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News vom 23.05.2007

Junior professors satisfied with their overall situation

The CHE – Centre for Higher Education Development presents the current state of play

Junior professorships have proven themselves as a route to qualification in the eyes of those holding the positions. More than two thirds of junior professors are quite or very satisfied with their situation; 71 percent of all interviewees would again opt for a junior professorship. “The result shows that it was right to introduce this route to qualification,” says Gero Federkeil, head of the study. “Universities use it to recruit excellent young scientists and it is especially useful in terms of finding staff for innovative research areas.” The same procedures are often applied when appointing junior professors as are used in filling tenure professorship positions.

The commitment of Länder and higher education institutions to the establishment of junior professorships differs considerably. There are some higher education institutions that have established quite a number of junior professorships, among them Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Universität Göttingen, Universität Hamburg, Freie Universität Berlin, Universität Bremen and Universität Hannover. In terms of job openings, current figures confirm that the 800 junior professorships so far created will remain constant.

“Compared with the number of postdoctoral theses (about 2,000 in the year 2005), however, the projected development of junior professorships falls short of expectations,” Gero Federkeil says. “The future development of junior professorships will depend on the career prospects for junior professors. This presupposes the improvement of continued employment options (Tenure Track) at the junior professor’s university. According to the responses from junior professors, this is only offered in 18 percent of cases.

It is usual practise to carry out an interim evaluation after 3 years, which determines whether a particular junior professorship is to be continued or not. The procedure has been welcomed by those in these positions: 70 percent say they view the procedure as generally appropriate. The interim evaluations carried out so far have returned positive results; only two percent were considered negative. More than a quarter of the interviewees stated, however, that they feel in the dark in terms of the targets against which they are being measured.

Junior professorships were introduced in 2002. The reform objective was to shorten the paths to qualification and, with an eye on international competition, to make careers in science more attractive and easier to schedule. In particular, young scientists should be granted greater independence from individual mentors. A junior professorship usually runs for six years. The CHE study is based on interviews with universities and junior professors.

Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.

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Gero Federkeil
Gero Federkeilmehr
Phone: +49 5241 9761-30
Fax: +49 5241 9761-40

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