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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Science Studies

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Department of Social Sciences | Science Studies | Research | Employment conditions and academic staff policies in German higher education

Employment conditions and academic staff policies in German higher education

Grant application and advisory group: Dr. Anne K. Krüger (HU Berlin), Johannes Moes (HU Berlin), Dr. Anna Schütz (Bremen)

Lead investigator: Norma Möllers

Student assistant: Volkan Sayman

Running: 2014-2015


For the past decade, science policy debates in Germany have strongly emphasized the recruitment of excellent academics by fostering competition for the ‘brightest and smartest minds in academia’ (Joint Science Conference 2013). However, they have remained relatively silent about how the German academic system can secure continued employment for academic staff in the middle and long run. At the same time, publically funded universities employ the vast majority of their academic staff on short-term contracts (National Report on Junior Scholars 2013). In international comparison, the German higher education system is a special case, because tenured positions for academic staff have become an exception. Such conditions make it highly difficult for researchers and lecturers to plan their careers, as well as their research and teaching (cf. Kreckel et al. 2014).

Although in recent years employment conditions in German higher education have attracted greater attention in policy debates, empirical studies pertaining to this issue still tend to focus on individuals scholars’ perspectives and practices. By contrast, this project investigates the organizational practices of 50 different universities, focusing on the employment conditions of non-professorial staff (which amounted to 88% of the academic staff in 2012). We analyze the ratio of temporary and permanent contracts for academic staff, employment standards (e.g. terms of contracts), possibilities of renewal and extension of terms, involuntary part-time employment, and the gendered dimensions of these conditions; but also policies supporting academic staff with families, and facilities for further training. By emphasizing the individual university as unit of analysis, we hope obtain a better understanding of the organizational conditions which shape academic career paths. Eventually, by comparing universities, the study will also contribute policy-relevant insights to the debate on career perspectives in German higher education.


→ final report (pdf, German)