Jan 02, 2012
At just 25, junior professor Lena Rudkowski is not much older than the students she teaches. She is the youngest junior professor at Freie Universität Berlin and the youngest junior professor in her subject – law – anywhere in Germany. “My experience has been very positive,” she says. “The department is especially supportive.” And Rudkowski is not alone: According to recent figures, November 2011 marks the first time that more women than men serve as junior professors at Freie Universität.
According to information provided by the Dahlem Research School, 56 of the 98 junior professorships at Freie Universität are currently held by women. That means 57 percent of the university’s junior professors are female, eight times more than in 2005. “On the whole, this development is an indicator of the successful measures that have been taken to support and promote women and junior scholars at Freie Universität,” says Professor Peter-André Alt, the director of Dahlem Research School and the president of Freie Universität. The numbers show that junior professorships represent an attractive alternative career option for women, alongside Habilitation.
That was the decision Rudkowski faced, as well. She eventually decided against a job offer including an opportunity to work toward a Habilitation that had come from another university and in favor of a junior professorship at Freie Universität instead: “Besides an academic career, I was also thinking about becoming a judge,” she says. She does still want to complete the Habilitation process, since in the field of law, that title is required for a traditional professorship. In addition to academic expertise, junior professors are expected to demonstrate leadership and management skills as well as strategic abilities relating to their research. Now, as a junior professor, Rudkowski deals with university structures and administrative processes from a completely different perspective, she says.
In the humanities, women make up approximately two-thirds (about 68 percent) of junior professors, while in the natural sciences, almost half of all junior professorships are held by women (about 47 percent). The latter group of subjects has seen the highest rate of growth since 2005, however. “In the natural sciences in particular, junior professorships can help keep women from leaving the university altogether after earning their doctorate,” Alt says.
The total number of junior professorships has also risen sharply in the past six years, more than tripling, to 98 in all. That means that today, almost one in four professorships at Freie Universität is a junior professorship. When the position was first introduced, in 2002, it was intended as an alternative to the Habilitation, giving junior scholars and scientists the opportunity to engage in research and teaching without being subject to instructions from others, gain experience in self-management in academia, and thus earn the skills and qualifications they need for a lifetime professorship.
Dr. Martina van de Sand, Managing Director, Dahlem Research School, Tel.:+49 (0)30 838-73951, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org