Initial Situation of Programme Development in 2003
Securing the Future of the Higher Education System
University autonomy, institutional profile building and quality management are major topics in the current discussions regarding the future of the German higher education system. In order to ensure the long-term efficiency and competitiveness of universities, the promotion and the recruitment of excellent young scholars play a decisive role. Today, research organisations around the world compete for the best talents and this competition will increase in the course of the demographic change that will take place over the next several years. At the same time, due to the ongoing alternation of generations at universities, about half of the professorships will be newly appointed in the years to come.
The German Rectors' Conference and the German Council of Science and Humanities have repeatedly underlined the great importance of improving the support provided to young scholars and have demanded the establishment of internationally competitive working conditions for junior researchers. At the EU level, the ministers of education have emphasized the importance of the promotion of young scholars for the future of the European higher education systems in the context of the Bologna Reforms and the Lisbon Process. Making full use of the talent pool and developing new concepts to better educate young researchers are central challenges for universities in the coming years.
Promoting the Professionalisation of Young Researchers
In the course of these broad reform processes, the requirements for professorships will change as well. No longer are outstanding research accomplishments the sole important factor for academic success. In addition, professional management capabilities and leadership abilities, engagement in shaping higher education policy and strategic competencies are required to successfully implement reform processes. Thus, a new concept is required for the promotion of young scholars, which in addition to providing an excellent academic education improves the qualifications of young researchers for leadership functions in academia.
Innovative concepts have to be developed – with regard to a future systematic human resource development – that intensify the transfer of knowledge and facilitate networking within the academic community as well as allowing for the development of necessary leadership competencies in young academics while supporting the dialogue between higher education and other areas of society. In addition to approved forms of qualification like seminars and trainings, new instruments like mentoring and strategically oriented networking should be used to promote talented scholars as best as possible.
Unused Achievement Potential of Women
Until now, universities have not been able to make full use of the talents and qualifications of women. Although more than half of the high school graduates and nearly half of the university graduates are female, the percentage of women at subsequent academic qualification levels descends rapidly. According to the Statistisches Bundesamt, only 36.4% of doctorates and 21.6% of habilitations were completed by women in 2002. In the same year, only 12% of all professorships and barely 8% of all C4-professorships were held by women. Thus, universities miss out on achievement potential, which they cannot afford and should not be willing to lose.
Barriers to Women's Careers
In higher education research, several factors were identified that complicate academic careers for qualified women.
- Traditional or conventional expectations as well as role models and faculty cultures that took male scholars as their default mode have proved to be factors that contribute to talented women receiving less motivation to start an academic career than their male colleagues.
- Young female scholars receive less individual support for their career planning and are integrated in relevant networks to a lesser degree. Therefore, women benefit less from the informal transfer of knowledge and experience in the scientific community.
- Women tend to focus highly on their academic qualifications while developing accompanying career strategies to a lesser degree than their male colleagues.
- Furthermore, the long career paths in academia and the high requirements on personal mobility and availability make it harder for female scholars to combine family and work.
More Female Professors for the Universities of the Future
With the ProFiL Programme, the cooperating universities intend to counteract these barriers and make better use of the achievement potential of female scholars. A modern concept is put to the test with the objective of preparing the participants for future leadership and management tasks in higher education. The programme seeks to contribute to increasing the proportion of women holding professorships in a middle- or long-term perspective.
For the three cooperating universities, commitment to strategies promoting diversity and equal opportunities is thus not only a matter of social justice, but also an important principle of higher education policy and a success factor for competitiveness.