Controversial Berlin law gives postdocs pathway to permanent jobs

It will be interesting to see how this ends up for post-docs in Berlin if this law gets passed. While I can appreciate the arguments against the requirement from university leaders, it seems like they come from the position of maintaining the status quo of the academic system. But on the other hand, it seems like supporters of the law just think it should be dumped on universities and aren’t suggesting how they could implement it positvely. :man_shrugging:

Controversial Berlin law gives postdocs pathway to permanent jobs

Plan to help early-career researchers sparks fierce debate

In September, Berlin’s legislature took a radical step to address the precarious employment situation that plagues many early-career researchers. It passed a law requiring universities to offer new postdoc hires a pathway to a permanent position, a move that could serve as a test case for how—or how not—to solve academia’s revolving door problem.

Supporters of the provision, which legislators voted on without consulting university representatives, say it will improve working conditions for postdocs in the city. But it has led to turmoil: a hiring freeze, a resignation, and predictions that it will end Berlin’s prominence as a center of research. The law is “well-intentioned, but poorly executed,” says Sabine Kunst, president of Humboldt University of Berlin, who announced in October that she would resign at the end of the year.

Kunst says the law will require such a massive reorganization of her university that she would not be able to achieve any of her other goals. For example, if departments add permanent staff, they are required—thanks to a different set of federal rules—to accept more undergraduate students into their programs, which would cause additional budget woes. The law will also impact the university’s ability to recruit established professors from elsewhere, she fears, because any postdocs they want to bring with them would automatically become eligible for permanent positions.

Supporters of the legislation agree it isn’t perfect. But it’s a step in the right direction, they say. “It raises the pressure” on university leaders, says Anette Simonis, chair of the faculty staff council at the Charité University Hospital of Berlin and spokesperson for the “Landesvertretung Akademischer Mittelbau Berlin,” an organization of midlevel academics. For years, they’ve ignored protests and requests for change, she says. “This is a starting point for a real discussion about how to get away from the idea that the only way to be a scientist is to be a full professor.”

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