Anyone work in HE in Germany?

(12 Posts)
Booboostwo Sat 03-Oct-15 09:38:15

I used to be a lecturer in HE in the UK and have now taken 5 years out of work. There is a possibility of a post in a German University (English speaking) but I don't know anything about the academic climate in Germany.

In the UK I am aware of the stress of ever increasing admin demands and QA inspections, the tensions of the REF (or whatever it is called now) and the pressing need to bring in research income. Is the German experience similar?

MelodyMumof1 Sat 21-Nov-15 10:41:03

I'm a Masters student in Berlin and have also taught here, if I can help with any insight please let me know. Can you tell me which institute it is? But generally depending on if the subscribe to the Humbolt learning method it's fantastic here. Smaller classes than the UK as well I believe

MultishirkingAgain Sat 21-Nov-15 15:17:18

In talking with German colleagues and seeing a member of my extended family do a PhD in Germany, I would say:

it's very hierarchical
it's terrible for women

But that's just a view from the outside.

Booboostwo Sat 21-Nov-15 15:27:01

Melody I will PM you details.

Thanks Multi. I have applied for a higher post so that might help.

MultishirkingAgain Sat 21-Nov-15 15:38:32

My impression is that there's a strong system of patronage, and -- like German society generally -- there's an odd combination of real cutting edge thinking with a creaking old patriarchy.

Although actually, in my specific field, there's not a lot that's hugely cutting edge ... German humanities scholarship seems very tied up in internecine debates, and an obsession with defining and pinning things down.

I just had to contact the editors of a very eminent journal in my field to say that I didn't think the review I was writing of a German book would do the author any good, and that I wasn't sure if it were fair to publish it. Because it was a) an Habilitation thesis rather clumsily converted to a book, but not of the quality in terms of a book (rather than a thesis) that we'd expect in the Anglo-American academy; and b) it was obsessed with defining and judging in ways that I found to be pointless, theoretically. This book seemed to symbolise the differences between a lean and frantic, but supple and imaginative Anglo-American academy, and the hierarchical, rule-bound German arena.

disquisitiones Sat 21-Nov-15 18:59:19

Agree it is very hierarchical.

Many junior faculty contracts are fixed term and cannot (even in principle) be made permanent. As the professor in charge of such people, you would inevitably feel bad watching your junior staff applying continually for permanent positions (of which there are very few in Germany).

Lots of pressure (at least in the sciences) to produce impactful fashionable work and to bring in grants. Agree with Multishirking though that German research can be weaker than that in the UK (less creative, less original).

In universities teaching/admin load can be very high; top scientists tend to be in research institutes instead. On the other hand if you are a professor (W3+) you will tend to have a lot of junior staff/research staff working under you.

Not sure it is particularly worse for women in sciences than in the UK; probably a bit worse because of the pyramid system (i.e a few at the top), compared with the UK system where more make it to the top ranks.

Overall I wouldn't be particularly tempted by the German system, even entering at the top of the pyramid. I couldn't live with the mistreatment of junior staff - many of them are forced to quit academia in their mid to late 30s, when they cannot find permanent positions. But this may not happen so much in the research field of OP. I'm also not sure that I would have the cultural knowledge to deal with the politics of the German academic system.

BTW traditionally STEM/economics have been regarded much more highly in Germany than humanities and social sciences, which in turn meant that the students entering the latter were rather weak. Maybe Multishirking can comment on whether this is still true.

Archfarchnad Sat 21-Nov-15 19:19:27

Hi Booboostwo, did you have your interview? I thought it was coming up soon. If it's been and gone, how did it go?

<waves across Berlin at Melody>. Which university are you at Melody? It's interesting you say that classes are smaller than in the UK, because that can vary enormously even within a particular uni. The FU, for instance, is infamous for cramming 400 people in a lecture hall with 200 capacity, so people are sitting on the floor. Classes for law can be HUGE, even though NC has been introduced pretty much across the board. Then there can be other classes run for a handful of people.

"I'm also not sure that I would have the cultural knowledge to deal with the politics of the German academic system." A good awareness of Kafka's works and absurdist drama is probably the best preparation for that.

"Many junior faculty contracts are fixed term and cannot (even in principle) be made permanent." I think the worst problem is even more extreme than that - that junior academics are only getting hired on a freelance basis for a restricted number of hours per week, which gives them no social security contributions and no security that they'll even get given teaching hours next semester. At least a fixed term contract as a junior professor or a wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter is a proper job, albeit not a permanent one.

Booboostwo Sat 21-Nov-15 21:09:58

I have applied for a W3/4 professorship but it's only been a month so too soon to hear back either way (or they are busy interviewing other people!).

Sounds like the same depressing crap I saw in the UK. Temporary 9 month contracts are very common in my discipline in the UK and they are a nightmare in every sense. If you have a family you have to uproot them every year and move the length and breadth of the country, while you are overloaded with teaching and have no chance to strengthen your research CV which is the only thing that matters for a permanent post.

Office politics were a huge reason for my leaving the UK HE. A small minority of academics made a career of back stabbing and became managers while the rest compromised and suffered.

Sounds like Germany has similar problems. How depressing.

hefzi Mon 30-Nov-15 18:35:00

Have you had any news, Booboos?

Whenever I get depressed at the tediousness of office politics, I always remember that at least at my institution, no-one has an injunction against another member of the department: a friend of mine overseas is in a department where one colleague is housed in an entirely different building, as s/he isn't allowed within 300 feet of the other one!

Booboostwo Mon 30-Nov-15 18:58:43

No news. It's been just over a month since the deadline so maybe it's early days yet. They sent me a very detailed acknowledgement of receipt of the application so I assume they will let me know even if unsuccessful.

Bloody hell! What did they do to each other?

hefzi Wed 02-Dec-15 15:21:59

We do a stupid thing where we tell people when the interview is then going to be held - but of course, the applicants don't realise that what that guarantees is that is abdolutely not when it will take place. They usually haven't even long-listed by that date...

I suspect also as a senior post, it will be a fairly drawn out process - I hate it though, when you don't even get a no and are just left to realise (not at all saying that's the case here - it just made me think of the process when you said that they'd even acknowledges your application!): and don't get me started on email addresses for informal enquiries grin

It was quite an involved story, from memory, including adultery, grad student poaching and keying of cars: the culmination was when one punched the other in a department meeting (and broke a chair in the process). I was (very sexistly) shocked by the last element, considering it was two women - but maybe that's just because I can't throw a punch! I have no idea there what you'd have to do to be kicked out for gross misconduct after all that, but I suspect it would involve farm animals, the VC and the school labs for manufacture of illicit substances at the very least!

Booboostwo Sat 23-Jan-16 20:26:15

Sadly I was not short listed for this. They published a list of short listed candidates on their website and I know one person who is more junior than me. There is also a person applying from that institution who is, it seems to me, very junior, so I am assuming the main issue was the language which is reasonable.

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