Fixed-term contracts in research: "You only get to the top of the world if you have time"



Antonia Scholkmann shimmied from temporary contract to temporary contract at German universities for twelve years. Now she has a permanent position as a professor in Denmark - and says she is more productive than ever.


On Twitter, the hashtag #IamHanna collects stories of academics who struggle through six-month contracts and have to move every six months. While many teachers are tenured, university lecturers shimmy from one fixed-term contract to the next. The law behind this is the Wissenschafts-Zeitvertrags-Gesetz (WissZeitVG). Researchers may be employed at a university on a fixed-term basis for a total of twelve years if they are working towards a doctorate or habilitation, or are simply conducting research. Actually, the law was supposed to force universities to make fixed-term contracts permanent. De facto, however, the twelve-year limit means an abrupt end to the careers of many who do not get a permanent position.

In an explanatory video by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research from 2018, the principle is justified in this way: Fixed-term contracts promoted innovation and prevented the system from becoming clogged. Antonia Scholkmann, 47, researches teaching and learning at universities and is now a professor in organisational learning at Aalborg University in Denmark. She disagrees with this thesis.

Periode15 jun. 2021