Skip to main content
European Commission logo


EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Conditions of service for academic staff working in higher education


9.Teachers and education staff

9.5Conditions of service for academic staff working in higher education

Last update: 8 May 2024

Planning Policy

Staff planning in the higher education sector is implemented primarily on the basis of staff appointment plans laid down by the relevant Land ministry; however, the legal situation differs in each Land depending on whether there is a need for such plans and how binding they are. With the increasing autonomy of the higher education institutions, responsibility for staff planning is increasingly devolving on the institutions themselves.

The Higher Education Pact 2020 made it possible to admit an increased number of first-year students, among other things by hiring more academic staff. As a successor to the Higher Education Pact 2020 (Hochschulpakt 2020), the Federal Government and the Länder concluded the Contract for the Future of Higher Education and Teaching (Zukunftsvertrag Studium und Lehre stärken) in 2021, which aims to improve the quality of studies and teaching and to maintain study place capacities. With the permanent and comprehensive funding of higher education institutions through the Contract for the Future of Higher Education and Teaching, in particular permanent higher education staff involved in studies and teaching are to be expanded. For more information on the Contract for the Future of Higher Education and Teaching, see the chapter on Higher Education Funding.

The aim of the 15-year Federal-Länder Programme for the Promotion of Young Academics, which is funded by the Federation with Euro 1 billion, is to make the career paths of young academics at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education easier to plan and more transparent. It is intended to increase the international attractiveness of the German science system and to help universities and equivalent institutions of higher education to attract the best young scientists from Germany and abroad and to retain them as permanently as possible by establishing an internationally known and accepted career path to a professorship in the form of the tenure-track professorship.

Since 2008, the Federation and the Länder have also been running the Female Professors Programme, which entered its fourth programme phase at the beginning of 2023 (Professorinnenprogramm 2030). The aim of the programme is to increase the proportion of female professors at German institutions of higher education and at the same time to strengthen gender equality structures at institutions of higher education in the long term. More detailed information on the Female Professors Programme is available in the sections on higher education funding, support measures for learners in higher education and national reforms in higher education.

Entry to the Profession

Professor positions are generally advertised internationally and filled through an ap-pointment procedure. For this purpose the Faculty sets up an appointment committee which consists of representatives of professors, scientific staff (Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter) and students. The appeals commission shall also include the equal opportunities officer and, as a general rule, an appeals officer and, where appropriate, the disability officer. Members of the management of the higher education institution, members of other faculties and external university teachers may also belong to the appointment committee. The  group of the lecturers of the higher education institutions must have a majority of votes in the appointment committee. . The appointment procedure mainly consists of the following steps:

  • publication of the job advertisement or decision to waive public advertisement
  • selecting the applications
  • production of a ranking list of three candidates
  • decision on appointment
  • appointment negotiations
  • signing of the contract or transfer to a permanent post with civil servant status.

Responsibility for the decision on appointment is incumbent on either the Ministry of Science of the relevant Land or, increasingly, the higher education institution itself. The appointment of a professor from the same institution is uncommon; there is generally a prohibition on internal appointments. Increasingly tenure-track procedures are also being developed. This career path is supported by the Federation and Länder with the programme to support junior scientists that was resolved in June 2016.

Professional Status

As part of the process of increasing the autonomy of institutions of higher education, the responsibility for appointing Professors as civil servants with limited or unlimited tenure has in several Länder been transferred from the ministries responsible for science to the institutions of higher education. Professors can, however, also be taken on as employees.

Two-stage employment is planned for junior professors that shall not exceed a maximum of six years. In accordance with the regulations specific to the respective Land, the first phase can last up to four years. An extension for the second phase shall be given if the junior professor has proved to be a good teacher at a higher education institution. If this is not the case, the period of employment can be extended by a maximum period of one year. Junior professors are appointed as civil servants with limited tenure, or they can also be taken on as salaried employees.

Scientific and creative arts staff (wissenschaftliche/künstlerische Mitarbeiter) are also appointed for a limited or unlimited period as civil servants or salaried employees.

The Academic Fixed-Term Contract Law (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz – WissZeitVG), offers institutions of higher education and research institutions options for fixed-term contracts that are adapted to the special features of the science sector and extended compared to general labour law since 2007. Scientific and artistic staff can be employed on a fixed-term basis to acquire a qualification (maximum duration for the fixed-term is 6 years before and 6 years – in the field of medicine 9 years – after the doctorate plus the family and inclusion policy component) or on the basis of third-party funding (fixed-term without a maximum duration, regularly for the duration of a third-party funded project). This opens up the possibility of gaining a scientific qualification at an institution of higher education or research institution to as many young scientists as possible. An amendment of the law in 2016 should above all prevent any incorrect, short-term employment contracts. 

