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I will start my master program soon and can choose between the TU Berlin (Information System Management) and HU Berlin (Computer Science). I want to do a PhD after my master's degree with a specialization in AI. Currently I'm really interested in Explainable AI for Computer Vision.

Does the decision between those two universities — and above all the name of the degree — make an impact for a later career in academia?

I personally think that the TU Berlin (Technische Universität) has a better reputation in the field of computer science, than the HU Berlin. I just don't know if the name of the degree (since it's not directly computer science) will make a difference for my later career. Also, I think that the courses that I can choose at the TU Berlin are far more interesting for the research area I want to pursue.

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    What's the German names of the programmes? Aug 1 at 12:57
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    TU Berlin also has a computer science (Informatik) program. Why are you not doing that one?
    – Claude
    Aug 1 at 14:59

7 Answers 7

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I am handling PhD admissions for Computer Science at my university. My initial reaction to a master in "Information System Management" is to be very, very suspicious. That sounds like the kind of degree you get if you want to lead an IT department in a company, not like the kind of master you get as preparation for a PhD in Computer Science.

That doesn't mean I'd automatically reject, I'd at least have a look at the particular courses taken and read the statement of purpose to see what is going on. If the courses at the TU are indeed the better choice, and ideally, if you explain this to me in the SoP, I'd be perfectly happy overlooking the odd MSc name here.

Beyond PhD admissions, the title of your MSc is not going to matter for an academic career.

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I know both schools and programs. There are good and not so good points in both. Look carefully at the curricula: which courses interest you more? Look at the professors in the programs, what do they publish? Which are the topics which interest you more? In Germany no one really cares about the name of a program, as universities try to set up "unique selling points" that stretch to the name of a program at times. Your Master's thesis and the courses you take will be much more important than the title of the program. And as the previous answers have said: Information System Management and Computer Science are two different pairs of shoes.

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The title, per se, probably makes little difference, but the content certainly does. Beyond the names, note, importantly, that Information System Management and Computer Science are two very different things. Make sure you understand the difference and choose one that it compatible with your needs.

Look, for example, at the actual curricula in both programs, especially required courses or typical research problems.

For anything in AI and anything in Computer Vision, I'd say that CS is far (far) more appropriate than ISM. ISM emphasizes management and CS emphasizes science. People in those two fields learn very different things, and their careers can be very different. CS is more likely (at least somewhat) to lead to an academic career.


Note that I was once part of a school, within a US university, that delivered both programs and I collaborated with some of the ISM faculty. But our interests were very different.

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You already got some good answers, but I think there is one more important point which is mainly a language issue and which should be mentioned - in particular since your main concern seems to be about the name of the program.

Apparently, "Information System Management" in the question refers to this program at TU Berlin. The issue is that the English name of the program probably gives rise to different connotations than its German name, which is simply "Wirtschaftsinformatik". Since the majority of users of this site is unlikely to speak German, here is a brief explanation: "Informatik" is simply the German word for "computer science", and "Wirtschaft" is a quite generic German word which can mean various things from both business and economics.

There has been somekind of trend in Germany during the last decades to take any classical STEM program X, replace a few of the contents with anything related either to business or economics, and then call it "Wirtschafts-X". This often raises some issues and misunderstandings when you try to translate the name of such a program to English.

I think if you apply for a PhD in Germany or in German-speaking countries, the name "Wirtschaftsinformatik" is unlikely to cause you many problems as long as you have taken courses which fit the profile of the PhD that you'd like to do. If you apply in other countries and use the English notion "Information System Management" though, you might want to explain this a bit in your application.

But anyway, the most important thing will be which courses you take. The details of the program at TU Berlin are specified in the "Studien- und Prüfungsordnung" (link; in German). I've only looked very briefly at it, but what would make me a bit wary in your case is, for instance, that all the modules "Machine Learning 1", "Machine Learning 2", and so on, are listed in the list "Fachstudium Wirtschaftsinformatik", but not in the list "Fachstudium Informatik". This might raise the question whether these courses also treat the theoretical foundations of this topic in detail, or whether they mainly focus on applications. The table on the bottom of page 352 shows that a considerable number of credit points in the program are assigned to the fields "Wirtschaft und Management" and "Wirtschaftsinformatik", and only a few are assigned to "Informatik".

