Business informatics: Cross-cultural differences between Germany and Australia

Diploma Thesis, 2003

173 Pages






List of Tables

List of Figures

Glossary of Acronyms

1.1. Motivation
1.2. Objectives of the Study
1.3. Research Methodology and Delimitations
1.4. Structure of the thesis

2.BUSINESS INFORMATICS IN AUSTRALIA: A Definition from a German Perspective

3.1. IS structures at Australian universities
3.2. Studying Information Systems at Australian Universities
3.2.1. IS Degrees
3.2.2. Requirements for Studying IS
3.2.3. Fees for Studying IS
3.2.4. Examples of two IS degree description
3.3. Teaching methods and quality assurance in the IS discipline
3.3.1. Teaching Methods
3.3.2. Quality Assurance
3.4. Visited Universities
3.4.1. Central Queensland University (CQU)
3.4.2. Deakin University (Deakin)
3.4.3. Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
3.4.4. University of Queensland (UQ)
3.4.5. University of New South Wales (UNSW)
3.4.6. University of Sydney (Sydney)
3.4.7. University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
3.4.8. Australian National University (ANU)
3.4.9. University of Canberra (UC)
3.4.10. Monash University (Monash)
3.4.11. University of Melbourne (UniMelb)
3.4.12. Summary and Conclusion

4.State-of-the-Art of Information Systems at Australian universities refered to the 13th Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 2002, Melbourne
4.1. Discussing the IS Discipline
4.2. A Problem-Based Learning Approach for IS
4.3. Teaching Online
4.4. Conclusion

5.1. Educational Business Informatics/IS Offers At Universities
5.1.1. Business Informatics/IS Degrees
5.1.2. Business Informatics/IS Discipline Curriculum And Single Subjects
5.1.3. Business Informatics/IS Teaching Methods And Quality Assurance
5.2. Organisational Structure Of Business Informatics/IS In Universities
5.2.1. Location Of Schools/Departments And Chairs Within Faculties
5.2.2. Organisational Structure Of Business Informatics/IS Departments/Schools And Chairs
5.2.3. The Academic Career Path
5.2.4. Financial Aspects And The Contribution Of Study Fees
5.3. Cultural Aspects
5.3.1. The Level Of Internationality And Its Influence On Higher Education
5.3.2. Women In Business Informatics/IS (Students And Academics)
5.3.3. Organisational Culture
5.3.4. Alumni tradition
5.3.5. The Relationship Between Student And Academic
5.3.6. Study Fees
5.4. Conclusion

6.1. Recapitulation
6.2. Outlook


Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Appendix E

Appendix F


This study gives an overview about the Business Informatics discipline in Australia with a strong focus on Business Informatics aspects at Australian universities.

Therefore the different terms Business Informatics and Information Systems (IS) are defined first in chapter 2.

The approach taken to exploring Business Informatics at Australian universities was to conduct intensive interviews with eleven Australian university IS academics within the following states and territories of the country: Queensland, New South Wales, The Australian National Capital and Victoria.

Questions were asked relating to the specific universitiy, the educational BusinessInformatics courses on offer, the organisational structure and cultural aspects within the Business Informatics discipline. The results of the interviews are then supported by a strong web and literature review and are shown summarized in chapter 3.

Additional information was obtained by the 13th Australasian Conference on Information Systems (ACIS) – from 4th to 6th of December 2002 at the Victoria University Building in Melbourne. The conference gave an insight into topics as Online Learning, the IS discipline at universities and Approaches for Problem-Based Learning in Information Systems. These conference papers are summarized presented in chapter 4.

This detailed overview of IS in Australian universities can then be compared to the Business Informatics discipline in German universities. Several aspects are considered for this in chapter 5 like the educational offers within this discipline area, the organisational structure of Business Informatics/IS within universities and cultural aspects in dependence to the structure of the interview guideline.

Differences and similarities within the Business Informatics/IS discipline in higher education between Germany and Australia are explored, which is the aim of this study. Additional recommendations from the author should be seen as a thought-provoking-impulse and support further development in higher education.


Eidesstattliche Erklärung

Ich erkläre hiermit an Eides Statt, dass ich die vorliegende Arbeit

Business Informatics – Cross-cultural differences between

Germany and Australia

selbständig und ohne Benutzung anderer als der angegebenen Hilfsmittel angefertigt habe; die aus fremden Quellen direkt oder indirekt übernommen Gedanken sind als solche kenntlich gemacht.

Die Arbeit wurde bisher in gleicher oder ähnlicher Form keiner anderen Prüfungsbehörde vorgelegt und ist auch noch nicht veröffentlicht.


Special thanks are due to

The School of Information Systems, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia;

The Department of Business Informatics III, Prof. Dr. Franz Lehner, Regensburg, Germany and

The International Office of the University of Regensburg

who made this project possible with their support and assistance.

Further thanks

for their interest, assistance and participation in the interviews for this study

are due to

Annemieke Craig, Deakin University, Geelonog, Australia.

Ross Smith, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia.

Brian Corbitt, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia.

David Mackay, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia.

Julie Fisher, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

Elizabeth Tansley, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Australia.

Michael Rosemann, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.

Colin Ferguson, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Geoffery Dick, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Joseph Davis, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

David Wilson, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Dennis Hart, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

Craig McDonald, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia.

Graehme Shanks, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.

Hans Lehmann, University of Wellington, New Zealand.

Shawn Alborz, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.

Additional thanks are due to Annemieke Craig, Deakin University and Michael Walz, University of Regensburg for taking the time to proofread this study.


