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I have read whatever I could find online about W1 (junior) professorship in Germany, and to me it seems it is somewhat close to a full time lecturer and the tenure possibilities are slim if none, all the more slimmer at the same university. However, the person who has invited me for an interview said this is rather because they are legally required to do so, but there are tenure possibilities. I will ask him for more information, but 1. I do have a tenure option at other university (and another country), however the university is not at all in a good ranking, I also have an invitation from a couple of really good universities but I will need to decide soon so I don't know if I will be able to act upon those.

First things first, I don't want to be a lecturer - meaning that I don't want to focus on coursework but research, I heard that junior professors can have students and a research group? But they also teach a lot of entry level courses? so what are these "tenure possibilities" exactly? Does he mean a remote possibility in 6 years? Or does he mean somewhat something close to a tenure-track? What are tenure chances?

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    Your impression does not match with mine at all. Are you by any chance looking at a “Fachhochschule” (university of applied science)? – Wrzlprmft Jan 21 '20 at 9:00
  • Yes, computer science related fields, what is your impression? Please tell. – dusa Jan 21 '20 at 9:02
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    It’s not only about the field. There is a fundamental difference between “Universität” and “Fachhochschule”, namely the latter having a much higher teaching load. Please be sure to which kind you are applying and to which kind the information you found pertains. – Wrzlprmft Jan 21 '20 at 9:06
  • The Faculty of Sciences at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) - W1 Professorship – dusa Jan 21 '20 at 9:09
  • If it is relevant, I am doing a postdoc (in another country) – dusa Jan 21 '20 at 9:10
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It depends: There are W1 professorships with a tenure track, and there are those without. If there is a tenure track, then that is usually prominently advertised, and more importantly, in writing. If there is nothing about tenure in writing, then the safe assumption is that you won't get tenure, and you will have to leave after 6 years. Verbal assurances that you might get something aren't worth much.

As to the teaching load, there are those that focus on allowing the person to qualify for a "real" professorship (W3), i.e. either as an alternative to a Habilitation or as a possibility to write your Habil. There are others were the position is used as a form of cheap labor for teaching. W1 positions with tenure track tend to fall in the first category, but there are also W1 positions without tenure track that fall in the first category. In that case, the W1 position is a stepping stone that helps getting a W3 at another university. Again, if it is a W1 aimed at allowing the inhabitant to qualify for a W3 professorship, then that is prominently mentioned and in written form. Only verbal assurances would make me worried.

If you know someone who work at a German university that you trust, you may want to let that person have a look at it. For an outsider it can be hard to read between the lines.

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    One could add that a junior professorship, tenure track or not, has a teaching obligation of initially 4, later 6 hours per week, compared to 8 or 9 for a W2/W3 professorship. – silvado Jan 21 '20 at 10:06
  • I thought that that differs by federal state. – Maarten Buis Jan 21 '20 at 10:41
  • @MaartenBuis Thank you for the information, and also for your warning. Indeed my postdoc has turned a sour experience because of verbal assurances which never realized. More so because I ditched other options in favor of those. The advertisement did not mention a tenure track. – dusa Jan 21 '20 at 11:31
  • @silvado That sounds great actually, I was under the impression that they were given many entry level courses to teach. I am assuming however the university I applied is quite research oriented so they could have the hours on the lesser end. – dusa Jan 21 '20 at 11:33
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    @quarague The Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg is a regular university, not a Fachhochschule – Maarten Buis Jan 21 '20 at 15:53
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If the announcement of the position says that it's a tenure-track position, then towards the end of the 6 years there will be a formal evaluation procedure and if you pass that you will get tenured. If this is not mentioned in the announcement, then there is no formal procedure foreseen. That does usually not preclude getting tenure at the same place, but it requires that the university / department has a professor position available, or at least funding to bridge the time until one becomes free, and that someone in a suitable position such a department or institute chair takes the effort to initiate the process, and that the department / faculty agrees to appoint you on that position. Overall the chance tends to be slim.

In most cases junior professors will be expected to build up their own research group. There may be startup funding and they should acquire additional, external funding. Nevertheless, the degree of independence can vary from place to place (even within the same university), and is according to my impression less than a typical assistant professor position in the US or similar academic systems.

Even if there's no formal tenure track in many cases, a junior professorship is typically a very efficient stepping stone towards a tenured professorship, potentially in a different university though. In my experience a large number of junior professors (maybe around 90 %) are successful in eventually getting a tenured professor position, in many cases already 2 - 4 years after starting the junior professorship.

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  • Thanks! I agree that it is a good opportunity to develop your career especially if a research group/grant is offered. And I understand that in Germany this might be more or so the only path leading to a tenure position. However as a postdoc, I am quite disappointed by how early career researchers are seen "temporary" or even worse merely as researchers/engineers to get a project going. This is why I am conflicted. I can't imagine just being in the limbo for a couple more years, although independent research at a good university has a lot of appeal. It is good to hear about the statistics. – dusa Jan 21 '20 at 11:40

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