Faculty of Mathematics and Computer ScienceAcademic Development
“A PhD is not enough!” Like the university as a whole, the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science is dedicated to promoting young scientists as a key driver of innovation and advancement of knowledge in research.
The various measures are alltocated to the different institutes, individual research groups, and their research projects. The central administration offers a number of support programs (heiTrack, heiSkills etc.) and further information on their webpages. We gathered here all types of information regarding the faculty-specific regulations and procedures underlying the main career paths leading to a permanent employment in the German academic system.
Habilitation, junior professorship, and the status of independent research group leader differ in duration, funding source, burden of proof, and degree of association with the faculty. All three require a background in Mathematics or Computer Science and a scientific qualification following the doctorate, and entail an obligation to contribute to the teaching in our study programs in return for the right to supervise Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral Theses.
The Habilitation is the traditional qualification for a full professorship at a German university and remains the legal benchmark for all first-time hires. It is awarded in recognition of an exceptional ability for independent research and teaching in a particular field of study.
The Habilitation is an academic degree that is normally awarded together with the Venia Legendi (authorization to teach, including supervision of Doctoral Theses) in a particular field of study. The Venia Legendi, and the accompanying academic title Privatdozent ("PD") depends on continuous contributions to the teaching at the Faculty, but not on the employment status. Along the same line, the Habilitation is personal, while the transfer of the Venia Legendi to a different institution (or the extension to an additional field) requires a separate process.
At Heidelberg University, like many other institutions, the Habilitation is a three-tiered process:
- A habilitation thesis, or equivalent scientific publications, as evidence of original research at the level expected of a professor at a university,
- evidence of successful teaching experience, typically a one-semester lecture course at the Bachelor or Master level,
- a lecture to the Faculty on a topic outside the candidate's main area of expertise.
The Habilitation process is controlled by the Habilitationskonferenz, that includes Emeriti and all Professors and Privatdozents of the Faculty with full-time employment at the university.
Scientists interested in acquiring the Habilitation at the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science need to first apply for the candidate status Habilitand/Habilitandin with the support of a faculty member as mentor. At this time, they also register the course intended as evidence of teaching ability with the Dean of Studies.
The Habilitation process itself is initiated after completion of the Habilitation Thesis, and lasts for about one semester, depending on the dates of the faculty meetings.
- In the first step, the Faculty (Habilitationskonferenz) decides on the initiation of the process and appoints a Habilitation committee and external referees.
- In a second step, the Habilitation committee reviews the thesis with the help of external reviews, and submits a report to the Faculty which then votes on the thesis, the teaching ability, and the topic of the Habilitation lecture.
- The process concludes with the lecture to the Faculty that is followed by a discussion, vote, and, in case of a successful audit, the award of the Venia Legendi.
The formal basis of the Habilitation is the Habilitationsordnung that calls for a number of documents, but there are few to no ready-made forms. All correspondence regarding the Habilitation should be addressed to the Dean's Office.
The Junior professorship was introduced some time ago as an alternative to the Habilitation as prerequisite for a full professorship. In this model, the authorization to teach (and supervise theses) is granted before the full development of the own research profile. In return, the Junior professorhip requires immediate contributions to teaching, and depends on full-time employment at the university, typically backed by a six-year fixed-term contract.
Junior professors are typically evaluated toward the end of their appointment in a process that resembles the Habilitation and includes an external review of research accomplishments, a teaching evaluation, and an equivalent to the lecture to the faculty. After successful evaluation, Junior professors may then become member of the Habilitationskonferenz.
The teaching load of a Junior professor before their evaluation is 4 weekly contact hours per term and corresponds to roughly half of that of a full professor. After positive evaluation, the teaching load is 6 contact hours per term.
At Heidelberg University, the Junior professorship exists in two variants: with tenure-track, and without tenure-track. In the tenure-track model, the evaluation equivalent of Habilitation is accompanied by a tenure evaluation and results in direct (non-competitive) appointment as full professor at the university. Without tenure-track, the Junior professorship ends some time after the evaluation.
The formal basis of the Junior professorship (with or without tenure-track) includes certain sections of the Higher Education Act, a set of university-wide regulations, and some faculty-specific evaluation criteria. The process is controlled by the hiring committee at the time of appointment, the faculty, and (for tenure cases) the tenure board and the Senate of the university.
At the time of writing, the faculty includes 6 Junior professors, 3 of which on tenure-track appointments.
Independent Research Group Leaders
Independent Research Group Leaders are scientists with significant research experience following the Doctorate who start to build up their own research group by applying for external funding. In this model, the award of the competitive grant by the funding agency is considered evidence of the scientific qualification. Typical examples include Emmy-Noether Fellowships from the DFG and the participation as Principal Investigator in a larger research consortium.
To obtain the right to supervise Doctoral theses, Independent Research Group Leaders must be granted the examination authorization (Prüfungserlaubnis) by the faculty in the respective field of study (Mathematics or Computer Science). This permission automatically includes the right to supervise Bachelor and Master theses, and requires in return contributions to the teaching at the level of a 2 weekly contact hours per semester.
To apply for the examination authorization, Independent Research Group Leaders need to document their scientific standing (competitive research grant), and to agree on a teaching plan with the Dean of Studies. A senior faculty member serves as mentor.
In many situations, the funding agency will require proof of permission to supervise Doctoral theses at the time of application. In such cases, the faculty requires a detailed teaching plan, and will then issue a provisional letter for submission with the grant application. The process is initiated by contacting the Dean's office well ahead of time.
The right to supervise theses as Independent Research Group Leader ends with the termination of the contract at Heidelberg University. It is the responsibility of the departing scientist to ensure supervision continuity.
The status as Independent Research Group Leader is controlled by the funding agency, the examination authorization in the respective field of study by the faculty. The regulations are agreed upon with the other natural sciences represented within the Combined Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
Professors from Universities for Applied Sciences, which do not themselves grant doctoral degrees, may obtain the right to supervise Doctoral theses at Heidelberg University as adjunct professors (Assoziierung) provided they can demonstrate a suitable scientific standing, which is measured principally by their publication record. For details, see the regulations linked below, or inquire with the Dean's Office.