Who we are

Our story

The Hertie School is a private university based in Berlin, Germany, accredited by the state and the German Science Council. It prepares exceptional students for leadership positions in government, business and civil society. Interdisciplinary and practice-oriented teaching, first-class research and an extensive international network set the Hertie School apart and position it as an ambassador of good governance, characterised by public debate and engagement. Our motto is "Understand today. Shape tomorrow".

Becoming Germany's first professional school for public policy

The Hertie School was formally founded as a private, non-profit institution in December 2003 by the Hertie Foundation, thereby becoming the first professional school for public policy in Germany.

Offering programmes that emphasised academic excellence and practical orientation in the reunified capital of Berlin, the Hertie School was, from its start, a unique educational institution in Germany.

The school began by organising panels, symposia and discussions as well as providing a platform for policymakers, professionals and practitioners from the media, NGOs and business to engage with academia.

In February 2005, the Hertie School was granted official state recognition and given the authority by the Berlin Senate to award the academic title Master of Public Policy as an institution of higher learning.

The first cohort of students in the two-year Master of Public Policy programme began their studies in September 2005, and the programme has grown considerably each year.

In September 2008, the school launched its second master's programme: the Executive Master of Public Administration. Together with the Freie Universität Berlin and the Social Science Centre Berlin (WZB), the Hertie School established the Berlin School of Transnational Studies in 2008.

In 2011, the Hertie School was one of the few private universities in Germany to receive the right to award doctorates. The Doctoral Programme in Governance started in 2012.

The first cohort of the Master of International Affairs began their studies in 2015, the first cohort of the Master of Data Science for Public Policy in 2021.

The origins of the Hertie name

Our School bears a household name in Germany, which belonged to a successful chain of department stores – Hertie.

The original stores, or Hermann Tietz Warenhäuser, were founded in 1882 by a German Jewish family, led by Oskar Tietz with the support of his uncle, Hermann Tietz (the name HERTIE was later derived from abbreviations of his name: HERmann TIEtz).

After many years of successful growth and expansion, the company entered the Great Depression in the late 1920s heavily indebted. From 1930, the stores also faced the effects of discriminatory policies against Jewish merchants, and sales significantly deteriorated.

In 1933, the stores were “aryanised”, and a consortium of banks known as the “Hertie Kaufhaus Beteiligungs GmbH” dispossessed the Tietz family of their company assets. The consortium appointed Georg Karg, a long-time salesman and later chief textile buyer as the new managing director. Many members of the Tietz family immigrated to the US and elsewhere.

After the war, a financial settlement was reached with the Tietz family and Georg Karg, the subsequent owner of the Hertie brand.

The Hertie Foundation was founded in 1974 by Mr. Karg. Since its launch, the Foundation has spent more than 450 million Euros on its own projects or grants in the fields of multiple sclerosis, neurosciences, education, integration, democracy and work-life balance. Currently, the work of the Hertie Foundation focuses on two key issues: brain research and strengthening democracy.

In 2003/2004, the Hertie Foundation founded the Hertie School (now Hertie School) to institutionalise research and teaching on new forms of statehood and governance. 

The Hertie Foundation’s leadership has a strong commitment to acknowledge its past. In November 2020, its board commissioned the Frankfurt-based Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte to conduct an academic review of the early history of the foundation's assets. This study was written by Professors Johannes Bähr and Ingo Köhler and published in December 2023 as a book titled Verfolgt, “arisiert”, wiedergutgemacht? Wie aus dem Warenhauskonzern Hermann Tietz Hertie wurde (English: Persecuted, 'Aryanised', compensated? How the Hermann Tietz department store group became Hertie). It details the “Aryanisation” of the Hermann Tietz group during the Third Reich and the role played by Georg Karg. 

Copies of this study are available to students of the Hertie School in the university library, and a summary of the study can be found here.

An expanded version of this history is visualised on campus in a timeline and can also be read on the Hertie Foundations' webpage.