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Excellence Initiative winner TU München invests in the future: Young researchers

Just weeks after the funding decision in the second program phase of the German Excellence Initiative, the Technische Universitt Mnchen (TUM) is rolling out a German innovation: 100 tenure-track professorships for young researchers. Among the winners for a second time, TUM was awarded around 165 million euros over the next five years for initiatives aimed at advancing top-level research. This funding supports participation in five major collaborations, development of the International Graduate School of Science and Engineering, and an institutional strategy, "TUM. The Entrepreneurial University," that strongly emphasizes career paths for young researchers.

With a portfolio covering natural and life sciences, engineering, medicine, and economics, TUM has set out to enhance research by transforming the system that determines how German universities recruit and cultivate or, all too often, lose top talent. The university is devoting a significant fraction of its Excellence Initiative funding to launching an internationally oriented career system that is unique in Germany.

The traditional system stressed one-time professorial appointments rather than pathways for career development, offering hardly any opportunity to advance without leaving for a different institution. In the most ambitious bid yet to address this widely recognized problem, TUM has established an end-to-end career system with clear guidelines, transparent performance criteria, supportive flanking measures, and rigorous evaluation processes. The university is launching the TUM Faculty Tenure Track System with a drive to create the first 100 tenure track professorships between now and the year 2020.

"The idea of a tenure track for university professors is nothing new," says TUM President Prof. Wolfgang A. Herrmann, "but the fact that a German university is offering young researchers a clear view ahead and real opportunities to take charge of their own upward career advancement that will be news to anyone familiar with the German system."

The TUM Faculty Tenure Track System aims at recruiting outstanding young researchers with experience outside Germany who already have won recognition in their fields as shown, for example, in high-impact publications, major early-career prizes, and success in winning third-party support as principal investigators or team leaders. A successful candidate joins the TUM faculty as an assistant professor (at the W2 salary level) on a six-year contract leading to a tenure evaluation. With a positive evaluation comes a permanent contract (tenure) together with promotion to associate professor (W3). Also new in the German system is the possibility of further promotion to full professor and chair, based on post-tenure evaluations. This system is flanked by policies and services that help professors and their (often dual-career) families make their home in Munich and maintain work-life balance, as well as assessment and mentoring resources to foster high performance and professional development.

The 100 new tenure track professorships guarantee a rapid infusion of "new blood," resulting in a younger and more international faculty, with a higher proportion of women. As the cohort of tenure-track professors grows, the university will phase out junior positions associated with the old system that could be viewed, by international standards, as dead-end jobs. In a sharp break with the common practice at German universities, TUM will not grant tenure to assistant professors who fail to meet the criteria for promotion.

"This innovation should help TUM attract top talent from all over the world and enable us to keep the talent that we develop," Herrmann says. "At the same time, I hope other German universities follow our lead, because that would improve prospects for the next generation and make Germany more attractive internationally."

Contact: Patrick Regan
Technische Universitaet Muenchen

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