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7 April 2003

University of Heidelberg: Six New Women Postdocs in the Wrangell Programme

Women's affairs officer Dr. Agnes Speck in charge of the programme — Postdocs can now concentrate fully on research

After gaining her Habilitation qualifications at the Agricultural College in Hohenheim, she went on to become Germany's first full professor. Margarete von Wrangell (1877-1935) is commemorated in the name of the advanced research programme for women introduced by Baden-Württemberg's Ministry of Higher Education in 1997. In the latest round of applications, 20 women from Baden-Württemberg were admitted to the programme, six of them at the University of Heidelberg. These scholars and scientists are working in different fields, three in the life sciences and one each in classics, mathematics and theology.

Women's affairs officer Dr. Agnes Speck, in charge of the programme for the University of Heidelberg, reports that there were 13 applicants from Heidelberg for the advanced research programme, which guarantees the financing of a three-year job at the University — provided the University undertakes to employ the women for a further two years at its own expense.

First, some facts and figures. The Margarete von Wrangell advanced research programme is open to scientists and scholars from nine universities and three teacher-training colleges. By the end of October, the Ministry had received 63 applications. The application required is at least as detailed and exhaustive as an application for a German Research Council project grant, comments Dr. Speck on the effort involved, adding that it was all the more remarkable that so many applications should have been made in the relatively brief period of 10 weeks between the announcement and the application deadline. Admission to the programme was decided on by an eight-member commission of women professors from Baden-Württemberg appointed by the Ministry.

What advantages does this bring for the six candidates selected? According to Dr. Speck, the secure job connection means that the speed with which they can reach the next stage of their academic qualifications is much accelerated because the workload involved is considerable and is of course much more easily dealt with if they can concentrate exclusively on their research. There were 100 Habilitations at the University of Heidelberg in 2002, only 14 percent of them women. "This puts us on a par with the national average," says Dr. Speck, "but the number of Habilitations for women needs to be a lot higher than it is because it is only with this qualification that women can be appointed professors."

For some years the number of doctorates for women has been stable (between 35 and 40 percent) and at present there are more women than men studying in Heidelberg. The fact that very few women decide in favour of a university career, says Dr. Speck, has to do with the fact that for most of them the Habilitation process coincides with the period when they may be thinking of starting a family. The strains involved in this ultimate qualification stage are frequently difficult to reconcile with the duties of wives and mothers. There are, however, exceptions to this rule, notably when partners actively support the women's academic ambitions.

The six advanced research candidates from Heidelberg selected for the Wrangell programme and the research they are engaged in will be the subject of a special feature in the near future. Margarete von Wrangell's own Habilitation topic had a relatively simple title: "Regularities of Phosphoric Acid Nutrition in Plants". Anyone interested in finding out more about this pioneer among women professors will find ample information on the internet.

Karin Katzenberger-Ruf

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Agnes Speck
Women's Affairs Officer of the University of Heidelberg
Hauptstraße 126
D-69117 Heidelberg
phone: 06221/547659, fax: 547271

Journalists' inquiries can also be addressed to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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Updated: 13.04.2003


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