On November 8-9th, we visited the “Workshop Career System Higher Education” in Tübingen, hosted by another BMBF-funded research group. Several topics around career issues in higher education were discussed in a nice, collegial, and constructive atmosphere. Fabians presentation “Governance Logics in Universities: Organizational Change as Oscillating Conversations” was stimulating, especially concerning the qualitative steps involved in the research process. Closing the workshop, Susanne Warning, Dieter Timmermann, and Axel Schlinghoff have been invited for a panel discussion moderated by Oliver Fabel. In the following, some interesting issues of the panel discussion are summarized:
In general downplay of teaching in favor of research for tenure decisions is omnipresent. However, professors experienced the demand of teaching evaluations in recent application processes. The university of Bielefeld even provides variable payments for their tenured professors when they receive good teaching evaluations. So, teaching qualities do play a role, although they are still difficult to evaluate. But at the same time, teaching loads become more and more negotiable in appointment processes.
According to the panel this might be explained by an increased international mobility of academics: when German universities want to attract international academics, they might adapt international standards and therefore lower the teaching workload for high performing researchers. In this context, experiences abroad during early career strages will be a more and more important criteria of tenure decisions.
The move towards cumulative dissertations and habilitations was seen critically, as it might hinder developing complex thoughts – of course, to write a book is a different effort of writing than writing a paper. Anyway, the trend towards cumulative works seems to go hand in hand with the modularization of study programs. It was argued, that further investigating the connection between “bulimia-learning” and “publication-slicing” could provide further insights on standardization in academia.
The few statements of the HRK (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz) concerning new career opportunities may serve as an indicator for a neglected topic. The panel agreed, that another career perspective might be established in the near future: The secretary position in the classical sense may not be useful for professors anymore as new task requirements arise. Ergo, these positions should be transformed into science service management positions. That might imply allocating that positions at departmental levels (not chairs). Once redesigned, this science support position might be a carreer alternative for young academics with PhDs.
The last part of the debate was concerned with setting a research agenda: there are strong demands for empirical testing behavioral effects of monetary incentive systems in science – instead of further theoreizing about negative and positive effects. For example, when analyzing the widely supposed assumption of motivational crowding out effects, it is often forgotten, that the peer review system with non-pecuniary reputation as the currency already functions by extrinsic motivation at least to some extent. Although widely analyzed in settings apart from the science sector, it is still questionable in what way managerial governance and performance payment systems change the behavior of scholars.