The Tenure-Track Professorship

In the past, the path towards a lifelong professorship in the German academic system has been protracted and uncertain – particularly when compared with other countries. For this reason, the Federal Government and the Länder agreed a funding programme for junior academics on 16 June 2016.

Die Tenure-Track-Professur

The aim of the programme is for the tenure-track professorship to be established in the long term as a career path in its own right, alongside the conventional procedure for appointing professors.

Tenure-track professorships are a way of offering junior academics reliable career prospects, while at the same time strengthening the academic system as a whole by enabling better planning. Like junior professors, these academics are initially employed by the university on a temporary basis. The difference is that they immediately transition to a permanent professorship once they have successfully completed the probationary period (known as the tenure track). The Federal Government-Länder Programme guarantees that those people holding positions at the funded universities will receive appropriate initial funding for equipment and will be able to conduct independent research and teaching, even in the early stages of their academic careers.

An evaluation procedure is used to determine whether the probationary phase has been completed successfully. The quality of the tenure-track professor’s performance is the only aspect considered when deciding whether to make the position permanent. No consideration is given to financial or strategic factors. As such, the tenure track model provides security for the individuals holding positions and enables them to make long-term career plans at an early stage.

The Federal Government and the Länder have clearly defined and regulated the requirements regarding the tenure-track professorship in section 4 of the programme’s administrative arrangement.

Excerpt from the Administrative Arrangement

Section 4 of the administrative arrangement between the Federal Government and the Länder, in accordance with article 91b subsection 1 of the Basic Law, concerning a funding programme for junior academics

(1) The following requirements and characteristics are associated with the tenure-track professorship:


  • The structures, procedures and quality standards for tenure-track professorships are subject of statutory regulation;
  • Tenure-track professorships are limited to a period of up to six years. Section 3, number 1, clauses 2 to 4 remain unaffected. Tenure-track professorships can be established either in the W 1 or the W 2 salary band;
  • Job advertisements are generally published internationally, whereby reference is made to the envisaged tenure track commitment, which is not subject to conditions1
  • Applicants for a tenure-track professorship shall have moved to a different university once they have obtained their doctorate, or must have been employed for at least two years in the academic field outside the higher education institution to which they are being appointed professor;
  • The appointment of tenure-track professors requires regulated, quality-assured appointment procedures or comparable procedures involving internationally renowned reviewers. Foreign reviewers should also be involved if deemed appropriate due to the professional profile of the professorship;
  • Holders of tenure track positions perform their research and teaching tasks independently as professors. For this reason, the tenure-track professorship is provided with appropriate funding for equipment and
  • The transition to a permanent professorship assumes that the position holder has passed a quality-assured evaluation in line with well-defined and transparent criteria that are made clear at the time of appointment. The purpose of this evaluation is to check whether the achievements defined at the time of appointment have been realized and whether the individual demonstrates the professional and pedagogical aptitude necessary for a lifelong professorship. An interim evaluation can be scheduled in order to provide a post holder with guidance regarding their future career path. The quality standards applying to the appointment procedure should also be used for this evaluation.
(2) The appointment of tenure-track professors should give adequate consideration to junior academics who are already on post-doctoral career paths leading to a professorship. In all cases, candidates must successfully participate in a quality assured appointment procedure for tenure-track professorships, as described in subsection 1. The individual universities are responsible for the rest of the procedure, whereby they must observe the guidelines set out in subsection 1.

1 The fact that the position is not subject to conditions means that the transition to a lifelong professorship is only dependent on the successful completion of the evaluation stage and not on the existence of a vacant lifelong post at the higher education institution once the tenure-track professorship has ended. If the tenure track commitment is conditional on the existence of a position, this constitutes a mere tenure track option, which is not funded under this programme.