Tenure track positions for postdocs in Germany

Technical University of Munich and Max Planck Society launch tenure track scheme. Plus the latest higher education jobs and appointments

May 29, 2014

Source: Thorsten Naeser/Map

Bright prospects: after six years, an associate professorship is possible

Tenure track is the holy grail for any budding academic in these fiscally constrained times of temporary and even zero-hour contracts. Such posts offering real chances for career development have been the norm in North America for many years but are rare in some European countries.

In Germany, such schemes were non-existent until 2012, according to Wolfgang Herrmann, president of the Technical University of Munich. The university introduced them two years ago and plans to provide 100 more tenure track professorships by 2020.

“A university of high standing needs to cope with the increasing competition within Europe, and also with other parts of the world, for the best brains,” Professor Herrmann said.

The “biggest problem” with the traditional German system is that young people hired on low-level professorships do not progress up the hierarchy even if they perform exceptionally well, he explained.

“If you are interested in moving up the hierarchy you have to change university…which really makes no sense,” he said. Such a system also makes German universities less attractive internationally to bright scholars when compared with leading US institutions that offer tenure track positions, Professor Herrmann reasoned.

Now the university is teaming up with research powerhouse the Max Planck Society to offer tenure-track assistant professorships to early career scientists accepted on to a scheme run by the society called the research group leader programme.

The programme gives promising researchers with up to seven years’ postdoctoral experience the opportunity to run small research groups at its institutes, of which there are 82 across Germany.

The society and the university will appoint the researchers jointly, and projects will typically last for five to six years.

Successful candidates will become an assistant professor at the university and, at the same time, a research group leader at one of the Max Planck Institutes.

At the Technical University of Munich, the assistant professors would be expected to teach two hours a week, three fewer than traditional assistant professors based solely at the university, and the research will take place at the institutes. “He or she can learn more about the university system and how it works,” Professor Herrmann said.

He added that after six years, subject to performance, the candidates would be eligible to join the university in a permanent post of associate professor with the option to progress to full professor over time.

Peter Gruss, president of the Max Planck Society, said: “Our young junior scientists come to us from the world’s top research institutions…It would be a great shame to let them leave again. We need to offer them internationally competitive posts in Germany for their next career move.”

Applications to the programme are sought from postdoctoral researchers in the natural and life sciences, and medicine.


Get on the ladder: positions with possibilities

Leuphana University of Lueneburg
Germany’s Leuphana University of Lueneburg is seeking a professor in teacher education and school development.
Closing date for applications: 30 June 2014
View the full job description and apply for this role

University of Sydney
The University of Sydney’s International Research Collaboration Awards are open to those from organisations outside Australia to undertake short-term research visits.
Closing date for applications: 20 June 2014
View the full job description and apply for this role

University of the West of England
There is an opening for a part-time research associate within the Faculty of Business and Law at the University of the West of England.
Closing date for applications: 1 June 2014
View the full job description and apply for this role


Plymouth University has appointed Kevin Jones as the new dean of the Faculty of Science and Environment. Professor Jones joins Plymouth from City University London.

Laura Gibbs, deputy registrar and chief information officer at Royal Holloway, University of London, has been appointed registrar of Soas, University of London.

John Fothergill, pro vice-chancellor (research and enterprise) at City University London, has received the 2014 Thomas W. Dakin Distinguished Technical Contributions Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for his “outstanding, original technical contributions in advancing the science and technology of dielectrics and electrical insulation”.

The Royal College of Art has made Amanda Spencer its new director of information, learning and technical services. Dr Spencer was previously the head of information and communication technology at the National Archives.

Abertay University has announced Carl Schaschke as its next head of the School of Science, Engineering and Technology. Professor Schaschke joins from the University of Strathclyde.

Frédérique Woerther will join the School of Advanced Study, University of London, as visiting fellow. Dr Woerther, an international expert in medieval Arabic and classical rhetorical studies, will be based at the Warburg Institute during June 2014.

The University of Salford has named Hisham Elkadi as its new head of the School of the Built Environment. Professor Elkadi, currently head of the School of Architecture at Deakin University in Australia, will take up the post in August.

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