Studying in Germany – and Afterwards? – Part II


Many graduates of German universities disregard the chance to run a business or to work as an independent professional. But founding a start-up becomes more and more popular with young, well-educated people in Germany. HHL supports young founders with “SpinLab – The HHL Accelerator”, too.

Legal conditions

As soon as a visa is issued (cf. article 1), the way is paved to set up an own business. The law enacting the EU Directive on Highly Qualified Employment has greatly relaxed the conditions of eligibility. If the self-employed business is related to the studies, a person will usually be granted a residence permit. Once the business is set up, it must be registered with the local trade office. Here too, the visa is temporary. If the business idea is successful, there will be no problem about getting the residence permit extended. After just three years, the entitlement to a permanent residence becomes effective.

To be self-employed in one of the independent professions, it is necessary to apply for a residence permit that will allow to exercise this kind of activity. The CV, the final examination diploma, a description of the activity intended to take up and a financial plan are the required documents. Sometimes, the foreign residents’ registration office needs some additional information. All other legal parameters are the same as for setting up an own business, but a registration with the tax office and not with the trade office is needed.

Technology-focused, knowledge-based start-ups require plenty of capital and the entrepreneurial risks are high. With the right business plan, there is a good chance to obtain government funding and start-up grants to provide the own business with some security. Detailed information about setting up a business in Germany are provided here:

SpinLab – The HHL Accelerator

Not only the local chambers of industry and commerce and the internet, but also universities like HHL offer services for young founders. The project, located on the premises of Spinnerei, an old Leipzig cotton mill, is called “SpinLab – The HHL Accelerator”. It allows for up to ten teams of founders to incubate ideas, be coached by experts and get in contact with potential investors. While the project is based in Leipzig, it is of an international nature.

The concept is completely open: people with ideas from the fields of science, technology and medicine alike can attend HHL’s business plan classes. These so-called co-creation labs allow for good partnerships. The founders are also provided with the space and technological infrastructure. Furthermore, SpinLab offers consultation, coaching and mentoring for the six-month period of the program. The start-ups encounter a network of investors which specifically wants to deal with start-up businesses and is prepared to offer funding and guidance to the entrepreneurs.

Doctoral studies in Germany

Doing a doctorate is the right choice to deepen the research in a desired scientific field. To explore certain aspects of the studies in greater depth by doing a doctorate, the best thing to do is to contact the professors concerned. That’s the way how to get first-hand information about the chances of doing a doctorate – for example as a research assistant. The HHL House of Talents enables a promising scientific career.

Useful hints

To be admitted to a German university as a doctoral student, depending on the line of study, an obtained “Diplom”, “Staatsexamen”, “Magister” or master’s degree is a mandatory requirement. The demands for applying for the different research programmes may differ a lot and can be found on the department’s webpages.

Non-EU citizens need a visa extended by the local foreign nationals’ registration office. The certificate of matriculation, a health insurance, a proof of financial coverage and some other documents are required. It is not a problem to work as a research assistant at a university or by working for a company while studying for the doctorate to support oneself.

Advertised positions for doctorate studentships can be found on the websites of different universities. On the “PhDGermany” platform of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), German universities and research institutes publish doctoral positions which specifically address foreign candidates. Furthermore, the “Research in Germany” portal informs about doctoral studies in Germany, companies of different research areas, how to apply and opportunities for funding and financing.

House of Talents

The House of Talents of HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management offers just the right mix of theory and practice. Ethical questions regarding risk management, communication and leadership responsibility, the involvement of employees in open innovation processes, service productivity and sustainability are topics that are of interest to both science and the world of business.

Approximately 25 new doctoral candidates can start their research projects at HHL each year. The school accepts those who have a convincing and well-written dissertation project outline and are suitably qualified. Many applicants have a Master’s degree in economics to their name but the program is also open to people from other professional fields. Working as a research assistant can also lead the way to a doctoral degree. Outstanding candidates will be given the opportunity to complete a post-doctoral degree after obtaining their doctorate. The door is also open to a junior professorship at other universities.

Over the last 20 years, about 200 people obtained a doctoral degree from HHL; 30 of them pursued a career in research as post-doc candidates, lecturers and university professors while the remaining 170 launched successful careers in the economy, several even starting their own business.

Key organizations

There are numerous organisations in Germany which help students and graduates. The largest international students’ organization AISEC, IAESTE Deutschland, German Academic Exchange Service or the Alumniportal Deutschland are some of the most important ones. Furthermore, the HHL Alumni Association is a great access for former HHL students to a large network of people and other advantages which help to find a suitable job.

Aid from the federation and student organizations

Beside big organizations, also federal ministries are a good point of contact relating job opportunities and useful help. The Federal Employment Agency, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and Foreign nationals’ registration offices provide comprehensive information, different job exchanges in Germany sorted by sector and much more. Additionally, various student organizations offer concise information about funding for graduates and bodies which grant scholarships to young scientists.

The Chambers of Industry and Commerce (IHK) and the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH) are a good contact for young entrepreneurs and people wishing to set up their own business. They offer funding programs for business start-ups as well as information and training events.

HHL Alumni Association

The HHL Alumni Association promotes the network of the school’s alumni among each other and strengthens their ties to HHL as their alma mater. The association uses its funds to support research projects and events at HHL as well as important student projects and initiatives. Moreover, HHL students benefit from the network of the HHL Alumni Association from day one, having free access until their own graduation. Company visits, company presentations, student initiatives, events and coaching are just a few examples of the wide range of HHL Alumni Associations’ offer.

The alumni serve as ambassadors for HHL within a variety of industries in more than 70 countries worldwide. Moreover, they donate their personal time and expertise, as well as financial support to further strengthen HHL and its mission. Moreover, HHL alumni show strong commitment for HHL’s students. Therefore, they take part in Alumni Talks and exchange their experiences regarding careers with HHL students, they are contact person as mentors as well as open up their company doors to welcome students and provide them with the chance to get insights into daily challenges and to get in touch with HR persons.


» Studying in Germany – and Afterwards? – Part I

  (Visa & Job Hunting)

» Studying in Germany – and Afterwards? – Part III