Amendment to the Higher Education Act

The new Rhineland-Palatinate Higher Education Act passed on 16 September 2020 has brought a number of changes that particularly affect young academics.

The most important changes for doctoral students:

A written supervision agreement between the doctoral student and the supervisor must be concluded within a reasonable period of time following admission. Prior to this change, the Senate of the Johannes Gutenberg University had recommended the concluding of supervision agreements to students, but there was no obligation for them to do so. This has now become a requirement.

The new Higher Education Act provides for the creation of a doctoral student representative body to be elected by all registered doctoral students and with the right to participate, at least in an advisory capacity, in various committees. However, with the legal framework necessary for the setting up of this representation still to be created at the individual universities, a transitional period will be required before it can become a reality.

Until now, registered doctoral students have had no separate status as a group within university decision-making bodies – voting rights and eligibility for bodies such as the senate were given only to doctoral students who were employees of the university and/or enrolled students.

To make it easier for graduates from universities of applied sciences to gain access to doctoral studies programmes, the new law stipulates that doctoral regulations will not distinguish between ordinary university degrees and degrees awarded by universities of applied sciences. In cooperative doctoral procedures involving both universities and universities of applied sciences, lecturers from both types of higher education establishment will have equal rights and status.

 

Innovations in career paths (tenure-track professorships), which aim to provide more attractive opportunities for young academics, are also relevant for early-career researchers.

Further information (in German) can be found online from the Rhineland Palatinate Ministry of Science, Further Education and Culture. The full text of the Act (in German) is available here.