Applying for a professorship at a university of applied sciences (abbreviated as HAW or FH in German) goes beyond just having the appropriate qualifications. This article explores what applicants should be aware of when it comes to the cover letter, curriculum vitae and selection process.
As is true of the application process at universities, the path to an university of applied sciences – called Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaft, or HAW – begins with an official call for applications. These postings are usually published on the school’s website, in professional journals, in national newspapers and on relevant job posting websites like academics – click here to see job postings for HAW professorships. To ensure success, application materials should be convincing and comprehensive.
Applicants should consider in advance whether they fulfil the necessary prerequisites. These include:
Those applying for junior professorships or tandem professorships, which have become prevalent in some German states, may not be required to fulfil all the prerequisites listed above. Such professorships are generally half-time positions remunerated according to the W1 pay grade. The professorships allow for the accumulation of professional experience or even Ph.D. completion in parallel with their teaching obligations.
In contrast to their counterparts at universities, HAW professors don’t generally engage in basic research, instead working to find practical, application-oriented solutions – together with students and in close cooperation with companies. Teaching is the priority, which is why HAW professors are generally required to teach 18 periods of class time of a duration of 45 minutes (semester hours) per week during the semester. On top of the methodical and practical teaching obligations, HAW professors are expected to participate in university administrative activities and, in some cases, intensive application-oriented research work. A passion for working closely together with young people is a further prerequisite.
Because the expectations of HAW professors are so diverse, applications should not merely focus on supplying the required documentation. A convincing cover letter, a clearly formatted curriculum vitae and the comprehensive presentation of all supporting documents pertaining to previous occupations are vital.
Applicants should pay close attention to the compulsory and the facultative requirements included in the job listing and the potential leeway that may result.
Before completing a written application, applicants should take the time to familiarize themselves with the profile of the institution where they are applying, the leaders of the university, the courses of study offered and other key characteristics. Doing so not only ensures a more well-rounded application, but such background knowledge is also essential for a possible interview.
The first impression is key, and that is also true when applying for a professorship at an HAW. Even before members of the appointment (hiring) committee begin reviewing the applicant’s curriculum vitae for professional requirements, the cover letter should ideally already have convinced reviewers of the quality of the application. The more familiar applicants are with the expectations of the position for which they are applying, the easier it is to produce a convincing cover letter.
Only those who have closely examined the hard and soft skills required for the position will have a clear idea of how to advantageously present themselves. A good cover letter strikes a perfect balance between the personality traits that are absolutely necessary for the position and a precise review of relevant expertise and skills.
The following key elements are vital for an effective cover letter:
Those who demonstrate in their cover letters that they are intimately familiar with the position profile and have taken a close look at their own strengths and weaknesses make a good impression. That is particularly true for applicants who may not have all the desired qualifications. As a rule, cover letters should not exceed 1.5 pages of text.
The heart of every application is the curriculum vitae. As such, applicants should pay extreme attention to ensuring their curriculum vitae is precise and complete. Structure should follow the Anglo-Saxon model of listing the most recent items first and then going backwards in reverse chronological order. The most important aspect is the highlighting of professional experience and, therefore, qualifications for the desired position.
Because HAW professorships go beyond just teaching and also include involvement in academic administrative committees, corresponding activities should also be included on the curriculum vitae. Additional training or project experience represent additional building blocks pertaining to the job of professor and should also be included in the curriculum vitae.
In addition to information pertaining to relevant academic education and all applicable professional experience, the following elements improve your chances of being hired:
Comprehensive supporting documents corroborating all the professional and educational achievements listed in the curriculum vitae should also be included in the application package – again in reverse chronological order. The first document should by the Ph.D. certificate (or an attestation regarding the status of a doctoral project in progress) followed by the transcript and other certificates pertaining to educational history.
Documents pertaining to professional history should follow, including certificates of employment and, if applicable, internship certificates. Because an HAW professorship requires far more professional experience than a university professorship, the applicant’s work history is extremely important. In both the curriculum vitae and from the supporting documents submitted, it should be clear that the applicant has amassed significant experience outside the world of academia.
In addition, teaching experience, projects completed and other qualifications can be listed or substantiated by way of supporting documentation. Such additional qualifications may include:
A teaching concept and, in some cases, a research concept, are also important elements of an application for an HAW professorship. They are key in determining whether the applicant, depending on subject focus and experience, is a good fit for the position. The decisive criteria here is whether the applicant’s research and teaching focus corresponds to the university’s needs.
Candidates should set aside sufficient time to develop their teaching concept. Beyond thematic focus and the applicant’s experience as an educator, the teaching concept is critical for testifying to the (proven) quality and methodological approach of their teaching. In addition, the applicant’s own research should not just be thematically consistent with the university’s profile, previous research output and planned research activities must be explicitly described.
Because HAW professorships are filled by way of a selection process, the selection (appointment) committee begins its work once the official application deadline has passed, if not before. Depending on state law and hiring regulations, the commission is made up of faculty members, administrators and students. Because already employed professors tend to make up the majority of such internal committees, it is not uncommon for the selection process to have the character of a co-optation – meaning that the professors themselves are essentially selecting their new colleagues.
The selection process for HAW professorships tends to last several months. There are a number of stages:
Negotiations are then held between the desired candidate and the university of applied sciences in question. These negotiations help decide whether the applicant accepts or rejects the offer.