Supporting Junior Researchers at the Faculty of Theology
at the University of Göttingen

1. How We Understand Support for Junior Researchers

In accordance with the mission statement of the University of Göttingen, the Faculty of Theology strives fervently to maintain “the close alliance of research and teaching for their mutual stimulation” and an “awareness for science's societal responsibility.” It takes care to ensure that the academic theology which it conducts, as well as that which it seeks to inspire in its students, remains on the cutting edge of the field as well as sustainable for the future. Therefore, it places a high premium on the intergenerational formation of research, teaching, and other activities involved in the conveyance of knowledge.

Support for junior researchers therefore has a twofold goal: on the one hand, they should gain the necessary knowledge and skills pertinent to their future occupation and independent scholarship, and on the other, their particular skill-sets should come to fruition as early and extensively as possible through the assumption of departmental responsibilities.

On the basis of its reputation as a location for excellent research, the Faculty of Theology in Göttingen is particularly attractive for junior scholars: it attracts highly qualified persons both domestically and internationally, and the qualifications acquired here pave the way to taking on roles of responsibility both within and outside of academia. Exceptional dissertations which advance the current state of research and the acquisition of pedagogical skills relevant to higher education both contribute to this. A further significant contribution is the opportunity for personal development offered by including junior researchers in the work of the department. In so doing, the technical as well as personal qualifications and growth of junior researchers are firmly supported through four other characteristics of the department: through excellent working conditions, through academic supervision which is stimulating and offers continual communication, through being deeply mindful of all aspects of diversity, and through intensive networking with other academic departments of the university, other research institutes within the Göttingen Campus, and with other places of research in theology and religious studies both domestically and abroad.

2. Starting Position and Discipline-related Career Paths

The Faculty of Theology offers junior scholars various possibilities for financing graduate study, which typically ends with the publication of a German- or English-language monograph, preferably in a well-respected series relevant to the discipline in question. The regular quantity of research assistantships is supplemented through several employment opportunities for doctoral and post-doctoral researchers within the framework of collaborative and individual projects. In this context, the department fosters a culture which esteems the work of its junior scholars by offering employment contracts which begin as early as possible, last as long as possible, and which provide considerable and dependable latitude for the timely completion of study requirements. Furthermore, there are tutoring positions sponsored by the Protestant Churches in Lower Saxony for which doctoral students may apply, a post-doctorate position in the Theological ‘Stift’ of the University as well as scholarships which are offered by various foundations and associations. Thematically oriented junior professorates are occasionally instituted within the framework of research associations and special funding programs. In addition, working professionals in other locales can be supervised in the completion of a thesis alongside their normal occupation.

Researchers engaged in doctoral and post-doctoral research are supported in different and specific ways:

  •    Doctoral students are integrated in a structured process through a program of doctoral study which, in the state of Lower Saxony, is only offered by the University of Göttingen. The individual research proposal is determined early on through a corresponding agreement. In addition to close supervision by a thesis committee, regularly held doctoral colloquia contribute to continual feedback for one’s own research and to a high standard of quality. Furthermore, the phase of doctoral study is promoted by various means of support offered by the “Graduate School of Humanities Göttingen” (GSGG). A broad offering of possibilities for continuing education (e.g., through the GSGG or the University Program for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education) as well as the opportunity for external courses facilitate the entry into and subsequent way through to the end of one’s first major research project. An additional major aid is the project’s integration in an international, English-language educational training opportunity as presented by scholarly meetings and workshops as well as other forms of cooperation with partners within and outside of Europe, such as the OTSEM-Network (Old Testament Studies: Epistemologies and Methodologies), or the U-4 Network. Dissertations are also honored by the Faculty of Theology in a public ceremony. Whoever earns the grade of Dr. theol. in Göttingen has, as a rule of thumb, no difficulties finding employment appropriate to one’s qualifications within academia or other areas, such as the church, diaconal institutions, schools, publishing houses, or in specific branches of the economy.

  •     The same conditions apply for post-doctoral researchers, whose level of individual responsibility is yet significantly higher in the selection of an academic career path and in the treatment of a research topic. The department stipulates high standards for the acceptance as a post-doctoral student, and the candidates are given thorough counsel regarding their occupational opportunities. In the post-doctoral phase as well, students are integrated in departmental research colloquia and have access to university program conceived specifically with post-doctoral students in mind (e.g., specific mentoring opportunities or the certification program for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education). The possibility of presenting research results to the university community, as well as in other places nationally and internationally, is a constant fixture. Lecturers of the Faculty of Theology usually receive a prompt call to assume a professorate at other universities in Germany and abroad.