I don't know how much theoretical background is typically required for a PhD in artificial intelligence - but it might be worthwhile for you to briefly double-check whether the "Wirtschaftsinformatik" program you're interested in leaves sufficiently many opportunities for in-depth theoretical courses, or whether it focusses mainly on applications.

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  • Thanks for the feedback! I want to pursue the Data Science Track for Information System Management. In this Track your don’t have to do any courses related to business. I have a feeling, that because the TU is a bigger name on the technology field it’s the better options, even though it’s not „pure“ Computer Science. On the other hand I heard, that the TU is really unpersonal and it’s hard to talk to professors. At the HU that doesn’t seem the case. Jul 31 at 10:46
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    @LukasScholz: Thanks for your response! As I don't have much experience in the field of computer science (I'm rather working in pure maths), I should probably be a bit careful not to extrapolate my experience too much. But in case that you want to do your PhD in Germany, I still doubt that this whole "big names" thing is going to matter much for your PhD application. In Germany, you typically have to apply for PhD positions with individual professors (though there are some exceptions). [...] Jul 31 at 11:13
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    [...] And since reputation of universities isn't such a big thing in Germany anyway, it's unlikely that a professor who reads your application will really care whether you did your PhD at TU or HU. The reason is that, while there might be a non-zero correlation between the name of your university and your individual research potential, in the German system this correlation is just not strong enough to come anywhere close to reliable proxy for your individual potential. Professors are thus likely to put much more weight on your individual record than on names of institutions. Jul 31 at 11:13
  • Good points raised! Aug 1 at 12:59
  • @LukasScholz It is unclear from the documentation of the Track requirements are and or are or requirements; ie, it is plausible you have to complete both the core program requirements and the track requriements. If so, you'd have to take economics/business courses selected from the DA Track choices (which exist from a brief reading).
    – Yakk
    Aug 1 at 16:23
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There are always subtle implicit impacts of the words we see, but basically the name and reputation of the university will likely have a much larger impact than the name of the degree program. Also, you can always leave the name of the degree programme off your CV, and just say what department awarded the degree. But the main thing to focus on is what courses will you take, who will you potentially work with and get letters of reference from, and what are your chances of getting a publication or other research experience during or immediately after your degree?

Since you mention Berlin: One advantage of coming to Berlin / Germany – you can work at any university in part-time research positions.

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    German universities have virtually now reputation difference and in Germany it is more important what you actually did (Math, CS, Physics) then where you went to.
    – usr1234567
    Aug 1 at 6:50
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Does the dicision between those two universities and above all the name of the degree make a impact for a later career in academia?

You mention academia and I can hardly comment on that area (I was in physics).

Just in case, should you switch to industry, anything "management" is suspicious to say the least. "Information Systems Management" is extra suspicious.

I managed varied IT teams and if the "Information Systems Management" studies are studies about how to manage IT (teams/organizations) then they are more or less worthless. After such studies you will not have any relevant experience.

If it means how to manage IT systems then you are basically a sysadmin and then yes, this is cool.

When hiring, I glance at the studies someone did but I am much more interested in the actual knowledge you have (including relevant hobbies). So you may want to consider to exactly explain what that "management" was, especially if it means you have technical knowledge.

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You are asking to quite distinct questions:

(1) Will the (prestige or reputation of the) institution matter?

(2) Will the discipline-area appellation of the degree matter?

Ad (1) Yes.

Ad (2) Depends on the person. In interviews, I just ask the person a bunch of technical questions to gauge their level of knowledge or accomplishment. I have found that this correlates only very weakly with either the prestige of their degree institution, or "in what" their degree actually was. However, some people have strong black and white opinions of the sort "all computer scientists are idiots" and in that case, it is not so good if your degree says CS.

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