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Germany’s Constitutional Court in favour of better pay for professors

On 14 February, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court ruled that professors’ remuneration under the W2 salary scale in Hesse violates the so-called maintenance principle (Alimentationsprinzip), “obliging the state to take care of civil servants’ welfare” (Article 33.5 of the Basic Law - Grundgesetz), and is hence unconstitutional. 

For the professor of chemistry from Marburg who filed suit against the Land (state) of Hesse to prove that his maintenance from the W2 salary scale does not satisfy constitutional requirements, this judgment will thus result in a pay raise. In 2005, he was appointed university professor (and in the process attained the status of a lifetime civil servant) with a monthly salary of EUR 3 890, in accordance the W2 salary scale. His appointment took place under the new remuneration system for professors, which relyies on fixed base salaries and variable pay for performance (remuneration ordinance W). This system was put in place to create better incentives for performance and quality and to boost competition between higher education institutions. However, since 2005, all newly appointed professors have found themselves in a significantly lower salary group compared to peers who were recruited earlier. This is due to the fact that the new remuneration procedure may not take into account applicants’ prior civil service records. In addition, the incentive payments—designed as a flexible, performance-based tool—have not always been duly ensured. As a result, the salaries of some professors compare to those of senior school staff and lag far behind salaries paid in the private sector. 

Professors’ earnings differ in various federal states and universities across Germany. For instance, the basic salary of a professor in Berlin and Baden-Württemberg is EUR 4 890.35 and 5 528.94 (as per the W3 salary scale), respectively. It is expected that the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court—“the basic salary due to a W2 professor is not commensurate with the training required from the office-holder, the demands placed on him or her, his or her responsibility and the importance and reputation of the office in the eyes of the public”—will have a nation-wide impact. The state of Hesse must execute the Court’s decision by enacting the provisions in conformity with the constitution no later than 1 January 2013.

Bundesverfassungsgericht (in English)