What are the permanent posts for postdocs in the Berlin Higher Education Act actually about? In paragraph 110, paragraph 6, the draft for the upcoming “repair amendment” states: Research associates with a doctorate who are not employed in third-party funded projects, but are employed in a budget position of the university, receive a “continuation commitment”.

This refers to a permanent position provided that the postdocs achieve “the qualification goal specified in the employment contract”. This would mean that it would no longer just be junior professors and leaders of junior research groups – in cases where this had been agreed beforehand – who would receive a so-called tenure track to a permanent position, but a whole, clearly defined group of doctoral graduates who want to stay in academia.

That’s where the criticism from the unions comes in. The goal of subsequent employment is missing, said Laura Hassler, Berlin GEW board member for universities, at a hearing in the science committee of the House of Representatives. The permanent positions would have to be created for the independent performance of tasks in teaching, research and doctoral supervision – and also apply to all junior professors and similar positions.

However, the draft law provides for the universities to regulate the necessary new job categories through statutes – in order to enable specific models, for example for different subjects and their cultures.

On the other hand, according to Haßler and Barry Linnert for the state representation of mid-level academics, the universities have not stipulated full-time positions. Otherwise, part-time jobs could arise that those affected would have to supplement with third-party funded jobs in order to secure their livelihood. And they would never get out of the hamster wheel.

Another point of criticism: Due to a transitional period, according to which §110 is not to come into force until October 1, 2023, all postdocs who are already employed on a fixed-term basis have so far been excluded.

Concrete solutions for these open questions were not yet apparent in the Science Committee. On the contrary: Ludwig Kronthaler in particular, the outgoing Vice President for Budgets at Humboldt University, raised other fundamental questions. In the future, not only professorships will have to be advertised internationally, but also postdoc positions.

Otherwise, the competitive selection of the best cannot be guaranteed if they are ultimately transferred to a professorship. In addition, Kronthaler calculated: “Two or three postdoc positions will then become a professorship.”

At least Kronthaler gave an insight into the current state of discussion at Humboldt University – with possible models for creating such new W1 positions (as they already exist for junior professorships). University lectureships and positions in research are also being considered.

The HU deputy brought another suggestion for the existing contracts: Current postdocs could apply for the new positions and thus come within the scope of §110.

Kronthaler recently announced his resignation as of September of this year in protest against the new higher education law. Asked by AfD MP Martin Trefzer for a reason, the HU deputy said he did not want to be “personally responsible” for the implementation of the Senate’s “Gesamtkunstwerk”.

The President of Freie Universität, Günter M. Ziegler, rejected the idea that existing contracts could be extended. If their positions had been advertised with the option of a permanent position, “completely different people would have applied”. Left-wing MP Tobias Schulze also asked about it. Follow-up commitments for postdocs from 2023 de facto mean that the first permanent positions will be available after four to six years. “Then a whole generation of people will be lost,” warned Schulze.

Science State Secretary Armaghan Naghipour merely repeated that the Senate wanted to make the permanent position regulation “manageable” for the universities with the transition period. She doesn’t see any additional costs. “The permanent employment relationships go hand in hand with higher teaching loads, so from our point of view a cost-neutral implementation is possible.”

Here, too, Günter M. Ziegler disagreed: This calculation does not add up because the doctoral students had previously lost their teaching capacity, whose scientific activity was increased to at least 50 percent.

Ziegler agreed on one point with Ina Czyborra (SPD): that the Higher Education Act would certainly have to be “touched more often” in the current legislative period.