Table 1.1: Comparison of general figures between Australia and Germany

Table 1.2: Proportion of overseas to non-overseas students in IS courses

Table 2.1: 25 German universities with an independent Business Informatics study course

Table 2.2: 16 Australian universities with an independent Information Systems study course

Table 3.1: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2003, IT as a Broad Field of education

Table 3.2: Location of Information Systems Schools/Departments (source AUTC, 2002)

Table 3.3: IS departments within Australian universities, 2002

Table 3.4: 15 independent IS degrees at Australian universities

Table 3.5: University Entrance Scores for ICT courses in Victoria 2002

Table 3.6: CQU, general information 2002

Table 3.7: Deakin, general information 2002

Table 3.8: QUT, general information 2002

Table 3.9: UQ, general information 2002

Table 3.10: UNSW, general information 2002

Table 3.11: Sydney, general information 2002

Table 3.12: UTS, general information 2002

Table 3.13: ANU, general information 2002

Table 3.14: UC, general information 2002

Table 3.15: Monash, general information 2002

Table 3.16: UniMelb, general information 2002

Table 3.17: Comparison of IS figures and facts within the visited Australian universities in 2002

Table 3.18: Directory of 5 of the visited Australian universities with more than one IS discipline in one faculty, 2002

Table 3.19: Levels of Distance Learning Mode

Table 3.20: Levels of Online Learning Mode

Table 3.21 : Levels of Distance Learning and Online Learning offers 2002

Table 3.22 : International comparison of the student/staff ratio

Table 5.1: Degree in Germany and Australia

Table 5.2: Different Business Informatics/IS program aspects in comparison

Table 5.3: Differences within subjects/main topic areas

Table 5.4: Quality Assurance in Australian and German higher education

Table 5.5: Offer of online Business Informatics/IS subjects and programs

Table 5.6: Number of professors in Germany, US, Australia

Table 5.7: Females in academic IS positions in Australia


Figure 1.1: Australian Qualification Framework (AQF)

Figure 1.2: Australian Marking

Figure 1.3: German Marking

Figure 1.4: Commencing Business Informatics students at German universities

Figure 1.5: Visited Australian universities

Figure 2.1: One search engine result for ‘Wirtschaftsinformatik’ in Australia from the German Academic Exchange Service

Figure 3.1: Scope of the Computing Studies and Information Science disciplines

Figure 3.2: Information Technology – Principal Subject Clusters (DEET et al 1992: Figure 2.1)

Figure 3.3: the Australian and German semester times

Figure 3.4: Organisational structure of the Faculty of Informatics and Communication, School of Computing and IS, Central Queensland University 2002

Figure 3.5: Organisational structure of the Faculty of Business and Law, School of Information Systems, Deakin University 2002

Figure 3.6: Organisational structure of the Faculty of Information Technology, School of Information Systems, Queensland University of Technology 2002

Figure 3.7: Organisational structure of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, School of Business, University of Queensland 2002

Figure 3.8: Organisational structure of the Faculty of Economics & Commerce, School of Information Systems, Technology & Management, University of New South Wales 2002

Figure 3.9: Organisational structure of the Faculty of Science, School of Information Technology, University of Sydney 2002

Figure 3.10: Organisational structure of the Faculty of Information Technology, Department of Information Systems, University of Technology Sydney 2002

Figure 3.11: Organisational structure of the Faculty of Economics & Commerce, School of Business and Information Management, Australian National University 2002

Figure 3.12: Organisational structure of the Faculty of Business, Law & Information Sciences, School of Information Sciences & Engineering, University of Canberra 2002

Figure 3.13: Organisational structure of the Faculty of Information Technology, School of Information Management and Systems, Monash University 2002

Figure 3.14: Organisational structure of the Faculty of Science, Department of Information Systems, University of Melbourne 2002

Figure 5.1: Typical Australian structure of IS within Deakin University

Figure 5.2: Typical German structure of Business Informatics within the University of Regensburg

Figure 5.3: Typical Australian Academic Career Path

Figure 5.4: Typical German Academic Career Path

Figure 5.5: Financial Sources of higher education in Australia 2001

Figure 5.6: Financial Sources of higher education in Germany 2000

Figure 5.7: Percentage of all international students and Business Informatics/IS students

Figure 5.8: Female Business Informatics/IS students in Germany and Australia


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Recent developments in the German higher education sector indicate, that there is a step towards the introduction of international study programs at German universities like the Bachelor and the Masters Degree. Yet German universities do not want to disestablish their traditional Diploma degrees.

There are already 665 Bachelor degrees and 803 Master degrees at German universities in December 2002 (Goergen 2002).

In Australia, there are numerous international study programs established: the Undergraduate program, to reach the Bachelor degree, and the Postgraduate program, to reach a Masters degree. In addition to a Bachelor degree, it is possible to do an Honours Year that includes coursework and a research project. The requirement for commencing a Bachelor degree is a high school pass or its equivalent. Usually, Bachelor graduates need to be within the best 20 percent of all graduates to be able to do an Honours Year (Keedy 1999).

For studying a Masters degree, you first need to have a Bachelor degree, a Graduate Diploma or a Graduate Certificate. Studying the Graduate Diploma or the Graduate Certificate at a postgraduate level is possible for people with industry experience or with a Bachelor or equivalent degree. These degrees provide graduate specialisation within a systematic and coherent body of knowledge and develop or broaden vocational knowledge, skills and practical experience in a new or existing field of professional study (DEST 2002).

It is common in Australia that students with a Bachelor degree move straight on to work in industry. All programs of study are designed to be completed either full-time of part-time.

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Figure 1.1: Australian Qualification Framework (AQF)[2]

In Germany the structure of the program of study is normally divided into ‘Grundstudium’ and ‘Hauptstudium’. German students are able to transfer their Credit Points from the German university to an Australian university if they wish to graduate there.

However, most Australian universities insist on doing at least half of a study course at their university (Institute Ranke-Heinemann 2002).

With the recent introduction of the Credit Point System at several universities in Germany, it is now possible to transfer Credit Points from an exchange semester abroad at an Australian university to the German university.

The Australian Marking is different to the German ones. Marks are given there in the percentage of the fulfilment of assignments and/or exams. The Australian and the German Marking are illustrated in the following two figures.

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Figure 1.2: Australian Marking

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Figure 1.3: German Marking

Study Abroad Programs are special study programs, which are designed for international students. These programs are not for graduating with a degree, but students can attend the same lectures as a full-time student does and they have a kind of efficiency statement for the exchange part of their study program.

There are two advantages within this Study Abroad Program. First, there are slightly lower studying fees on the courses and second, international students are free to choose any kind of subject in which they are interested in.