Further, support for junior researchers ensues in many ways for both phases:

Individual supervision throughout the duration of the research project is supplemented by continuing education courses and workshops which aim to assist scholars in reaching their educational goals. Whatever is needed in the work place or the library for the completion of one’s research will be provided. Furthermore, there are (financial) opportunities for participation at subject-area conferences, workshops, and other events which provide the opportunity, nationally and internationally, not only to present one’s research but also to pursue professional networking.

All junior researchers receive, in their own particular way, the possibility of participating in the activities of their specific departmental chair; such possibilities range from office meetings to advanced graduate seminars.

For the good of their academic development, many junior scholars may also contribute to departmental course offerings, even if their contract does not correspond to the university bylaws requiring teaching duty. The department makes this possible. In addition, there is the opportunity to help plan events in St. Nikolai, the Göttingen university church.

Departmental newsletters, university-wide e-mails, and other special compositions of informational materials supply a uniform state of information.

So as to alleviate the burden for research personnel, functionary positions for the completion of tasks in introductory courses, administration, and the coordination of course offerings have been created. There are also personnel delegated by the church to support undergraduate students in the initial and final phases of study.

New employees are introduced into departmental and university structures with ease; tasks are assigned according to reasonable expectations of what can be accomplished. In the interest of providing well for students, the department pays attention to whether the age limit for entry into a pastoral internship or the student-teaching internship for future teachers would be exceeded by commencing a post-doctoral program directly after completion of doctoral studies.

Aside from the aforementioned latitude for junior researchers, the Faculty of Theology assigns a high value to the compatibility of family and career and uses all its capacities to create ideal conditions for that goal. Accordingly, compulsory attendance at the faculty is limited to office hours, and the amount of contractually determined working hours can be fulfilled ‘on the honor system,’ without a time card. When necessary in a particular situation, children may come into the office; infrastructural requirements to that end (e.g., diaper changing stations, toys for various age groups) have been put in place. This is supplemented by an extensive program, coordinated by the university’s “Family Services,” whose offers range from permanent child supervision to a summer program for children and to emergency supervision of children, among other things. Familial components are also integrated into the employment contract: insofar as a worker’s salary must provide for a family, the contract may deviate from the standard pay scale; additional financial burden due to childcare may be compensated through longer contract duration. At the behest of the persons concerned, maternity protection as well as maternal and paternal leave can be offset automatically by the department via extended contract terms.

The successful international orientation of the Faculty of Theology and the good environment it provides for doing research are demonstrated not only by the steadily growing number of visiting scholars from all continents, but also through a high percentage of foreign junior scholars among our research and teaching staff. In order to provide for a quick entry into university life, future foreign employees and visiting scholars from abroad will not only be supported by a Welcome Office of the university, but will also receive intensive support from the department in the preparation and execution of their research stay in Göttingen. The department also aims for a balanced ratio of domestic and international junior researchers; to this end, job postings will be published internationally via academic mailing lists when appropriate.

On the basis of this comprehensive support, the Faculty of Theology provides for a highly engaged cadre of junior scholars who can assume competently the responsibilities and tasks assigned to them by the department and their respective chair (e.g., the coordination of course offerings, teaching duties, or the supervision of library acquisitions for one’s discipline), but also in particular to strive after one’s own study goals in an independent and perseverant way.

3. Career Opportunities

The Faculty of Theology does everything in its power to continue its highly functioning, successful support for junior researchers and, where necessary and possible, to optimize it. The department assigns a high value to the following points:

The excellent infrastructure of the Faculty of Theology continues to be expanded in a service-oriented fashion.

The appropriateness of the relevant regulations (e.g., for the doctoral study program) will continue to be examined and revised when needed, so that the needs of junior researchers and the standards of quality in the field are in harmony with one another.

The present employment conditions will be maintained. A desired goal is the expansion of all employment positions within departmental chairs to the normal 100% (i.e., full-time positions); to that end, however, the department would need additional financial means. The latitude and ability for research assistants to pursue their own research and to teach will also be maintained. In accordance with the Equal Opportunities plan of the department, aspects of diversity will be taken into account in an appropriate manner in the allocation of employment and research project contracts for junior scholars. The praxis of responding to contemporary challenges by instituting special projects (such as the institution of a visiting professorate for the worldwide plurality of Christianity) will be continued when possible.

The model of integration in an international, English-language training opportunity through various networks will continue to be developed and expanded further (this recently took place through a cooperative agreement with the Escola Superior de Teologia in São Leopoldo, Brazil, which also includes an exchange for teaching personnel). The same goes for the international integration of the Faculty of Theology, which profits both the junior researchers in Göttingen as well as the numerous visiting scholars who come to Göttingen. The integration into the department of visiting scholars and future employees from abroad will continue to be improved.

The utilization of the various opportunities for continuing education which the university offers will continue to be supported by the Faculty of Theology ideationally, but also through the provision of corresponding financial means.

Übersetzung: T.R. Niles