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WissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetzGEW-Guide: Fixed-Term Contracts in Higher Education and Research

For many people, the rules governing fixed-term employment, particularly the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG) are a mystery.

07.11.2019

But sooner or later – and certainly when their contract is about to expire – they will be confronted with the detailed implications.

We have compiled this Guide to offer practical orientation to employees and their representatives as they set about this implementation. Apart from explanatory notes on the provisions of the law itself, this booklet contains advice and concrete examples.

The new legislation on fixed-term contracts in higher education and research which entered into force on 17 March 2016 was a milestone. The GEW had placed the nightmare of fixed-term employment at higher education institutions and research institutes on the political agenda of the German government and parliament, the federal states, and the higher education institutes themselves, with a campaign for a dream job in academia (Traumjob Wissenschaft). The campaign began with the Templin Manifesto in 2010 and culminated in autumn 2015 with a nationwide week of action.

In January 2016, the Bundesrat – the upper chamber of the German parliament – gave its approval to the amended Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG) as adopted by the Bundestag, the lower chamber. The GEW would have preferred to see more rigorous and far-reaching reforms to the previous legislation on fixed-term contracts in higher education and research, but the amended Act did at least incorporate many of our suggestions. It creates a stronger framework for us to champion fair employment in the academic world.

We have no reason to rest on our laurels. We will only achieve real improvements in employment conditions for academic staff and a genuine reform of career paths and staff structures in higher education and research if this Act is properly enforced and backed up by complementary measures. We are campaigning for Good Work Codes of Conduct in higher education institutions and research institutes, based on the model of the Herrsching Code of Conduct drawn up by the GEW.

Currently, nine out of every ten employees in higher education are on a fixed-term contract, and most of these are concluded for periods of less than a year. The new law will not suffice to trigger fundamental change. Crucial decisions remain that will determine the future of every academic – particularly decisions about how to finance tomorrow’s higher education and research infrastructure. We invite every colleague working in the sector to play an active part in these campaigns – shoulder to shoulder with the GEW.

The new Act must now be implemented locally in higher education institutions and research institutes. We have compiled this Guide to offer practical orientation to employees and their representatives as they set about this implementation. Apart from explanatory notes on the provisions of the law itself, this booklet contains advice and concrete examples. For many people, the rules governing fixed-term employment are a mystery, but sooner or later – and certainly when their contract is about to expire – they will be confronted with the detailed implications. Every time a fixed-term contract is renewed, unsettling questions arise about whether there is any long-term future and what the conditions for that might be. For those not appointed as professors, permanent career prospects are still a rarity in the academic world.

We hope the GEW Guide on “Fixed-Term Contracts in Higher Education and Research” which is now available in English language will help you to negotiate your way more easily around the fixed-term labyrinth. We welcome suggestions and improvements to this Guide, whether they derive from counselling practice or personal experience.

Printed copies: 1 Euro. For orders of up to 9 copies, please contact: broschueren(at)gew(dot)de. Orders of 10 copies or more from the GEW Shop: www.gew-shop.de, gew-shop(at)callagift(dot)de.

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