Other current offerings to international students include Short Intensive Study Abroad Programs. The demand is high and universities are concerned about the fortified establishment of these programs, which last only eight to twelve weeks with full-time study. The acceptance of the Credit Points gained from these courses depends on the respective German university (Australian Embassy 2003).

In Australia, out of a population of 19 million people, 588,204 people were studying at a university in 2001 (DEST 2002). This is 3.1 per cent of the whole population. Most students who were doing an undergraduate degree were between 18 and 22 years of age. Most postgraduate students were between 23 and 29 years old and there was a significant number of people between 30 and 50 years, who were doing either a postgraduate or an undergraduate study program. Some 60 percent of higher education students in 2000 were less than 25 years old. (DEST 2002).

In comparison to Australia, Germany had a population of 82.4 million and a student number of 1,868,666 in 2001 (Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland 2003). This was only 2.27 per cent of the whole population. On average, the age of German students is 26,3 years.

In Germany, it is possible to study at 355 Higher Education Institutes [3] . Business Informatics courses are available at 67 universities, either as an independent study program or as a major or a part of another study program. At 25 German universities, there is an independent study program for Business Informatics (Studienführer Wirtschaftsinformatik 2002). Other German Higher Education Institutes, especially ‘ Fachhochschulen’ are neglected here in reference to independent study courses to keep the data in a manageable size. Hence, ‘ Fachhochschulen’ are constructed more like the Australian Technical and Further Education Institutes (TAFES). But in contrast to TAFEs, ‘Fachhochschulen’ do offer degree level programs as well as universities.

In Australia, there are 37 public universities and two private universities that are accredited with a university status by government. This accredited universities will soon get ‘.uni’ as a new domain name for their Internet addresses (e.g. will change into to differentiate them from non-accredited universities.

The Federal Government has principal responsibility for public funding of the 37 public universities, but it is the government’s intention to enforce a public-private funding mix for the universities.

In the beginning of the year 2003, it was possible to study a study program with a major in the IS area at 22 Australian universities , which is related and very similar to the independent German Business Informatics study program as it will be shown in chapter 2. In particular, there are 16 universities that offer an independent IS degree.

As shown in the Australian Higher Education Statistics, there were a total of 19,602 students enrolled in Information Systems as a User Specific Field of Study in the year 2001 (DEST 2002).

In Germany, there were 22,962 students studying Business Informatics at an Higher Education Institute in 2001 (Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland 2003).

The following table summarizes the figures given of both countries:

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Table 1.1: Comparison of general figures between Australia and Germany

1.1. Motivation

In 1998, a conference at the Australian Centre at the University of Potsdam showed a significant demand on reforming the tertiary educational sector in both countries. It was proposed that Germany could learn from the Australian model and from the Australian Lessons Learned, not only within the formal efforts but also within the Australian way of thinking. Looking at the future is the key with the aim of doing things better, not just criticising the current situation like the Germans used to do (Sitzmann 1998).

Apart from the desire to learn from others, there are several other motivations for doing this study, especially within the Business Informatics discipline.

At this time, there is a strong international exchange concerning Business Informatics and an international conformance of study programs should be reached (Lehner 1998).

There have also been rapidly rising student numbers in the field of Business Informatics during the past years. In Australia, there were a total of 44,537 students enrolled in the fields of study that contain Information Systems in the year 2000. In 1995, there were only 23,240 students. Information Systems, as a User Specific Field of Study, had 8,251 students in 2000, up from only 3,836 in the year 1995 (DEST 2001). This is a significant increase . Australia also has a rising number of international students. In 2002, over thirteen percent of all students came from overseas. Compared to the year 1995, the number of all international students is now more than twice as large (DEST 2002).

In the IS area the proportion of overseas to non-overseas students had increased from approximately 18 percent in 1997 to more than 30 percent in 2000 as shown in the following table from the DETYA Higher Education Student Database (Fisher et al. 2002).

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Table 1.2: Proportion of overseas to non-overseas students in IS courses

The high number of overseas students can be attributed to the high quality of education offered at the universities and to the fact that it is a slightly cheaper than studying in the United States (Schleicher 2001).

In Germany, there were 12,250 students studying Business Informatics in 1998 (includes universities and ‘ Fachhochschulen’). The Broad Field of IT, which includes Information Technology, Business Informatics, Medical Informatics and Engineering Information Technology, had a number of 67,292 (Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst 2000).

An overview about rising commencing Business Informatics student numbers at German universities from 1995 to 1998 is shown in Figure 2.

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Figure 1.4: Commencing Business Informatics students in Germany

Both, Business Informatics/IS and IT commencing student numbers have declined in Australia and Germany since 2001/2002.

In Germany, the quality of the higher education is criticised in many ways, especially in international comparisons and the discussion about introducing studying fees is going on.

During the last few years more German students have been going to study abroad in order to receive a more qualitative education (Süddeutsche Zeitung –Interview mit TU-Chef Wolfgang Hermann 2002). However, only a small number of 539 German students was intending to study at an Australian university in 2000 (Studieren in Australien 2001).

In Germany, the percentage of international students was 11 percent in 2001/2002; in the year before it had only been 10.4 percent.

In the past, there were built up more exchange partnerships between German universities and universities in the United States or in the United Kingdom than between German and Australian universities.

According to the German ‘Studienführer Wirtschaftsinformatik’ from Mertens et al. in 1999, there are only four universities in Germany with an independent Business Informatics study program that have an exchange partnership with an Australian university. But there are named 14 partnerships named with universities in the United Kingdom and 15 exchange universities in the United States .

In this case, German students do not have to pay studying fees unlike international students for their study abroad. This small number of offered exchange programs from universities could be one reason for German students not to go to an Australian university.

The conclusion is that there must be a lack of information about studying and researching possibilities in Australia at German universities and their students. Institutions that inform about this such as the Ranke-Heinemann Institute[4] or the ‘ Deutsch-Australisches Netzwerk e.V.’ [5] (DEAN) have been just founded during the last years to show Germans the advantages of studying in Australia.

This lack of information will be redressed in this study.

But what about studying Business Informatics in particular in Australia?

Is there enough information about possibilities to study this narrow field of education, a field, which has grown so much during the last decade in both countries?

