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23 January 2007

"Professorium" 2007: Rector Hommelhoff on Last Year's Professorial Appointments

Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff: "At this stage optimism is indicated. Only four out of a total of 35 appointment and retention negotiations have not had a favourable outcome for Heidelberg" — 13 of the 29 new appointments are for medicine — Only five new women professors — "One gratifying outcome is the appointment of a married couple"

At today's "Professorium" in the Great Hall of the Old University, at which newly appointed professors of the University of Heidelberg introduce themselves to their colleagues, Rector Hommelhoff summed up the outcome of the appointment procedures initiated last year. At the present stage optimism was indicated, the Rector said. Only four out of a total of 35 appointment and retention negotiations "have not had a favourable outcome for Heidelberg." 13 of the 29 newly appointed professors are for medicine. "Among the newly appointed professors we welcome a total of five ladies," Hommelhoff reported. Glad as the University is to welcome them, "this figure is at the same time an indication that the University needs to redouble its efforts in this respect." One gratifying outcome emphasised by the Rector was the appointment of a married couple. The following is a full translation of his speech.

"It gives me very great pleasure to welcome you as newly appointed colleagues to this year's 'Professorium' in the Great Hall of the Old University. I also extend a very warm welcome to your relatives and partners, as well as to all the other professors in active service at the University of Heidelberg, either present or past, who are with us here tonight. The University is overjoyed to offer our newly appointed colleagues this opportunity to introduce themselves to the professorial community and I should like to thank you for taking advantage of this opportunity. After all, there can be no more congenial way of celebrating your accession to Heidelberg's communitas professoralis than the annual 'Professorium'. Accordingly, I find it particularly gratifying that so many of our active professors are with us here today, together with emeriti and emeritae, the former Rectors Ulmer and Siebke and the honorary senators Goetze, Kraft, Raff and Martini. My heartfelt thanks to you all.

Last year the number of appointment procedures brought to a successful conclusion totalled 29. Though not all of the procedures initiated in 2006 have been concluded, we can definitely say that at this stage optimism is indicated. Only four of the 35 appointment and retention negotiations initiated have not had a favourable outcome for the University. For this I should like to express my sincere gratitude to all those involved, notably the Chief Administrative Officer and her staff. As we all know, the new State University Law has shifted the responsibility for professorial appointments to the universities themselves, including the considerable extra work involved in this process. I am greatly impressed by the commitment displayed by our university administration in coming to terms with the new situation and pursuing the objective of significantly accelerating the appointment procedures. Last year the average period between the initial offer of a professorial post and its final acceptance or rejection was five months.

The introduction of the new W salary scale has given the University greater flexibility in appointment negotiations, though again, for the second year in succession, the restrictions imposed on the awarding framework have proved to be problematic, especially in connection with professors receiving more than one offer in accordance with the old C salary scale and with appointments for professors from abroad. The question of retirement pensions has been a further obstacle to appointments for professors from other countries.

Of the 29 newly appointed colleagues 17 have come to the Great Hall tonight to meet their new colleagues. This is a source of very great personal pleasure for me, although I admit to a slight feeling of disappointment at the absence of the remainder because among them were a number of appointments that required very considerable efforts on the part of the Faculties and institutes involved, as well as the University as a whole.

Allow me to give you a brief overview of last year's successful appointments. Of the 12 University Faculties only two are not represented here this evening by newly appointed colleagues, the Faculty of Biosciences and the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy. The latter Faculty has two new appointments to its name, both of whom are however unable to be present tonight.

13 of the 29 newly appointed professors come from the medical sector. This means that the two medical Faculties head the list of new colleagues, which is hardly surprising in view of their size. But the smaller Faculties have also had their ranks swelled by a relatively large number of new colleagues. One example is the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences with three new professors to its name. The two new colleagues for economics symbolise the recent overhaul undergone by the Heidelberg economics department and embodied in the new BA course 'Political Economics', which is unique in Germany. The other new appointment is of major significance for the small but renowned Institute of Political Science with its large number of students and its reputation for research excellence.

Among the new professors there are a total of five ladies. Overjoyed as we are to welcome them — four of them are present here this evening — this figure is an indication that we need to redouble our efforts in this respect. This year we have failed to live up to successes of the past few years, in which on average almost a third of the newly appointed professors were women. This is really rather a setback because the University of Heidelberg has pledged its allegiance to support for women researchers and their families. This is apparent not least in our proposal for the third line of funding in the Initiative for Excellence, in the second round of which we have once again committed ourselves to support for young academics and their families. Together with selected companies from the region and the City of Heidelberg it is our declared intention to provide a family-friendly research environment.

One gratifying result of our endeavours so far is the successful appointment of a married couple. But we are fully aware of the problems besetting young academic families attempting to find a secure footing here in Heidelberg. Alongside child care, one of the crucial factors is the Heidelberg housing market. Today, Heidelberg Bürgermeister Gerner is with us and I should like to thank him in the name of the University for the sterling efforts of the City of Heidelberg to supply affordable housing for our younger colleagues in future.

Let me in conclusion express my heartfelt thanks to the new collegae who have elected to join the University of Heidelberg. With your assistance we intend to sharpen its profile, renew existing structures where necessary and enhance our position over and against our international competitors.

Regular visitors to the Professorium will know that it is traditional for me to round off with an injunction taken from the maritime sector. So here it comes. Hold fast! We must keep the ocean-going liner 'Ruperto Carola' close to the wind as it sets out for the high seas! This University cannot afford to slacken in its efforts to compete with the best of its competitors all over the world."


Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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