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Shortage of suitable applicants for professorships at Germany’s Universities of Applied Science

German Universities of Applied Science (UASs; Fachhochschulen) find it increasingly difficult to fill advertised positions. Often, the positions must be re-advertised once or even more times to find the right person. This is the main finding of a study conducted by a reputed German education research centre - DZHW (Deutsches Zentrum für Hochschul- und Wissenschaftsforschung).

The study entitled Bewerberlage bei Fachhochschulprofessuren included all public German UASs. It’s results are manly based on the information and data provided by those 41 institutions which responded to DZHW’s survey.  The study’s net sample consists of 773 professorial appointment processes in the period between July 2013 and June 2015. On average, an advertised professorship produced 22 applications. Only slightly over one third of appointment procedures was successful in the first go. Nearly 50% of appointment procedures did not manage to come up with a short list of at least three candidates (a condition for filling the position). They had to be re-advertised, often more than once.

The situation differs by subject areas.  Openings in engineering, for example, attract on average only 18 applicants. In engineering, the UASs and traditional universities alike face strong competition from corporate employers. Generally, the highest pay band for professors at UASs is below that at research-focused universities. Generally, working conditions in terms of weekly teaching hours, staff and possibilities to carry our research are also less favourable than at universities.

The biggest problem, however, does not appear to be the absolute number of applicants, but the qualifications of the applicants. In some subject areas, such as engineering, many German states require that professors at UASs need to demonstrate substantial prior employment in the corporate sector. In some German states candidates need a PhD, in others not. It seems that many applicants do not live up to these requirements.

DZHW – Full report (only in German)