As an example, the highly regarded international Internet journal ISWorld Net [6] informed with a lot of more entries about possibilities to study an undergraduate Information Systems program in the United States than in Australia in 2002.

Or as another example, within the search engines of the German information provider about studying in Australia Ranke-Heinemann, the Australian government information for international students Which course? Which university?[7] or within the search engine of the German Academic Exchange Service[8], there is nowhere a particular field listed as Business Informatics, providing detailed information about the possibilities to study, and the discipline Information Systems is only specified in connection with Computer Science.

Last but not least, there is a lack of defining Information Systems for university education within Australia itself. As recently as December 2002, Australian IS academics were discussing about a consistent use of the term Information Systems in higher education at the 13th Australasian Conference on Information Systems.

A-state-of-practice example for this is the School of Information Systems at Deakin University, Geelong and the offered degree within that school, the Bachelor of Information Systems. Both are sometimes also named Management Information Systems. This is due to the recent terminology change around Australia from the terms Business Information Systems or Management Information Systems to the term Information Systems. In addition, there is a possible computing degree with an IS major within the Information Technology School, Faculty of Science and Technology at Deakin University. And these numerous appearances of the IS discipline in different faculties in one university, are very common all over Australia.

These motivation points show the importance of giving an overview about Australian universities and their Information Systems discipline; about how it is related to the German term Business Informatics, so that it is possible to answer the questions arising about the differences to the German Business Informatics in higher education.

1.2. Objectives of the Study

The aims of this study are firstly to list the possibilities for studying Business Informatics at Australian universities and to give a general overview of Business Informatics at universities in Australia. On the one hand this will be an information source for international students as well as for Australian commencing students. On the other hand, this will also be an information source for German universities and Business Informatics academics, who can take a look at the state-of-the-art of Business Informatics at Australian universities, look at the cross-cultural differences and the possibility of new exchange partnerships with Australian universities. As a current example, the University of Technology Sydney started an exchange program with the University of Regensburg in February 2003. Possible Information System programs at the University of Technology Sydney are listed in chapter 3.4.7.

Last but not least, this study will provide Australian academics with the opportunity to reflect on their Information Systems discipline and possibly to reach a consensus within this discipline at their universities.

One primary objective is to investigate on the main IS educational and research topics at Australian universities and to compare these with the main Business Informatics topics at German universities in order to define Business Informatics in Australia from a German perspective.

This thesis also gives an overview about organisational structures and the opportunities to study Information Systems at Australian universities in general and at 11 selected universities in particular, as well as a state-of-the-art view to IS issues at Australian universities, which were presented during the ACIS 2002 in Melbourne, Australia.

These overviews lead to the following questions:

- Are there any differences in Business Informatics between Germany and Australia?

And if so, in which areas are these differences located?

- Within the organisational structure?
- Within degrees and single subjects?
- Within teaching methods and quality issues?
- And are there any other cross – cultural differences?

These questions will be addressed in the Findings chapter.

1.3. Research Methodology and Delimitations

The research methodology used in this study is based on structured interviews with open-ended questions, which were posed to IS academic participants from Australian universities. An interview guideline was prepared before starting the interviews. The interview was structured into four main areas. These main subject areas were firstly about general questions about the university, then questions about the educational offer of IS at the university and then questions about the organisational structure of IS in the university. A last set of questions were posed about cultural aspects in Australian universities. The interview questions were guided by the responses of the participants. This allowed some flexibility to change the direction of the interviews as the research progressed.

This method can be seen as a qualitative study approach. The interpreting nature can be neglected because the questions are not personal in their nature, but rather based on formal issues. A copy of the interview guideline with sample questions can be found in Appendix A.

To focus the study on a manageable size, because the study time is limited to half a year, the visited universities were mostly located in major cities in Australia like Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane and the number of participants was limited to eleven universities, which are illustrated in figure 1.3.

At first, email enquiries were sent to selected academics within the Business Informatics discipline at Australian universities. The guideline for selecting these academics were as follows: the academic must be either in an IS department or in another named department, where it is possible to study a program with IS subjects or at least a combination of IT and business subjects. Preferably, the academic should be in a high academic position as for example the Head of the school/department or a Senior IS academic. The response rate was very positive with 11 from 12 enquiries. Six of the 11 visited universities belong to the Group of Eight-Universities[9], which are the leading universities in research in Australia. These interview results combined with a web and literature review are shown as summarized information sources in a series of snapshot case studies in chapter 3.4.

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Figure 1.5: Visited Australian universities

Moreover, several individual interviews were done with IS academics at Deakin University, including an interview with Brian Corbitt, Professor of Information Systems and Acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor (KnowledgeManagement) at Deakin University about teaching methods and quality assurance of IS education at Australian universities in general and at Deakin University in particular. This information is provided in chapter 3.3.

The proceedings of the 13th Australasian conference on Information Systems, Melbourne, 2002 provide additional information about current IS topics at Australian universities and support the interview results.

The findings of this study are indicated and often illustrated with tables and figures. The main topics Business Informatics/IS offers in higher education, the organisational structure and location of Business Informatics/IS within universities and cultural aspects were extracted from the structured interview guideline and addressed in the findings. Main differences between Germany and Australia within this discipline as well as similarities are shown and recommendations are given.

1.4. Structure of the thesis

At first, the Introduction Chapter (Chapter 1) informs about general figures and facts about Australia and Germany, the higher education system in both countries as well as about Business Informatics/IS study courses and student numbers. A first comparison about these general figures is illustrated in Table 1. The motivation to do this study, objectives to explore, the used research methodology and delimitations and the structure of this thesis are presented.

Chapter 2 gives a definition for Business Informatics in Australia from a German perspective. This extended definition for Business Informatics in Australia is necessary because different terms are used in this discipline in Australia and explicitly not the European term Business Informatics. From this definition on, the term Business Informatics is replaced with the term Information Systems for Australia.

In Chapter 3 an overview of Information Systems at Australian universities is shown. Therefore Information Systems structures, possible degrees, requirements and fees in this discipline are indicated. Furthermore the quality assurance and teaching methods in Australian higher education are presented in chapter 3.3.

