100th tenure track professorship at TUM

The Technical University of Munich (TUM) has recruited its 100th tenure track professor. Half of all of the selected academics have come to TUM from highly respected institutions abroad. The TUM model is seen as the way forward for making the German academic appointment system competitive at the international level. It presents appointees with a clear path for promotion within the TUM faculty right from the start.

TUM is a year early in achieving its most important target in the current round of the Excellence Initiative, namely establishing 100 tenure track professorships by 2020. This career model represents a cultural paradigm shift in German academia, and has injected new vitality into TUM’s teaching and research.

TUM appoints outstanding post-doc researchers to assistant professorships (W2 positions in the compensation framework). If they deliver excellent results, they are promoted to an associate professorship after six years. That means more than just a tenured position – associate professors are also provided with more resources and higher compensation (W3). Later they can achieve a full professorship, with further improvements in conditions. This model corresponds to best practices at the international level.

The opportunity for this “genuine” advancement based on binding and transparent criteria makes the “TUM Faculty Tenure Track” a role model for the German university system. In addition – in contrast to older German models – right from the start, it guarantees the professors complete independence and enough time to develop their own research profile and pursue larger and more risky projects.

Recruitment from Stanford, Berkeley, Cambridge

It soon became clear that this career path had worldwide appeal. Half of the 100 professors were recruited from abroad from such universities as Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Cambridge, Zurich, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The young academics, 38% of whom are women, have an average age of 35. The 3% success rate for applicants testifies to the quality of the standards applied by TUM.

Joint appointments with the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

“TUM now has a more international, younger and more female face,” says Prof. Wolfgang A. Herrmann, the President of TUM. “But the impact of our model extends far beyond Munich. Many top talents used to give Germany a wide berth because there were no clear commitments for a scientific career here, even with excellent results. We have demonstrated the importance of clear career prospects along with optimal lab facilities and an interdisciplinary academic environment. As a result, our tenure track system fulfils the goal of the German Excellence Initiative: to put Germany in a position to compete successfully for scientific talent alongside the world’s top research locations.”

To achieve this goal, TUM is also exploring new paths with partners outside the university: It posts some of the openings jointly with the Max Planck Society. The newly appointed professors then head a Max Planck research group alongside their role at TUM. A clear indicator of the excellence of the appointees is the fact that just two years after the start of “MaxPlanck@TUM”“, around half of the recruited scientists have secured ERC grants. These are among the most prestigious research awards in Europe.

Support through the TUM Tenure Track Academy

The scientists receive intensive support in their tenure track positions. The TUM Tenure Track Academy provides them with the tools they need for successful teaching, research management and staff leadership while helping them to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and diversity awareness.

Meanwhile, the first evaluations have taken place, most of the professors have made the jump to an associate professorship. Quality assurance is guaranteed by the cross-departmental TUM Appointment and Tenure Board. The details of the processes are set out in the “TUM Appointment and Career System” statute from 2012.

40 professorships under the Federal Tenure Track Program

TUM has created additional capacity for more assistant professorships under the tenure track program established by the German federal government and states. In the program’s first round in 2017, TUM was the most successful university, submitting 40 funding applications.


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Image: Heddergott/TUM

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