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"In the field of viticulture and oenology, too, current developments in the training and higher education landscape are increasingly leading to an academisation of vocational training," judges Professor Dr Otmar Löhnertz, Vice President Teaching at Geisenheim University. The latter offers "a comprehensive application-oriented study programme to meet this demand," says Löhnertz. In order to implement the special practice-oriented character of the study programme, he said, students must - in addition to the university entrance qualification required for universities of applied sciences - complete an internship of at least six months prior to their studies. "In reality, students often have much longer practical experience or have completed an apprenticeship," the professor reports. In addition, there is the possibility of a dual entry into the degree programme. "This does not require a special contract between the university and the training company. None of the degree programmes is subject to an admission restriction. Thanks to the capacities built up in the past - in terms of staff and space - the university can guarantee admission to an increasing number of students."

Prof. Dr. Otmar Löhnertz (Photo: Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences)
In this environment, Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences offers the Bachelor's degree programmes Viticulture/Oenology, International Wine Business, International Wine Business (in English) and Beverage Technology. "About 200 to 230 students start each year in these programmes, which are not subject to admission restrictions and are accredited as Bachelor of Science degrees," says Löhnertz. "The special profile in the Viticulture/Oenology degree programme lies in the practical orientation of the training in the areas of viticulture (plant cultivation and cultivation technology, soil science, phytomedicine) and enology (process technology, technology of wine and sparkling wine production, sensory analysis) as well as business administration and marketing."Through a large number of practical courses during the degree programme, the theoretical knowledge can be put into practice directly, for example in modern laboratories or in the university's own winery.

Studying in an international context

In the International Wine Economics degree programme - "a wine economics degree programme", as Löhnertz specifies - profound basic knowledge as well as general specialised knowledge in the fields of viticulture, oenology as well as economics are taught. The specialisation focuses on the sectors of international wine business, marketing and management as well as controlling. "In this degree programme, a stay abroad during the course is obligatory," clarifies Löhnertz. "Since the current winter semester, Geisenheim University has also been offering this degree programme as International Wine Business entirely in English for a non-German-speaking group of applicants. In parallel, this new degree programme enables our students in the German-language degree programmes to acquire excellent English skills, as the lectures are not subject to any limitation," explains the professor.

The Beverage Technology programme offers lectures, seminars and practical courses in the fields of fruit juice, beer, spirits, wine and sparkling wine. Within the framework of projects, theoretical knowledge is put into practice both on a pilot scale and on a semi-commercial scale. "The students produce fruit juice and beverages containing fruit juice, distillates, sparkling wine and, last but not least, beer in the beverage technology centre. In the process, independent entrepreneurial thinking is encouraged. The goal is to produce marketable products including bottling and declaration according to current food law," says Löhnertz. On the one hand, this broad range of courses allows students to specialise in the individual degree programmes, and on the other hand, the course-specific range can also be chosen by students from other disciplines. "The university is therefore able to provide the broad spectrum of required knowledge and necessary expertise," the professor elaborates. "Of the approximately 130 people involved in teaching, 33 belong to the group of professors; in addition, there are about 30 scientists working at Geisenheim. With a larger number of external lecturers, Geisenheim University ensures up-to-date, practice-oriented studies. This also includes an extensive range of languages. All in all, this broad base of lecturers enables the approximately 1,250 students at the Geisenheim location (including horticulture and landscape architecture) to enjoy individual support conditions."

University building in Geisenheim (Photo: Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences)

Löhnertz also points out other advantages of the location: "Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences has a very strong global network due to the long tradition of education in Geisenheim and due to its connection with the strongly research-oriented former research institute. This guarantees students access to international training and research institutions and, of course, to practical companies of all categories worldwide. Contractually, the transition is regulated with the technical schools Bad Kreuznach, Veitshöchheim and Weinsberg via the recognition of up to two semesters in order to promote permeability in the education."

For further qualification, Geisenheim University offers several research-based Master's programmes in cooperation with other universities. In the Master's degree programmes in Oenology, Wine Economics and Beverage Technology - in cooperation with the Justus Liebig University of Gießen - a corresponding specialisation is possible. The Master's programme "Viticulture, Oenology and Wine Economics" - in cooperation with the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna - imparts broad, interdisciplinary theoretical and practical knowledge as well as skills in the fields of viticulture, oenology and wine economics, as Löhnertz explains. Specialisation is also possible here. "Of the four semesters in this Master's programme, two semesters each are held in Geisenheim and at the partner university. Since 2009, the university has been significantly involved in the international study programme 'Vinifera Euro Master'. In this English-language Master's programme, after a joint study year in Montpellier, the second study year can be carried out in one of the partner institutions."