As an additional approach an overview of the possibilities in Australia for studying Business Informatics, summarised interviews with several Australian IS academics are given in chapter 3.4. The conclusion of chapter 3 presents a structured overview and a comparison of relevant figures and facts about the 11 visited universities. This diploma thesis focusses on this chapter in order to reach information in depth of Australian Business Informatics in higher education and to be able to compare this information with German Business Informatics at universities within the findings chapter.

Three relevant papers for this study were chosen from the proceedings of the 13th Conference on Information Systems in Chapter 4 and are presented in short summaries to give a state-of-the-art overview of Information Systems at Australian universities.

In Chapter 5 differences and similarities within Business Informatics/IS offers in higher education, the organisational structure and location of Business Informatics/IS within universities and cultural aspects are shown and recommendations are given within the findings.

Chapter 6 summarizes this diploma thesis and presents possible considerations for the future development of the Business Informatics/IS discipline within higher education in Germany and Australia.

2. BUSINESS INFORMATICS IN AUSTRALIA: A Definition from a German Perspective

The term Business Informatics, which is used in Europe for studying an interdisciplinary program that deals currently with the tasks and the opportunities of computer applications in industry and in the public administration, is not a common international term for this discipline. In the Anglo-American countries it is often named as Management Information Systems (MIS) or just Information Systems (IS) (Lehner 1998). The term Business Informatics is translated into German as ‘Wirtschaftsinformatik’.

As Annemieke Craig, IS Lecturer from the School of Information Systems at Deakin University in Geelong, Australia, reported, the term Business Computing, which was formerly used within Australia, has changed during the last decade into the term Management Information Systems and has been changed into Information Systems during recent years .

Ross Smith, Head of the School of IS at Deakin University, reported, that the school changed its name and the title of the degree from MIS into IS in 2001, after a major review of IS/IT in the whole university. Therefore the School of Information Systems at Deakin University is sometimes still named inadvertently the School of Management Information Systems.

Now, in Australia, the norm for degrees of this type is called IS rather than MIS, because Australian industry understands the notion of an IS degree, but there have been misunderstandings with the content of a MIS degree and the attributes of MIS graduates.

An explanation for the misunderstandings of the terms IS and MIS can be seen in the different definitions of these terms, because they do not have the same meaning. MIS is defined as a part of IS.

Management Information Systems are Information Systems, but only to support the management of an organisation. Hansen defined MIS within the book ‘Wirtschaftsinformatik I’ in 1998 as follows:

Information Systems, which support management with relevant information for decisions, are used to be called ‘Management Support Systems’. This relevant information is task-specific content as well as user-friendly and an appropriate presentation of information for the management. The name ‘Management Support Systems’ is used synonymously with ‘Management Information Systems’ (MIS).

Concluding, the term IS is more preferable for such a degree than MIS, because Management Information Systems study courses do not only deal with MIS, but generally with IS.

This change of terminology is actually very new within the Australian IS area, and as such it has not already been realised abroad as the following example shows.

The term Business Computing, which is shown within the results of the search engine for international study courses at the German Academic Exchange Service Website, can not be found in any one of the 36 listed Australian universities in the year 2002.

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Figure 2.1: One search engine result for ‘Wirtschaftsinformatik’ in Australia from the German Academic Exchange Service

In Australia, Tatnall wrote as early as in 1993 about the curriculum of Business Computing“Depending on how you define Business Computing (or Information Systems as it is now often called) …”.

Now, there is no degree any more, which is called Business Computing or even Business Informatics within Deakin University, Australia.

But you are able to study a Bachelor of Commerce with an Information Systems major or a Bachelor of Information Systems, both also possible with an Honours Year. At the postgraduate level, there is a Master by Research and a PhD program offered in the IS discipline. It is also important to mention here, that the term Informatics is not often found at Australian universities. The Australian term for that is in general Computing or Information Technology.

Therefore it is very important to address the right terminology for Business Informatics in Australia within this thesis to be able to show differences between Germany and Australia.

To come to a conclusion in this case, first the definition for Business Informatics in Germany and the definition of Information Systems in Australia are shown.

In Germany, typical interesting Business Informatics subjects are the Design of Information Infrastructure, Information logistics, Information Management and Controlling, Data Modelling and Data Organisation, Human – Computer – Interaction, Networks and Communication in Companies, Development and Operation (Maintenance) of Information Systems, CASE, Expert Systems and Technical Understanding. Important areas are in the Analysis, Design and in the Use of Information Systems during their entire curriculum. The Business Informatics discipline shows Information Systems from multiple views and in an integral way and is on the one hand interested in the Information Processing through the Computer and on the other hand through Human Beings (Lehner 1998).

In Australia, the Information Systems discipline is defined by the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), Field of Education Structure and Definitions, as a subclass of the term Information Technology.

It says : “INFORMATION SYSTEMS is the study of the Flow of Information, Capturing Data, and the Design and Specification of Information Systems and User Interfaces. The main purpose of this narrow field of education is to

develop an Understanding of the Information Management Needs of users, and the ability to analyse, design and manage Information Systems.”
Detailed fields of IS are Conceptual Modelling, Database Management, Systems Analysis and Design, Decision Support Systems, Information Systems, n.e.c.

These two definitions show strong similarities in their general statements and main topics, which they address and in their educational aims to view Information Systems from both sides – on the one hand from a technical perspective and on the other hand from the user perspective. Both try to define and teach their subject from multiple views.

As an additional approach in this case, teaching and research subjects within the Business Informatics departments at German universities were reviewed and classified. Within the reviewed German departments it is possible to study an independent Business Informatics study course. Twenty of the twenty-five of these departments are located within Business Faculties, two other ones are within IT Faculties, one is located in a Business Informatics Faculty, one is partly located within a Business Faculty and partly within a Computing Faculty, and another one within a faculty that includes Informatics, Business and several other subject areas. This directory is shown in Table 2.1 at the end of this chapter.

Then, the most common German Business Informatics subjects listed in the German ‘ Studienführer Wirtschaftsinformatik’ from 2002 were summarised to 18 subject areas and were then compared with the subject areas found at the Australian universities.

