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Family Business Management, M.Sc.

Learning how to manage a family business

Managing a family business is a highly complex and frequently paradoxical challenge. It is not just a job to lead a family business. It is almost a philosophy. An entrepreneur or manager must have specific competences and expertise in order to handle the difficult combination of family, business and ownership with confidence. A solid basis in business economics is necessary, but not always enough to cope with the very special coupling of family and business as two different social systems.

The Faculty of Management and Economics offers a wide range of courses with particular reference to family businesses, integrated in a Master degree program that is unique in Germany: “Family Business Management” (M.Sc.). 

Pioneers in family business studies

The Witten Institute of Family Business (WIFU) is the national pioneer in academic research and teaching on the characteristics of family businesses. The founding of the Institute for Family Enterprises in 1998 was a truly visionary deed. A serious academic home was created for this type of enterprise for the first time in the German-speaking world. Until then the topic of family businesses had no relevance whatsoever for the established German economic science, which no doubt has something to do with the special qualitative features of family firms. A solid foundation of interdisciplinary orientation was established right from the start with three key research areas – business economics, psychology/sociology, and law – as the scientific mirror image of the make-up of family businesses. 

Findings from about 15 years of research, hundreds of lectures and workshops, the traditional Congress for Family Business, discussion panels and personal interviews with managers have enabled the WIFU to gather a technical expertise that is unparalleled in the field of family enterprise.   

Theory based, close to practice

Our Master program “Family Business Management” (M.Sc.) established in 2010 integrates these research areas and the accumulated expertise with an interdisciplinary approach. The focus is on competences in business economics, psychology/sociology and law, all relevant to the management of family firms, with a close integration of theory and practice.  

The program conveys, in addition to the Witten theory on family entrepreneurship, the expertise and perspectives of leading European and US-American researchers as visiting professors. Students have ample opportunity to meet partner companies in research projects and at events. They acquire subject-related knowhow, gain experience and enjoy ideal conditions for networking.

Learning how to manage a family business

Family firms may be seen as overall systems comprising three overlapping subsystems, i.e. family, business and ownership, with strong mutual influences. The issues explored in the Master program always refer to the rationale, dynamics and interactions of these three subsystems. An interdisciplinary approach is indispensable in addressing such a wide range of diverse topics.

Family businesses have characteristics that require specific expertise and much sensitivity: The combination of family, business and ownership involves a tremendous competitive advantage on the one hand, and risks and dangers on the other. Management in this context is the art of maintaining the balance between business and family strategies, between market forces and family dynamics. Students gain the pertinent competences in courses supervised by renowned lecturers and experienced members of the business community.

Interdicciplinary concept, diversity of perpectives

The interdisciplinary concept of the program serves to train out-of-the-box thinking and avoid tunnel vision through the integration of several academic disciplines: economics (business economics/general management), psychology, sociology and law. The modular structure of the curriculum facilitates the acquisition of competences and qualifications relevant to family businesses, and the exploration of issues from various perspectives.

In 2011 this innovative degree program was honored as a “landmark” in the nationwide annual competition “Germany – Land of Ideas”.


Peter Pohlmann

“With this innovative Master program the Faculty of Management and Economics supplies a new interdisciplinary and academically well-founded source of orientation for successors from owner families and externs. The space offered to them for professional development and personal growth is an important contribution to the survival of family businesses in Germany.”
Peter Pohlmann, Chairman Supervisory Board, POCO-Domäne Holding GmbH

Jon Baumhauer

“The Master course in Family Business Management provides excellent professional and personal preparation both for young executives and members of owner families in their respective roles. We are glad to see that the expertise accumulated at the Witten Institute of Family Business is now conveyed in a specific course. I wish the project every success.” 
Jon Baumhauer, Chairman of the Board of E. Merck KG


If you feel this degree program is just the thing for you, you are welcome to send us your application.

Not sure? Give it a try!

If on the other hand you are not really sure that we are right for each other, or that we deliver what we promise – no problem. Come to Witten and see for yourself. We are looking forward to meeting you.

Open Day
Taster Day
Master Day

Master Day

We offer orientation days on a regular basis where professors give exclusive lectures and faculty staff are available for details on curricular structure and content. Applicants can interview economics students and get first-hand information on their personal motivation and experience. Attendance is free of charge.


Zusätzliche Information


Margarete Mateusiak
Phone: +49(0)2302 / 926-588

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