Cara Skikne

IU: Rethinking higher education to extend access


IU International University of Applied Sciences has grown from 23 enrolled students in 2000/2001 to over 85,000 enrolled students, making it the largest university in Germany. IU offers over 200 degree programmes with various study models, such as distance learning and on-campus programmes. IU has revolutionized access to affordable education through constant innovation. Studyportals spoke to Prof. Dr. Florian Hummel, Prorector International at IU about rethinking higher education, and about what differentiates IU from other universities.

Extending access through affordable degrees

As part of the university’s mission, IU aims to provide access to personalised education to as many people worldwide as possible. IU distinguishes itself by not charging non-European students more to study, but often less, on par with the purchasing power in their countries. There is also a very large scholarship scheme. “Students in geographies where their disposable income is not comparable with Europe, or other western parts of the world still have the option to study with us.” IU also offers student financing and the option for learners to pay for their education in monthly instalments.

“We want to continue to offer our affordable degrees to more emerging markets and mature markets around the world. We see a lot of demand and we believe that we can do our share to help these communities to upskill at affordable, local prices.”

Supporting flexibility with technology

Extending access to higher education is also about rethinking the traditional student experience and traditional study formats. IU offers the flexibility to allow learners with other time commitments to flourish. Students are actively supported by technology to study when, where and how they want.

“You have various means to get to the content and to absorb the content as a student. They have synchronous, as well as asynchronous elements. They can go onto discussion boards, take exams 24/7 and start courses any day of the year. And if their studies are interrupted our app will break down the information that they already know in smaller chunks and help them to get back into the topic.”

Constant innovation

IU has built a foundation from which to test and innovate. Having the technology, the platform infrastructure and the right academics on hand allows IU the agility to add new programmes quickly. “If something seems to be a better approach, we try to implement it. The mindset is different. We test. It’s not discussing it over a year and by that time it might be outdated.”

A focus on in-demand skills

IU works with over ten thousand companies to support their employee development. Its partners include Deutsche Bahn, Motel One, Telekom, Vodafone und VW Financial Services. IU incorporates key skills for the future into class content.
“There is the direct connection to employers, which is facilitated by the university. If students study completely online, we made sure that the content and the practical elements that they will need in a workplace are as current and up to date as possible.”

Understanding the market

IU listens to input from students, prospective students, alumni, employers and governments to make sure courses are as relevant as possible. Market data from Studyportals also informs strategy. “Studyportals also has the ability to look at what is happening around the world to better understand what would be in demand and what will be needed. Studyportals is an ideal partner for IU as we both share the same vision of making education easily accessible for everybody, anywhere in the world.”

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