The 18 German main areas were: E-Business and E-Commerce, Application Systems, Knowledge Management, E-Learning, Information Management and Information Systems, Data Engineering and Data Modelling, Modelling

exclusive Data Modelling, (Business) Processes, Decision Support, Simulation, Distributed Systems, Databases, Security, Standard (ERP) Software, Software

Development/Engineering, Project Management, Programming Languages and E-Government.

These areas are shown with some exemplary German subject terms in Appendix C.

In order to the comparison with Australian IS subjects, teaching and research topics in IS departments at Australian universities were reviewed. Again, only departments were considered where it is possible to study an independent IS study course, not only a major.

The Australian topics are relating to a website review of the universities, because there was no detailed and structured information source for Australian teaching and research subjects found as it is in the German ‘ Studienführer Wirtschaftsinformatik’ in 2002 from Mertens et al.. For that, first the main areas within selected departments were searched. If there were no results found for that, single teaching and research subjects of IS staff of the departments were considered.

In Australia, 12 of the 19 departments where it is possible to study an independent Information Systems degree are located within Business or Commerce Faculties and three independent study courses are in IT Faculties. This is almost the same case as it is in Germany. The Department of Communication and Informatics in a Communication and Informatics Faculty was also reviewed.

Some other independent degrees are located within an Engineering and IT Faculty or within Arts, Arts and Sciences, Science or Science Technology and Engineering. But, these faculties are deemed to be outside the scope of this study, because their view on IS is more technical, more creative and scientific or more with an engineering emphasis, not with a focus on business as it is in the majority of the cases in Germany. An overview about the reviewed Australian universities and departments is also given at the end of this chapter

in Table 2.2. Some exemplary Australian teaching and research subject terms within the chosen main areas are shown in Appendix D.

The result of the compared main topics in Business Informatics in Germany and Information Systems in Australia shows strong similarities in their main subject areas. Some differences in names and the frequency of occurrence are discussed later in the Findings Chapter.

The conclusion here is, that you can equate Business Informatics in Germany with Information Systems in Australia, if it is a discipline within the selected faculties, which are mostly Business or Commerce and IT Faculties.

More detailed information about different IS structures, IS degrees, teaching methods and quality assurance in IS education in Australia are given in the following chapter.

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Table 2.1: 25 German universities with an independent Business Informatics study course

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthaltenTable 2.2: 16 Australian universities with an independent Information Systems study course


3.1. IS structures at Australian universities

The teaching of university computing courses initially occurred in the faculties of Engineering, Science or Business in the 1950s (Tatnall 1993, p.4).

Since then, the computing courses have dispersed into faculties with titles as Commerce, Mathematics and Computing, Information Technology, or Informatics. “ Computing was disguised under a range of names and curriculum areas.” (Craig 1996, p.10)

Then in 1992, a report of the discipline review of the Computing Studies and Information Sciences Education was released by the Australian Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET 1992).

Figure 3.1, extracted from the Australian Computer Society’s submission to this review shows the scope of various computing disciplines. Here, the Information Systems discipline overlaps with elements of Computer Science and Computer Science Engineering courses.

Tatnall (1993) comments “it is immediately clear that there is a good deal of overlap between the various curriculum areas, and also the interests of the three professional societies potentially involved in computing: the Australian Computer Society [ACS], the Institution of Engineers (Australia) [IE(Aust)], and the Australian Society of Certified Practicing Accountants [ASCPA].”

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 3.1: Scope of the Computing Studies and Information Science disciplines

But there are important differences in the nature of the work. “Information Systems is a discipline which is oriented towards business or commerce; it involves matching information systems requirements to an organisation’s objectives. In contrast: Computer Science concentrates on algorithmic processes and system software. Software Engineering incorporates the principles of large-scale software systems whereas Information Systems usually deals with smaller organisations” (Craig 1996, p.13).

A conclusion of that must be, that Information Systems should be best placed in an overall Commerce or Business structure.

But, from the statistical view of the Australian Standard Classification of Education of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the IS field is defined as a part of Information Technology and is not mentioned in the field of Commerce and Management at all.

The Australian Standard Classification of Education was introduced in the year 2001 to assist in the interpretation of data about Australian higher education courses.

It lists twelve broad fields of study including Management and Commerce, IT and Engineering. There are several narrow fields defined below each broad field of study. The structure of IT is shown with its narrow fields Computer Science, Information Systems and Other Information Technology in the following table.

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Table 3.1: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2003, IT as a Broad Field of education[10]

Figure 3.2 assists in contrasting these three narrow fields of the broad field of Information Technology.

The horizontal axis (‘hard’ to ‘soft’) represents a shift from hardware-oriented to more human involvement in the development of applications.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 3.2: Information Technology – Principal Subject Clusters (DEET et al 1992: Figure 2.1)

This information shows that there is no consensus within the term Information Systems and where it should be best placed in the higher education sector.

In December 2002, there were 38 Australian universities, 59 departments within 36 of these universities are involved in Information Systems teaching and research. This directory is maintained by the Department of Information Systems, the University of Tasmania.[11] Appendix B presents this listing. Although this directory is not meant to be exclusive by the author, it shows of a lot of various disciplines, which include Information Systems in a field of academic study indicating that there is absolutely no consistency till now.

The departments, in which the IS activities are recognised, are: Computer Science, Business, Commerce, Information Technology, Computing and Information Systems, Environmental and Information Sciences, Information Studies, Computing & Mathematics, Management IS, Computer and Information Science, IS and Management Science, Computing and IT, IT,

Computer Science and Computer Engineering, Computer Science and Software Engineering, Management Technology and Environment/Division of IT, Computing, Information Management and Systems, Management, Business Systems, Business Information Technology, Multimedia and Information Technology, Management of IT, Information Engineering, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Accounting and Information Systems, Information Management & Marketing, IT and Computer Science, Business and Informatics and Information Systems.

As another example, ISWorld NET gives information about IS departments all over the world. In this directory there are again 42 differently named IS departments in Australia in January 2003.[12]

It is apparent, that there is a high complexity within the structure of the Information Systems discipline at universities.

This directory of IS Departments, which is maintained by the University of Tasmania, was the basis for the Australasian IS survey 1998, which was conducted by the University of Tasmania, Department of Information Systems in 1998[13].

