franziska Weiser was already on two tracks before she became a traffic expert. The 29-year-old from Rüsselsheim studied international industrial engineering part-time and trained as an office clerk. She now leads a team at TÜV Rheinland that deals with “Future Mobility Solutions” – and at the same time she is writing her doctoral thesis at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences.
In three years, when she has finished her doctorate, Weiser can set her career course in two directions: She could aim for a management position at TÜV or apply for a professorship. This is made possible by a new career format created by Frankfurt University: Selected young researchers with professional experience work half with an external partner and half at the university, where they write their dissertations and teach students. In the end, they meet all three requirements that are necessary for appointment as a professor at a university of applied sciences: You have a doctorate, at least three years of professional experience outside the university and knowledge in teaching.
“The best from both worlds”
The Frankfurt university received almost seven million euros from the federal and state program “FH-Personnel” to break new ground in recruiting professors. The funding is very welcome because, according to Christoph Rosenbusch, head of the planning department, Frankfurt University will have to fill 120 positions at this highest qualification level by 2027. A challenging task because the university as an employer cannot always compete with the salaries that are paid in business. According to Rosenbusch, this primarily affects computer science, engineering and law. It is also difficult to find suitable candidates in disciplines that have only recently become academic, such as midwifery.
If Christian Stumpf were only interested in earning money, he could continue to pursue his career plans exclusively with his employer Jones Lang LaSalle or another real estate service provider. For the 38-year-old trained architect, however, it was clear early on that he wanted to earn a doctorate. In addition, he can imagine a career change after years of working in the same company. Like Franziska Weiser, he was made aware of the practical doctoral program and faced a two-stage selection process consisting of a written application and an interview. Stumpf is now scientifically addressing a question that also concerns him in his everyday work: How can companies take the needs of their employees into account when developing new office concepts?
Weiser’s dissertation is also closely related to her previous work. At TÜV, she is developing a digital platform that allows car sharing users to exchange information in compliance with data protection regulations. At Frankfurt University, she is now investigating whether new transport concepts such as car sharing can also change mobility behavior in smaller towns such as Rüsselsheim or Eltville. For Weiser, this is “the perfect continuation of how I’ve studied so far.” Since she can continue to work part-time at TÜV alongside her work at the university, she sees the new program as “the best of both worlds combined”.
In addition to research, teaching is an integral part of the university world. Stumpf leads a course in the Department of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geomatics entitled “User needs analysis in construction”. Weiser imparts general knowledge about mobility during the course; this semester she is working on e-mobility. Both teach two semester hours per week and share the teaching activity with their professors.
There is no guarantee of a professorship
Stumpf and Weiser are two of the four participants in the practical doctoral program. According to department head Rosenbusch, two more positions are to be advertised. Frankfurt University also intends to award practical postdoctoral positions. The university also appoints practitioners to cooperative professorships. According to Rosenbusch, two such chairs have already been assigned, one of which is held by the director of the Anne Frank educational institution, Meron Mendel.
In the case of doctoral students, cooperation with external partners may not be limited to the respective employer. Real estate expert Stumpf is also supervised by a university professor because Frankfurt University does not have the right to award doctorates in his subject. Weiser, on the other hand, is part of the mobility and logistics doctorate center that Frankfurt University runs together with the universities of Rhein-Main and Fulda.
There is no guarantee that you and Stumpf will be appointed to a professorship immediately after earning your doctorate. “The positions are advertised publicly, and the principle of selecting the best applies,” Rosenbusch clarifies. “In my opinion, the people who come out of the program have excellent qualifications, but the competition is open.”
The practical doctoral students have a clear advantage, especially when the advertisement for a professorship is tailored to their special field. And if the chair still doesn’t work out, you’ll still have the job you’ve been doing up until now. “I find the prospect of a professorship very exciting,” says Stumpf, “but I could also continue with my previous employer.”