27.04.2015 | KPMG Law Insights

Association of universities criticizes professors’ salaries

Dear Readers,

February is always a short month. Our newsletter adapts to this – at least in terms of the number of articles – for once. The reason is simple, but hopefully will convince you anyway: Not much happened in the month of February. The EU Commission has been reticent with news in the area of education and research, and there is nothing spectacular to report from the “Union framework front” either. But we still have a bit of “EU” for you: As part of the HORIZON 2020 funding program, there is further funding for top researchers who want to bring their innovations to market with the help of a financial injection from the EU.

We also do not want to withhold from you the fact that there has been a critical look at universities by the anti-corruption organization Transparency International. There are fears that the independence of universities will be jeopardized due to their – more or less close – relationships with business. So far so good, criticism can be made fruitful. But if e.g. contract research as a whole is placed under general suspicion because of the financial involvement of commercial enterprises, this is decidedly going too far. The German Rectors’ Conference thinks so, and so do we.

We wish you interesting reading!

Sincerely yours

Public Sector Team of KPMG Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH

Mathias Oberndörfer Dr. Anke Empting

Lawyer Attorney

Three years after a high-profile ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court, the German Association of Universities and Colleges concluded in a study that the structure of professors’ salaries at German universities still needs to be improved.


Requirements of the Federal Constitutional Court

In a landmark ruling at the beginning of 2012, in response to a complaint by a Hessian university professor, the Federal Constitutional Court declared the Hessian regulation on the remuneration of professors in grade W 2 to be too low and thus unconstitutional, as it violated the principle of alimentation from Article 33 (2) of the German Constitution. 5 of the Basic Law – i.e. the principle of appropriate, lifelong payment of civil servants. The state of Hesse, whose professors’ salaries were in the middle of the pack compared to the other states, was then called upon to raise the legally stipulated salary level for professors.

Following the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court, the basic salary of W2 professors was raised throughout Germany. However, in Hesse of all places, the state where the constitutional court ruling originated, this increase was only slight, according to the German Association of Higher Education Institutions.

In order to balance out this divergence to the detriment of Hessian university teachers and to eliminate the locational disadvantage of Hessian universities associated with the salary differences, the German University Association is calling on the Hessian state government to release additional state funds and also to give the universities greater leeway in performance-related pay.

Current legislative project in Berlin

The remuneration of university professors is also currently a controversial topic in the Berlin Senate. In October 2014, a resolution was passed there, initially in response to the requirements of the Federal Constitutional Court ruling, to amend professors’ salaries. According to this, university teachers should only receive more under the performance-based W pay system if they have previously received little or no performance bonuses on their basic salary.

This had led to considerable criticism from the Berlin universities and was amended at the end of January 2015 to the effect that allowances are now paid in all cases to reward special services. In addition, the basic salary of junior professors is to increase by 200 euros. The German Association of Higher Education Institutions points out that this would make the state of Berlin, along with Baden-Württemberg, the only federal state so far to provide for an increase in W1 basic pay as well, in the course of the reform of W pay required by the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court in February 2012.

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Mathias Oberndörfer

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