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With its vineyards and beautiful views, Kahlenberg is a popular destination for both Vienna’s visitors and inhabitants. That the mountain is also home to a first-class university is sometimes known to residents, but mostly not to visitors.
Yet, this unusual location is home to Modul University Vienna, which was founded in 2007 by the Vienna Chamber of Commerce and is best known for its internationally-oriented programs in tourism and hospitality. Now, however, the signs at the university are pointing to change. This, as in 2020 the British entrepreneur Suresh Sivagnanam took over 90% of the university's shares (10% are still held by the Vienna Chamber of Commerce). And the new owner has big plans. "My long-term goal is to establish a medical university here," says Sivagnanam. Under the sub-brand MU Med, Sivagnanam wants to train medical personnel over the next three years, as the entrepreneur sees enormous potential at the interface of medicine and tourism: "People no longer wait years for procedures. Medical tourism will be huge in the next few years." Indeed, according to Allied Market Research, the global market for medical tourism was $100 billion in 2019. By 2027, it could grow to $273 billion.
Sivagnanam was born in London as the son of two immigrants – his mother is from Malaysia, his father from Sri Lanka. Sivagnanam, who became self-employed at an early age, made his wealth through his company Vdoc, a service that provides patients with quick access to (digital) health advice. He certainly knows his way around the industry. But whether the university's focus can be shifted so quickly remains to be seen, especially since Sivagnanam is also planning other strategic measures: In addition to medical courses, Modul University is also planning to advance into aviation. "We are starting with aviation, so we will train pilots and flight attendants here," says Sivagnanam. He wants to use Modul University's reputation to appeal to students worldwide. "We are a global university, we are interested in students worldwide. Modul University is an excellent brand that is known worldwide." Nonetheless, Sivagnanam sees MU not only as a university but as an entire ecosystem: for example, the entrepreneur also wants to use the university as a platform to bring investors together with startups.
While many things will change at Kahlenberg in the coming months and years, one thing will remain the same, according to Sivagnanam: the location. The lease at Kahlenberg has just been extended, and the owner has also given the green light for conversions and extensions, Sivagnanam says. "Vienna is a strategically important location in the heart of Europe. We are staying here."
Text: Klaus Fiala
Dieser Artikel erschien in unserer Ausgabe 7–21 zum Thema „Smart Cities“.