Thursday, April 25, 2013

Should Switzerland be more like the US?

In a Swiss newspaper article (NZZ), one of the prorectors of the University of Zurich (Ottfried Jarren) argues that Swiss universities should have more assistant professors.  These assistant professors should be with tenure track to be more attractive.  In particular, these jobs should attract Swiss researchers.  Ottfried Jarren is asked about Swiss and German professors and he answers that at universities, most of the research positions below professors are part-time jobs (50%), making such a job not very attractive to Swiss junior researchers, but very attractive for foreigeners and for German junior researchers in particular.

He is also asked how to fund these new assistant professors.  And then he answers that universities should be perhaps more like in the US, where five or six professors would "share" one secretary.  So his proposal is -- taken to an extreme -- let's fire secretaries and hire junior professors instead.

It's a bit odd reading statements from a German professor on how to help "our Swiss junior researchers".  But he got Swiss citizenship some years ago (it's stated at the very bottom of the article), so he can make such claims.  However, I know he comes from Germany and also his name is not very Swiss, so for me he still is "a German".

Of course, I would like to pursue my academic career, and yes, I would like to be a professor at a Swiss university.  So if available, I would like to apply for such a job as assistant professor.  However, I'm not quite sure if I'm the intended audience: I'm German, I studied in Germany, but I got academic training in Switzerland, startet my academic career in Switzerland, and got a PhD from the University of Zurich.  On the one hand I am the bad foreigner, on the other hand I am an alumna of the biggest Swiss university and I would expect some support from my Alma Mater.

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