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Privatdozent
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Privatdozent

Privatdozent (PD or Priv.-Doz. for short) is both a title and a position in the European university system, especially in German-speaking countries, for someone who wants to become a university professor.

Becoming a PD

PD-ship is conferred to academics who have earned the degrees of "Dr." (Ph.D, Promotion) and then have written another thesis for the Habilitation and given a lecture before the respective department or faculty of a university. If they pass the vote after that lecture, they receive the venia legendi (or, rarely, venia docendi) and thus the status of PD. This means they can - and actually have to - teach at the respective institution; they also may advise Ph.D. theses now. However, they do not have a formal position and did not use to receive any salary (except the lecture-fees, or salaries, according to the specific classes they taught). Today, however, PD's are usually modestly paid.

Professors at a Fachhochschule, as well as Honorary Professors (see Professor), do not need a Habilitation and thus were never PD's. The same is true to professors in the fine arts at academies or similar institutions, as well as in certain other disciplines even at universities, such as engineering.

Ceasing to be a PD

Contrary to academic titles proper, one loses the PD title aspect (but not the venia and the Habilitation), either by being called to a professorship, which is the goal of the PD, or by stopping to teach, in which latter case the title reverts to the rather unusual "Dr.habil." The withdrawal of the PD, the so-called "Remotion" is very rare and usually happens in case of extremely serious offenses; a famous case was Eugen Dühring. However, during Nazi times, most if not all Jewish PDs were remoted according to the Nuremberg Race Laws.

Academics who stay in academe although they do not find a professorship are, slightly dismissively, often called "ewige Privatdozenten" (eternal PD's); if they are popular, they may receive either a salaried permanent staff appointment (where those still exist) as Lecturer or equivalent, and/or the purely honorific title of "außerplanmäßiger Professor" (abbreviated "apl. Prof." see Professor).

History and Future

The institution of PD is comparatively recent; it started around 1810 in Prussia and became established only around 1860. After that, for many years, the Habilitation remained cumulative, i.e. it was based on already-published work, not a new monograph. The heyday of the PD was the time between, say, 1900 and 1968, when hardly a university professor in a normal field was appointed who had not been a PD.

During the university reforms beginning in 1968, in order to quickly broaden the professorial base for the many newly opened and expanding universities, often professors were appointed who were not PD's as well. This was also seen as a political act to counter the alleged inherent conservatism and reactionary views of the German professoriat.

The life of the PD is very unsatisfactory (Georg Simmel called the time "the purgatory of PD-ship"), because a PD in Germany is generally highly qualified, tends to be around 40 and often has a family, yet no salary or status to speak of. In addition, the institution indubitably contributes strongly to the "overagedness" of the German senior academic staff. Thus, there have always been reform attempts to abolish the position, and in 2002, a limited number of "Junior Professorships" (see Professor) were introduced which are fast-track, time-limited positions to qualify for regular professorships. This is often seen as the "beginning of the end" of PD-ship. One can say in general that supporters of the institution of PD in Germany today belong to the more conservative camp in academic policy, while its detractors tend to be more left or liberal in outlook.

See also