Since 1995, there is an annual Information Systems survey with participating universities from Australia and New Zealand to gain a better visibility of the Australian IS area within universities. Data from the current Australian IS survey conducted by the School of Information Systems, Deakin University in the year 2002, is used in this thesis to complete information about IS structures at Australian universities in this chapter and can be found in Appendix F.

In the following section current IS structures are given from the AUTC Business Education Study Team, who conducted research into the state of Business Education in Australia during 2001 and 2002. They identified Information

Systems as an essential part of Business education and the invisibility of Information Systems discipline was recognised as a critical issue,.

This shows that the lack of visibility still exists. In this report, the AUTC tries to bring more visibility in the IS education structures.

They found out that there are 24 independent Information Systems departments at Australian universities and that within Australia, Information Systems courses are overwhelmingly located within Business Faculties.

But, it has been recognised that IS education is also located as a part in other faculties such as IT, Engineering and Science.

The table below shows a break up of the faculties in which IS departments are located.

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Table 3.2: Location of Information Systems Schools/Departments (source AUTC, 2002)

This AUTC report was presented at the ACIS 2002 and in a panel the IS discipline issue was discussed, based on the outcomes of this AUTC report, under the following title “IS: A Discipline in crisis”, which shows the significance of this topic (Fisher et al. 2002). Several Australian IS academics from different universities and with different opinions participated in the panel. More information about this panel is shown later in chapter 4.

In this study, a web survey was undertaken to search for IS departments in Australian universities in December 2002. According to this online information, which was obtained from the universities, and combined with the current Australian Information Systems Survey 2002, there were found to be twelve universities within Australia in which there are IS schools/departments or an IS unit in Business or Commerce Faculties. Altogether there were twenty

schools/departments recognised, which at least contain the term IS in their school/department name or stated IS as a distinct unit within the school/department in the IS Survey 2002.

These universities, with faculty and school/department names are shown in the following table.

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Table 3.3: IS departments within Australian universities, 2002

Twelve schools/departments are located within a Commerce or Business Faculty, three other IS schools/departments were located within IT Faculties, three in a Science Faculty, one in a Communication & Informatics Faculty and another one in a Technology and Industrial Education Faculty. Twelve of the listed universities are also universities which are offering an independent IS study course.

The following chapter gives a detailed overview of current IS degrees, which are offered by the listed IS departments at Australian universities and the historical development of IS in Australia. Furthermore, information is provided about IS study requirements, fees and teaching methods and quality assurance, especially within the IS discipline.

An example of an offered undergraduate and an offered postgraduate study place at the University of Tasmania illustrate the theoretical information.

3.2. Studying Information Systems at Australian Universities

3.2.1. IS Degrees

In the late 1950s, Computer courses were introduced at several Australian universities by 1985, every university had an established computer department (Craig 1996, p.10). Coincidentally, since the 1950s, the IS field grew from computer data processing and soon the necessity emerged of a focus on both organisational processes and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). By 1985, there were less than 80 undergraduate courses of a computing nature and this number had more than doubled to 170 by 1991 (DEET et al 1992). In 1993, Tatnall wrote about a various range of names and curriculum areas of Computing courses.

For example, there currently exist courses, or have existed in the past, with names such as Information Science, Information Processing, Numerical Methods, Computer Science, Data Processing, Automatic Data Processing, Electronic Data Processing, Business Data Processing, Commercial Data Processing, Business Computing, Information Systems and Computing.

Today, the two main approaches to the teaching of university computing are Business Computing and Computer Science. Business Computing is also known as Information Systems.

Already in the year 1994, many universities commonly call computing a science, this is actually a misnomer as computing makes no attempt to explain the world, which is what science is all about (Tatnall 1994).

Concluding, only Business Computing or Information Systems is considered to be in consistence with the German Business Informatics.

However, the structure and content of Business Computing courses differ between universities. But, subject material such as S ystems Analysis, Systems Design, Database and Programming were common to all (Craig 1996, p.11).

Tatnall (1995) said “ no other curriculum area has developed so quickly …and courses in Business Computing are also unusual in the degree to which they depend on technology for their very existence”.

As a part of the maturing of the IS discipline, IS courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level have been developed, primarily within Business/Commerce degrees. Unlike Computer Science and Technology courses, IS courses integrated ICT with organisational, business and management topics in order to teach a range of subjects including: the purpose and role of IS in Organisations, IS Development Methodology, IS Management and IS/IT Strategy. IS courses are designed to include broad Business knowledge with IS knowledge and skills so that IS graduates are prepared for the industry environment and complex problems of IS development and operation within it (Fisher et al. 2002, p.471).

Basically, there are independent, programs with a major in IS or courses with an IS minor available at Australian universities.

In the web survey, conducted in December 2002, there could be found IS degrees, either as an independent program or as a major of another program, in 35 universities around Australia or programs that will start in 2003.

A degree name with Information Systems in brackets ([IS])means that there is a major in Information Systems, not an independent program.

There are 21 universities where an independent IS degree can be studied.

In addition to Business/Commerce and IT Faculties, these IS degrees were located within Arts, Arts &Sciences, Science Technology and Engineering and Engineering and Technology. But to be in consensus with the German Business Informatics, only IS degrees in Business/Commerce, IT Faculties or in a similarly named faculty are considered further in this chapter. In addition, the IS study programs from the University of Queensland which are commencing in 2003 are included in the following list.

The 15 universities who are offering an independent IS degree under these limitations and who are also only named Information Systems are shown in the following table. The most current information for these degree names are taken from the Australian IS Survey 2002.

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Table 3.4: 15 independent IS degrees at Australian universities

Research degrees such as the Master by Research or a PhD program in IS are not listed in the table as well as possible double degrees including IS. But there is the possibility to do these degrees nearly at each of the listed universities.

Most universities that are offering an independent IS study program such as MIS or IS have their own Information Systems department or discipline.

Degrees are named differently, which is again an indication of the inconsistency and invisibility in this area.

Normally, all postgraduate degrees can be studied on a full-time or on a- part time basis. The duration of a full-time Bachelor is three years and of a full-time Master is normally one and a half years. Within a part-time study, these times are at least twice as much.

