Young researchers who strive for a professorship have to attain further qualifications during their postdoc phase accordingly. The traditional path is that of writing a professorial dissertation and thus obtaining postdoctoral lecturing qualification (habilitation). The habilitation is the highest university examination in Germany, giving evidence as to the candidate’s ability to independently conduct research and carry out teaching within a specific academic discipline (facultas docendi). This recognition of the candidate’s teaching qualification is a prerequisite for receiving the authorization to teach (venia legendi), that is the authorization to autonomously organize and carry out courses and lectures as well as to set up and carry out examinations and supervise all kinds of qualification theses.
The professional admission requirements to pursue a habilitation are laid down in the respective university’s habilitation regulations. They usually require a prior doctorate, proof of academic publications supporting the candidate’s expertise, experience in academic teaching and the submission of a professorial dissertation. The professorial dissertation is the second major academic thesis after the doctorate. It has to show very high methodological quality and must contribute substantially to the progress of academic research within the candidate’s field of expertise. In addition to the traditional professorial thesis, it is possible – similar to the cumulative doctoral model – to opt for a cumulative habilitation. The specific requirements for this option are set out in the habilitation regulations. In addition to the professorial thesis, a final oral exam needs to be passed which consists of a public lecture or expert presentation in front of the faculty and an ensuing final colloquium (a disputation).
Some German federal states award the academic degree of a doctorate with postdoctoral lecturing qualification (Dr. habil.) which proofs the candidate’s teaching qualification. In Rhineland-Palatinate, postdocs who have successfully obtained their postdoctoral teaching qualification are entitled to call themselves “private lecturers” (“Privatdozent”) which also indicates their authorization to teach at the university where they passed their habilitation.