In addition to these previous activities, according to Löhnertz, Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences has founded an institute for continuing education and is currently building up an extensive, modularly structured continuing education programme together with its own alumni association (VEG-Geisenheim Alumni Association).

Innovative offers for the next generation of specialists

Professor Dr. Michael Brysch-Herzberg of Heilbronn University notes that training capacities in the wine sector have expanded considerably in recent years. He names Geisenheim, Heilbronn and Neustadt an der Weinstraße as the most important universities, although he differentiates: Geisenheim and Neustadt concentrate more on viticulture and oenology, i.e. wine production, while in Heilbronn the focus is more on business administration and marketing: "We are full-blooded business economists," says the professor, who is himself an expert in wine microbiology.

Prof. Dr Michael Brysch-Herzberg (Photo: Heilbronn University)
Brysch-Herzberg sees the competitive situation between the relevant universities as positive. "The variety of offers is good, a monopoly position is always difficult," says the head of department of the wine business studies programme. Competition promotes the further development of the degree programmes at all faculties, and that is important. In Heilbronn, for example, a new specialisation in production management was introduced in addition to the existing specialisation in wine trade management in the winter semester 2014/2015, so that students can now choose between the two specialisations in their main studies.

According to Brysch-Herzberg, as of 1 July 2015, there will also be a dual concept at the Württemberg University of Applied Sciences that combines wine business studies and winemaking apprenticeships in terms of time and organisation. This "training-integrated model" usually takes six years (instead of seven semesters of study plus two years of apprenticeship), and graduates would then have both a winemaking degree and a bachelor's degree.

Dual course of study combines science and practice

The wine campus in Neustadt an der Weinstraße is a pioneer in combining study and apprenticeship. "Due to the changes in the wine industry, the demands on companies in the sector are increasing," says programme director Professor Dr Marc Dreßler. "The market is becoming more global, many businesses are growing, technologisation is advancing and customer changes are massive. This requires new challenges, for example in strategic positioning, in human resource management, in oenological product generation and in viticultural professionalisation. The market is becoming more difficult and, accordingly, training in the wine sector must also continue to develop and create suitable, attractive offers."

Prof. Dr Marc Dreßler (Photo: Weincampus Neustadt)
The dual study programme Viticulture and Oenology was founded at the Wine Campus back in 2009 and has since offered young professionals the opportunity to complete a Bachelor's degree and an apprenticeship in viticulture at the same time within four years. The integrative approach implemented here, in which university content and professional practice are linked and interlocked, is unique to date, as Dreßler emphasises. In implementing the dual training programme, the wine campus works together with around 300 winegrowing enterprises spread across all German winegrowing regions. Professors from the three universities in Ludwigshafen, Kaiserslautern and Bingen as well as renowned guest lecturers are responsible for imparting academic knowledge. An important cooperation partner is the Dienstleistungszentrum Ländlicher Raum (DLR) Rheinpfalz, which is fully involved in teaching and research. The training period in Neustadt is one year shorter than if teaching and studying were carried out separately.

"We work in an industry anchored in craftsmanship," explains Dreßler. "The wineries need people who not only know theoretically what someone has to do, but who can immediately get involved based on their own experience. That is our obligation to deliver as a training institution." At the same time, the management expert - himself a professor of business administration at Ludwigshafen University of Applied Sciences with an assignment at the wine campus - sees a need for training, for example, in the way wine producers deal with retailers, especially, for example, in negotiations with supermarket chains: "There, the winemaker is usually confronted with professional category managers and needs a suitable positioning, ability for multi-channel management and price strategies if the business is to be really meaningful and lucrative for him."Against this background, Dreßler reveals, the Neustadt Wine Campus will also offer a targeted Master's programme "in the near future".

It is necessary and a given that the study programmes will continue to develop. Dreßler calls the Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences the "leading training institute" and appreciates the steadily expanding offer in the Rheingau. The course contents in Geisenheim as well as in Heilbronn and Neustadt are diverse and of the highest standard: "Everyone who aspires to a special position in the wine industry will find something suitable. In this respect, there is still "room for targeted offers" such as the planned Master's course in Neustadt. "Politics also demands further development from us," says Dreßler. "We want to provide opportunities for experienced practitioners in the profession to further their education and professionalisation through study-based offers. The new planned Master's degree thus also ensures the desired permeability in the education system."

To Part 1 of the article series: Thirst for knowledge promotes professionalisation

To part 2 of the article series: Wine competence in the hospitality industry

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