Berlin’s ex-communist office now elite biz school

Berlin, February 22:

In stately premises where East Germany’s communist bosses once ruled supreme, dozens of would-be top business managers, including from India, are now training in capitalism, at a newly created European School of Management and Technology (ESMT).

Erich Honecker, east Germany’s late communist head of state, would surely have been horrified to discover what had become of the former ‘Council of State’ building where he used to work.

United Germany’s first woman Chancellor, Angela Merkel, feels otherwise. This is a “wonderful experience,” she said, describing the building’s transformation at the school’s inauguration. “It would have been unimaginable for me in the ‘GDR’ days to have set foot inside this building,” she said, referring to the communist German Democratic Republic, “Now, it gives me great pleasure.”

The government’s recent decision to tear down the nearby ‘Palace of the Republic’, and the possibility of rebuilding the former palace of the Hohenzollern dynasty shows that a lot of work remains to be done in the Schloss Platz square, where the new school is located. The chancellor recognised the role of German firms and organisations that contri-buted over 100 million euros to realise the founding of the business school in the city’s famous square.

The school’s first 30 international participants arrived in January to begin 30 weeks of classes - 12 weeks of ‘project and practical work’ and six weeks of individual study.

The students hail from 15 different countries around the world, including Canada, China, Germany, Britain, Greece, India, Ireland, Japan, the Philippines, Switzerland, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Turkey and the US.

Pramod Arikal, one of five Indian students at ESMT, says he was convinced the school was destined to become one of the top business schools in the world. “It has a great set of founding fathers and great intentions.” Gaining entry to the school is not easy and by no means cheap. Tuition for the one-year Master in Business Administration (MBA) course costs 50,000 euros per person. Admission ‘requirements’ inclu-de a strong first degree an-d at least three years’ relevant work experience. But as it became clear during Friday’s inaugural gathering in the palatial Berlin premises, it is the companies that ‘nominate’ the candidates who ultimately cough up the fees.

A total of 1.5 million euros in scholarships has been made available by the sponsors of the school, which include banks, companies and organisations such as Allianz, Bosch, Daimler-Chrysler, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Post World Net, and Siemens among others.