Rector Invited as Expert
In a public hearing, the Parliamentary Committee for Education, Research and Technology Assessment discussed the topic of “Support of Early-Career Researchers and Amendment of the Act on Temporary Employment in Academia”. RWTH Rector Ernst Schmachtenberg was invited to the hearing as an expert and a representative of academia.
The hearing was held against the backdrop of political demands to make employment of young researchers in academia more socially secure by amending the Act on Temporary Employment in Higher Education.
The invited experts provided insights on the current employment conditions at German universities and desirable requirements for career paths at higher education and research institutions. Schmachtenberg emphasized that the general focus at universities is on the education and training of students in the service of society.
However, he deems it necessary that graduates and doctoral candidates working at universities should be subject to mandatory social security contributions, a goal that already has been achieved for a large proportion of the employed researchers.
He emphasized that especially universities of technology have a strong interest in being able to offer attractive positions for highly qualified graduates in engineering and the natural sciences, as these graduates have excellent career opportunities in industry. On the other hand, today about 50 percent of the budget is project-funded, which requires temporary employment to a certain extent.
In general, lawmakers should put universities in a position that makes it possible for them to offer permanent positions, even in view of time-limited projects and limited funding. The situation for doctoral candidates is different however, as the time-limited position is due to the limited duration of the dissertation.
For the support of their subsequent academic career, according to Schmachtenberg, external partners from non-university research institutions and society are needed. For him, ideally, an outstanding engineer with a doctoral degree should take up a position in industry, with the option to be appointed by a university later in his or her career.