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No less than 4,000 new professorships is what the German Green party demands in their recent parliamentary paper. Along with this demand go suggestions for several sweeping changes to the German university system: abolishing the 12 year deadline on limited-term contracts, a mandatory tenure-track option for all assistant professorships, junior group leaders are to be given the right to be the official PhD advisor and head of the committee for their graduate students and more sub-professor positions without time restrictions should be offered. I received these news via the DHV.

The party motivates these demands with a lack of that number of professors determined already in 2008 by an independent commission (Wissenschaftsrat) as well as the lack of international competitiveness of the German university system both within academia and compared to private companies.

Spearheading this initiative is a politician I met at the GAIN conference in Boston last year, Krista Sager (Facebook page). We emphasized there that the brightest minds leave science because there is so little chance of actually doing science for the rest of their lives. We stressed that limiting the time in which people are allowed to fend for themselves to 12 years, despite the good intentions of the law, is counterproductive. Moreover, the number of professorships in Germany has been stagnating at around 24,000 since the late 1990s at least:


At our own university, things look even worse, there, the number of profesors has dropped by two thirds:


With the number of students in Germany on the rise, these number do not bode well - neither for German research not for German higher education. Something needs to be done and more professors is a step in the right direction.
Obviously, I have no idea how much Ms. Sager was influenced by what was said at this meeting, but a lot of the language in the written paper echos the sentiments expressed at the meeting. Apparently, German politicians are listening to scientists. Whoda thunk?

Now that I think of it: I've attended this conference. I've talked to Ms. Sager several times and became one of her thousands of 'friends' on Facebook. Does this make me a lobbyist? blush.png

UPDATE: For the non-German readers I should point out that the Green party is in opposition at the moment and thus does not have the power to make this paper into a bill that will pass.

UPDATE2: At the same time, Italy is killing its universities: the politicians there just passed a bill that will cut 700M€ in funding, fuse universities, limit the number of subjects they could cover to twelve, replace each five retiring professors with one, allow only one extention of a contract to a young researcher after which, if he/she doesn't get a profesorship, he/she will be expelled from the university system. Moreover, the deans of these universities will have less power and must appoint non-university 'experts' into the governance of the universities. This means the end of science in Italy, RIP

Full disclosure: I am in the job market for one of these 4,000 positions.
Posted on Thursday 20 January 2011 - 10:48:47 comment: 0

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