In order to counter the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government amended the Academic Fixed-Term Contract Law in May 2020 and extended the statutory maximum term limit for academic and artistic staff who are in their qualification phase under a transitional arrangement.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF) commissioned a fundamental evaluation of the Academic Fixed-Term Contract Law with the aim of reforming it by May 2022. The working conditions in science are to be improved. Central goals are more reliability in career planning, earlier perspectives for alternative career paths and a better compatibility of work and family. As a result, the BMBF conducted an extensive and open-ended stakeholder process with the most important actors in the science landscape in order to incorporate their expertise and perspectives into the further development of the Academic Fixed-Term Contract Law. The resulting legislative measures remain to be seen.


Provisions on the remuneration of lecturers at higher education institutions are laid down in the Civil Servants’ Remuneration Act (Bundesbesoldungsgesetz – BBesG) of the Federation, the civil servants’ remuneration acts (Beamtenbesoldungsgesetze) and regulations on bonuses (Leistungsbezügeverordnungen) of the Länder and in the corresponding rules of the individual higher education institutions.

Professors receive a basic salary and additional performance-related payment. The two salary groups W 2 and W 3 are valid for professors at all institutions of higher education in the respective Land. The post of the Juniorprofessor (junior professor) was implemented along with the salary group W 1 in 2002. In all three salary groups there are fixed basic salaries (it should be borne in mind that the so-called annual special payment has been integrated into the basic salary in some Länder). According to the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers (Deutscher Hochschulverband – DHV) in August@2013 the basic salaries of professors are as follows:

  • Salary group W 1: junior professor     Euro 4,769.20 to Euro 5,449.89
  • Salary group W 2: professors             Euro 5,515.31 to Euro 6,862.62
  • Salary group W 3: professors             Euro 6,668.57 to Euro 7,790.37

The professors‘ basic salary in the salary groups W2 to W3 should not be confused with their starting salary. The salary consists of the basic salary and an additional payment which is to be individually negotiated with the institution of higher education, and which can be awarded in accordance with the negotiations regarding the appointment and the continuance in office at the institution in case the professor is offered a chair by another higher education institution (Bleibeverhandlungen). The additional payment can also be awarded for special performances in research, teaching, art, continuing education and the promotion of up-and-coming academics, as well as according to participation in the institution’s self-administration (variable salary). The allocation of the posts of the professors to salary groups W 2 und W 3 is regulated by Land legislation. If they have proved themselves in higher education teaching, from the date of the first extension of their limited appointment as civil servants junior professors receive a non-pensionable monthly allowance of at least Euro 260.

Working Time and Holidays

The teaching commitments of academic staff vary. The extent of teaching commitments of full-time academic staff is expressed in units (Lehrveranstaltungsstunden). Each unit stands for at least 45 minutes per week for the period when lectures are held during the semester.

Under a resolution adopted by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (Kultusministerkonferenz) of June 2003, teaching commitments at universities and higher education institutions of equal status are as follows:

  • eight units for professors
  • four units for junior professors at the first stage of employment
  • four to six units for junior professors at the second stage of employment
  • four units at most for scientific staff (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter) employed as civil servants for a limited period
  • eight units at most for scientific staff employed as civil servants
  • 12 to 16 units for teaching staff for special tasks (Lehrkräfte für besondere Aufgaben)

Professors at Fachhochschulen are generally expected to teach 18 units a week. Provision is made for deviations in these teaching commitments for professors at Kunsthochschulen in accordance with legislation at Land level.

If certain functions and responsibilities are taken on, teaching commitments can be reduced, for example, if managerial functions are performed within the higher education institution or research and development work is undertaken at a Fachhochschule. Furthermore, a temporary reduction of the teaching hours of individual teachers is possible if their teaching commitments during this period are fulfilled by other teachers. Depending on Land law, further reductions in the teaching load may be granted subject to the availability of courses.

The extent of teaching commitments at Berufsakademien is regulated by ordinances or administrative regulations issued by the ministries responsible for science and research in the relevant Länder.

Promotion and Advancement

Professorships are generally advertised internationally. Applicants who meet the employment requirements for a professorship and prevail in the respective appointment procedure may be appointed to a chair. The organisation of the appointment procedure is regulated in the Länder laws governing higher education. The final decision on the appointment of an applicant is incumbent on the Minister of Science or the head of the higher education institutions depending on the Land.

Retirement and Pensions

Professors with the status of civil servants are retired on reaching the retirement age.