German professors could lose their coveted Beamte employment status, which guarantees tenure and generous salaries, under the Social Democrat-Green coalition.
Education minister Edelgard Bulmahn has announced plans to reform employment regulations in universities and the more technical Fachhoch-schulen. The influential conference of university rectors (HRK) has unveiled proposals for performance-related pay.
The HRK wants to replace the nationally-agreed salary structure with a single basic professorial salary which would then be topped up according to individual performance. It also wants universities and Fachhochschulen to be given the power to decide wage levels for academic staff. Academics would negotiate salaries individually on appointment.
HRK president Klaus Landfried said the changes should only affect the next generation of professors and young academics will have to accept that "more people start out with less money nowadays".
The German Hochschulverband, the professional association representing 17,000 professors, supports performance-related pay in principle but described the HRK plans as "an open declaration of war". Leader Harmut Schiedermair said the rectors were just trying to cut professorial salaries.
A 45-year-old university professor can earn between Pounds 3,300 and Pounds 6,000 per month.