Normally, students attend four subjects per semester. This means, a Bachelor program contains 24 subjects and a Masters program 12 subjects.

3.2.2. Requirements for Studying IS

“ The consistent growth in interest and demand for Information Systems courses is illustrated by the University Enter Scores for Information Systems

courses “ (Fisher et al., p.474). For the Bachelor program, prospective students are required to qualify for entrance to a university with good Enter Scores, which they bring in from high school. High school students can achieve these Enter Scores within their last two years at high school. As an example, University Entrance Scores for ICT courses in Victoria 2002 are shown in the next table.

The Australian Universities Teaching Committee (AUTC) Business Education Study Team has found out during their research in 2001 and 2002, that in recent years Entrance Scores for Information Systems are either on a par with those of Computer Science or are even higher where IS offers are more than 50 percent higher than of Computer Science. It should be recognised that a course with a higher number of offered places lowers the Enter Score. This score ranges from 0 to 99.95.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Table 3.5: University Entrance Scores for ICT courses in Victoria 2002

The high Enter Scores for Commerce or Business undergraduate programs, where IS is often located, make entry-level students, who are keen on studying IS, go to Computer Science because they cannot meet this high Enter Scores (Fisher et al., p.474). For an application for a Bachelor degree, the prospective student does not need any former working experience to be successful.

However, all Enter Scores to computer courses have dropped, because of the downturn in the Computing Industry and the following 30 percent decrease in the number of applications for places in computer courses as Annemieke Craig from Deakin University noted.

Requirements for a Masters program are normally one of the following three:

Either a four-year degree, or a combination of degrees and diplomas, from an accredited university, which include major or sub-major studies in a relevant discipline (1) or a three-year degree from an accredited university, and at least three years of relevant professional experience (2) or significant relevant professional experience in the areas of Management and Information Systems, but the requirements fail to meet the above criteria (exceptional circumstances).

To do a Postgraduate Diploma or a Postgraduate Certificate you need at least a Bachelor degree or an equivalent. Most people are doing these programs to move on towards their Masters degree.

The requirements for a PhD program can be a Bachelor degree with honours or a Bachelor degree with other relevant qualifications or research publications approved as equivalent or a Masters degree, all in a field of study related to the PhD subject.

International students are normally required to fill in and send back a special application form for international students from the respective university. The English Language Requirements must be proven by an internationally accepted English language test. This means in particular that a sufficient score or level has to be reached either with an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). These English language tests can be completed either in your mother country or

mostly by the language centres at Australian universities. These language centres also provide further English language traininig for international students during their study times. The university decides, whether the application of an international student is accepted or not on the basis of his former academic qualifications and industry experience. Applications should be made about half a year in advance.

Some organisations in Germany like Ranke-Heinemann[14], Gostralia[15] or IES[16], that are free of charge, support German students in their application processes and give useful information about the general educational structure in Australia, universities, English courses, living conditions and insurances. They offer personal checklists for candidates, guide lines and give extensive information about the applying process. Also useful information about studying and living in Australia is provided by the DEAN[17], a German-Australian-Network.

The Australian semester times are different to the German ones. The first semester starts at the beginning of March and goes to the beginning of June, whereas the second semester starts end of July and lasts till end of October.

During the summer period from November to February, summer semester studies are possible at most universities.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 3.3: the Australian and German semester times

3.2.3. Fees for Studying IS

Normally, local students have to pay HECS fees for their studying time. HECS is the Higher Education Contribution Scheme[18], which is a way of ensuring that students contribute to the cost of their higher education. HECS is administered under the Higher Education Funding ACT of 1988 by the Department of Education, Science and Training, the Australian Taxation Office and Higher Education Institutions.

HECS is charged on a semester basis. Local students can choose to pay HECS in three different ways. They can pay up front and receive a 25 percent discount – the complete amount or only a part, or they can defer all payments. The repayment starts normally when the graduate reaches a certain income amount.

Units of study are divided into three bands. In 2002, the full-time full year contribution for Business and Computing was $ 5,125. HECS payments are calculated on the study load. This means, for part-time study, students are charged the proportionate HECS contribution. The fees are referring to all undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, except the PhD program.

International students have to pay full fees. This means in most cases, they have to pay more than local students and they have to pay the fees up front, they do not have the opportunity to defer the payments. As an example this means $12,000 per year for a three-year Bachelor of IS at Deakin University. For an IS Masters program which lasts one and a half years, international students have to pay $15,200 per year and $14,000 per year for an IS Postgraduate Diploma at the University of Wollongong.

These fees for international students differ from university to university and it can be recommended to compare these fees before deciding where to go, because there is a high competition in attracting international students between the Australian universities and fees are calculated precisely as Professor Brian Corbitt from Deakin University reported.

However, if international students are not supported by their home country or by their university at home, they could apply for international scholarships, which help to cover studying and living costs, at most universities.

Fees can also differ concerning on-campus or off-campus students. Additional fees for delivering the online course material are not unusual for students, who are studying in a distance mode.

Due to the less government funding during recent years, universities also offer some non-HECS-places to local students. These students who could not get a HECS-place have to pay the same studying fees as an overseas student in Australia.

HECS is internationally regarded as a fee-paying system for higher education. The Australian informed in late January 2003 about an article in the Economist, that the United Kingdom has just planed to introduce variable HECS-style fees

(The Economist 2002).


[1] Abbreviations of Australian universities from the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee,


[2] See

[3] This includes universities (91), ‚Gesamthochschulen’ (7), ‚ Pädagogische Hochschulen’ (6), ‚ Theologische Hochschulen’ (16), ‚ Kunsthochschulen’ (50), ‚ Fachhochschulen’ (156) und ‚ Verwaltungshochschulen’ (29).

[4] See

[5] See

[6] See

[7] See

[8] See

[9] See

[10] See Australian Bureau of Statistics:!OpenDocument

[11] See

[12] See

[13] See

[14] See

[15] See

[16] See

[17] See

[18] See

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Business informatics: Cross-cultural differences between Germany and Australia
University of Regensburg  (Economics)
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Silke Retzer (Author), 2003, Business informatics: Cross-cultural differences between Germany and Australia, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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