Scientists and researchers in their early career stages provide essential services to the research and higher education system and contribute significantly to scientific progress. However, the stage between their doctorate to their first professorship offer is often characterised by high risks, frequent changes of institution and a lack of predictability. The German Science and Humanities Council (Wissenschaftsrat, WR) has commented on career paths in the research and higher education system in several of its recommendations and has also addressed the special characteristics of different career stages.
The doctorate typically marks the beginning of an academic career. The WR has repeatedly taken a position on this; it recommends doctoral degree courses to become more structured and that a suitable institutional framework be adopted, such as through doctoral colleges and umbrella structures for graduate training. The doctoral degree stage should also account for the fact that a large proportion of graduates will eventually work outside of academia after completing their doctorate; they should therefore be given the opportunity to acquire relevant skills during their doctorate to facilitate a successful career entry. The WR last commented on the quality assurance of doctoral degree courses in 2011, emphasising the importance of more collegial and institutional supervision.
The WR has developed a model for shaping career goals and paths at universities which envisages not just the career goal of professorship but career goals linked to other types of permanent employment as well. In addition, the WR calls for a clearer structuring of career paths with more predictable transitions, especially in the postdoctoral stage on the path to (tenure-track) professorship.
Appointment procedures at universities are another important aspect of career paths. In this area, the WR has recommended that procedures be made shorter and more transparent, and that procedural standards be raised through appointments officers. It has also made recommendations regarding professorship offers to tenure-track professorships and their evaluation and de-termination.
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