you get a glimpse of the real working world and - in the course of the dual study programme - you get to know it better and better due to the many practical phases. That's why the leap from Bachelor’s degree to full-time employment is not a big one. We also had a number of useful seminars which also helped to smooth the way into the working world.
The Business Informatics programme prepared me for my current job in that I mastered the basics of IT and programming. I soon realised that it is a very solid basis for acquiring new knowledge and skills easily. For example, I did not have a lecture on the programming language that I now work with every day, but it was very easy to master thanks to the programming skills I learned at HSBA.
In addition to computer science, of course, the BI programme provided us with the basics of business administration and project management. This is absolutely relevant as we often have an advisory function for our customers and need to be able to fully understand the business goals of every customer’s project. Thus together we can find a suitable solution for the problems. Quite a few of our projects result from a joint workshop.
You wrote your thesis on the use of artificial neural networks for the text classification of questionnaires. How did you come up with this topic?
I chose the elective subject Artificial Intelligence with Prof. Dr. Sönke Hartmann in the 5th semester and discovered my interest in the subject area through the lecture and a final project. Afterwards I felt confident that I should also write my Bachelor's thesis on Artificial Intelligence. Therefore I started looking for possible applications in different departments at Ipsos until I found a team that was looking for a method to get more and above all more specific information from open comments in questionnaires. That’s how we came up with the idea of a targeted request for a customer comment in real time and with my bachelor thesis I contributed basic research on the analysis of customer comments with artificial neural networks. And still this is an important basis for my work at Ipsos: the practical application of the method I developed has already been tested in various customer projects.
How did you feel about working with the professors and lecturers at HSBA?
Due to the very manageable study groups - we were less than 20 fellow students - we usually worked in close cooperation with our professors. Questions could be asked at any time during the lecture and tasks were often discussed together and explained repeatedly if necessary. Most professors and lecturers offered support even beyond office hours in case students needed clarification on projects or teaching materials. I particularly appreciated the good cooperation during my Bachelor's thesis. My professor advised me while I was still choosing the topic and he was always available to discuss any problems that arose during my Bachelor's thesis.
What are the theoretical phases like at HSBA? How would you describe the learning atmosphere and the collaboration with fellow students?
The overall learning atmosphere was very pleasant and productive as enquiries and any kind of questions could be answered quickly. Numerous group activities also strengthened the collaboration among students and we paired up in several study groups before the exams. Thus, a number of friendships developed, and we even got to know some of the professors more profoundly over a hot punch at the Christmas market. Altogether it was very interesting and helpful to see what kind of difficult situations the other students were confronted with at work and how they could be mastered using the acquired skills and knowledge.
Do you need to have previous knowledge of informatics and perhaps even be able to programme?
In no case do you need any previous knowledge. Sure, the programming modules are a little easier to start with if you have programming experience, but the courses are designed in such a way that no previous knowledge is required. In my class only very few already had solid programming skills and we all got through the modules successfully.
All in all - what would you say are the most important cross-cutting competences you have acquired during your studies?
Very valuable competences that I could deepen throughout my studies are, for example, the ability to work in a team, i.e. to work constructively in groups, and the ability to impart self-acquired specialist knowledge to others. This is particularly important in customer contact, as it is vital to involve the customer by explaining the hows and whys in a simple and understandable way. Apart from that we had some really interesting seminars where we analysed our own learning behaviour and developed measures to optimise it.
What is your assessment here: For whom is the Business Information Systems degree programme particularly well suited as opposed to the Business Administration degree programme?
I think that the Business Informatics programme is interesting for all those who are interested in digital transformation and would like to help shape it in the future, whether on the development or management side. The programme combines the basics of business studies with the exciting and future-oriented knowledge of the digital economy. With a subsequent Master's degree, it is still possible to specialise in both directions.
With the study programme Business Informatics, I have chosen a future-proof course of study that optimally reflects the inseparable interdependence of business and IT. The course is not only in demand on the job market, but also offers me the opportunity to work in exciting and varied professions in a wide variety of companies.
At EY I advise both CEOs and CIOs of internationally operating top companies in order to prepare them safely and flexibly for the challenges of the future. With my degree in BI from HSBA, I have the ideal prerequisites to make companies fit for the future.
Because I believe businesses and information technology will shape my future, your future, our future.
The dual study programme at HSBA was the ideal basis to continue my career in one of the big four auditing companies. The university has a very dynamic character and I am happy to have been a part of it – three very significant years.
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About 30% of HSBA's Bachelor students spend time abroad during their studies (mostly short-stay at Summer Schools or as an exchange student with one of our partner universities). In the third year of studies of the dual programmes, students can go on an international study trip. Furthermore, HSBA attaches great importance to the international character of its content, offering a wide range of seminars held in English. Fore more information, please see here.
Anyone interested in taking a dual Bachelor programme should normally start looking for a training company at least one year before they intend to start their studies. The application to the company should include all the usual documents, such as school and examination qualifications and CV. The company then sends the study contract together with the necessary documents to HSBA, which checks whether the criteria for admission are fulfilled, and if so accepts the applicant.