I am a young scholar about to complete my PhD. in Finance from an Asian country. I am interested to know whether it is possible to pursue Habilitation from Germany (or any other European country) while working as an Assitant Professor in my home country. I have the following subqueries:

  1. Is it possible to do the Habilitation similar to a traditional part-time individual doctorate while working in the industry which provides a lot of flexibility?

  2. I also came to know that Habilitation can be completed through a series of good publications in a specific field. Is this route possible while not working in Germany or any other European country?

  3. Are publications during Postdoctoral Fellowships in Germany or any other European country (with funding usually lasting for 2/3 years) considered for Habilitation through cumulative publications route?

Although I want to pursue habilitation for its own sake, I am also interested in permanent posts as a Professor in Germany. Apart from Habilitation, one way is to work as a Junior Professor, which is temporary in nature( usually lasting for 6 years). In my home country, it is much easier to get a permanent post as a Professor, usually promoted from Assistant Professor rank (also permanent in nature). Thanks

  • 2
    Why do you "want to pursue Habilitation for its own sake"? I've never heard that before.
    – Niko
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 7:53
  • 2
    Besides gaining a sense of achievement for obtaining a German higher doctorate, it puts me in a good position among my peers. Habilitation is better than obtaining a double doctorate. Secondly, Habilitation can be a byproduct of good cumulative scholarship in a specific field. So publications will come anyway.
    – Polar Bear
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 9:25

4 Answers 4


I just want to confirm that it is possible to receive Habilitation without the need of teaching at German university, because I just received my habilitation without the need to teach. If you have taught in the past in internationally recognized universities (especially in USA) and you can demonstrate the excellence in teaching by providing a "University Graduate College Teaching Excellence Award" from your University you can ask to be liberated from teaching obligations during your Habilitation process. You only need to deliver a single 2 hour sample lecture during your 3rd or 4th year of habilitation while the students evaluate your teaching performance and are giving you score on a predetermined score-sheet. You just need to score above 50 % to get an OK. Furthermore you can perform your research elswhere, and not in Germany. I also know this from experience. However you do have to be accepted by University and get some kind of post. Now it gets tricky here in your case, since you do not wish to be employed by German university during habilitation. I guess you can become associated as a University fellow who does not receive salary, and if your habilitation supervisor is OK that you are not present at university you may do your habilitation remotely, and visit university only during the habilitation meetings and your accomplishment presentations (usually 1-2 days per year). But this absolutely depends on who is your habilitation supervisor and whether he will allow it.

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    Heartfelt congratulations @habilguest on being awarded Habilitation. I had this intuition that similar to PhD a lot of things depends on the supervisor.
    – Polar Bear
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 4:02
  • Some small queries: Is "University Graduate College Teaching Excellence Award" needed to be eligible for a single 2-hour sample lecture during your 3rd or 4th year of habilitation? Is this sample lecture also qualifying criteria for junior professors in Germany? Do one need the award before being eligible for this sample lecture? What other things considered in lieu of this award? Thank you
    – Polar Bear
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 4:13

I think you have a few misconceptions about what a habilitation is.

To answer your first question: Yes, you can apply for a habilitation as an external candidate; just like a doctorate, this procedure is formally totally independent from your employment status. (But just like for a doctorate, it is much harder to get them to take you on if you are an external candidate.)

For your second and third question: This is very much field (and university) dependent; some will accept a stapled thesis (i.e., just submitting a list of published papers written after your doctorate), others require you to actually write a book. In any case, it is irrelevant where you wrote these.

However, the main part of the habilitation is to obtain the venia docendi -- the right to teach at this specific university. This means:

  1. You must demonstrate to the committee your ability to teach at university level; again, it wildly differs how you need to do so -- some places will accept student evaluations of classes you taught elsewhere, others require you to give an example lecture in front of the full faculty (which, needless to say, can be rather a tough gauntlet). The easiest way is to already have a habilitation at a different university. (This is called Umhabilitieren.)

  2. More importantly, if you are not interested to teach at this university (and even more importantly, they are not interested to have you teach), the university will not confer a habilitation on you. (To put it bluntly, universities take a dim view of "degree collectors" who are only in it for the title.)

So, no, a crucial part of the habilitation can not be done remotely.

Since you wrote you are also interested in a full professor position in Germany: You are correct that a habilitation is a formal requirement for obtaining a full professor position is Germany, but the hiring committee can consider other accomplishments as equivalent. The most frequent one now is a positive evaluation as a junior professor, but another possibility is a tenured position at a university in your home country. In any case, your accomplishments in research (and getting grants) will be a much more critical part of getting a position.

  • Thanks such a comprehensive answer. I certainly interested to have a full professor post in Germany but it is much easier to get a permanent assistant professor position in my country. So I plan to first having a stable career then applying for permanent professor posts in Germany. Kindly elaborate a bit on venia docendi. How many lectures are needed to be delivered? Is it like a single lecture How many attempts one get? And other significant details. It would be nice if we could get a flow chart of pursuing habilitation. Thanks again.
    – Polar Bear
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 4:59
  • Sorry, the procedure differs too much between different fields and universities (every department has their own traditions). In any case, this would be a different question and should be asked as such (use the link at the bottom of the page, but it probably will be closed as 'too broad'). Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 20:14
  • Kindly post the link.
    – Polar Bear
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 4:57

I'm only answering because I'm surprised no else has done so yet. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable than I will come and set me straight.

My impression is that the Habilitation cannot normally be done remotely. You don't apply for the Habil. Rather, you get hired by the university and after a probationary period the degree is conferred on you, together with permission to teach without being supervised (the venia legendi) along with elevation to the status of privatdozent. I think in some places you must accept the responsibility to offer a certain number of lectures per year at the university to be given the Habil. If so, then your plan is shot, because you couldn't accept that obligation.

But further, why would you want the Habil.? It wouldn't help your academic career in the US at all. (Your mileage elsewhere might vary.) rather, I think people would look at somebody six or seven years out of the dissertation and want to see a large body of promising published research, not a qualification for a educational system from another country. Your time would be better spent, IMO, trying to publish scholarship, not chasing new degrees.

  • Thanks for answering. You are right that my time is better spent trying to publish scholarship. I want to pursue habilitation for its own sake rather than career prospects.
    – Polar Bear
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 3:46
  • Also, from what I understand, the Habilitation process includes a test lecture, which seems difficult to give remotely. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 7:21
  • It's okay to visit for a few semesters as long as I retain my job in my home country. The Problem is the common ways of doing Habilitation (Junior Professorship & PDF) does not provide the surety of permanent professor positions even after completing it that usually takes 6 years.
    – Polar Bear
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 9:00
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    @Siddiqui: First, a junior professorship is an alternative to a habilitation, but does not confer it. (Some junior professors do work on a habilitation in parallel prior to their first evaluation, but not many, because it's just extra work with unclear benefit.) Second, a habilitation in no way provides a surety of a permanent position, professor or otherwise. In fact (but this depends somewhat on the field), I would say a habilitation provides less surety than obtaining a junior professor position. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 11:27
  • @Shane: Your second paragraph is actually not correct; you do apply for a habilitation, and this is independent of whether you are hired by the university. A Privatdozent used to be exactly that -- a private individual who does not work for the university but is allowed to teach there. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 11:50

No, it's usually not possible to do a remote habilitation. All habilitation regulations that I know require you to teach a certain amount of classes at the university where you want to obtain your habilitation, which typically requires that you be present at the university.

If you want to become a professor in Germany, the most effective way is to apply for post-doc, junior research group leader, or assistant professor positions in Germany.

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