Promotion of young talent

Qualify, profile, network: The promotion of young academics is high on the research policy agenda in Germany. An example of this is the current Framework Programme of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) "Understanding Society – Shaping the Future” (“Gesellschaft verstehen – Zukunft gestalten").

Drei Personen an einem Tisch mit Blick in eine Richtung; © Reiner Zensen



Well-qualified young academics are an important prerequisite in sustainably securing research competence, innovative ability and academic training in Germany. The BMBF recognised this at an early stage and firmly anchored supporting young researchers in the humanities and social sciences in all the funding guidelines of the current Framework Programme, especially the promotion of experienced young researchers after completing their doctorate.

Regional studies

A good example is the funding guideline for regional studies, which is planned for December 2019. Its goal is to support the training of young academics by means of international research experience and cooperation, for example, by cooperating in international research groups or research "tandems". In addition, interdisciplinary cooperation between the regional sciences and other disciplines – including the so-called Secondary Subjects – is to be facilitated and reinforced.

Small Disciplines

The funding guideline "Kleine Fächer – Zusammen stark" (Small Disciplines – Strong Together) (Federal Gazette of 02.09.2019) is also designed to promote young researchers. Funding is provided for interdisciplinary research groups working on innovative topics in Secondary Subjects for up to four years. From the outset, the aim has been to develop in-house competencies through early cooperation with other research institutes, to network the scientific community, and to attain synergy effects, for example, through the joint use of existing resources, including digital ones.

Käte Hamburger International Centres & Maria Sibylla Merian Centres for Advances Studies

The "Käte Hamburger International Centres" and the "Maria Sibylla Merian Centres for Advanced Studies"  have also been designed from the outset to promote academic talent. In this way, the leaders of the Käte Hamburger International Centres – themselves already professors – are given the opportunity of conducting research on topics of their own choosing together with outstanding national and international researchers. At the same time, the yearly change of Fellows provides them with inspiration for new research ideas and collaborations. The future International Centres will also be dedicated to new, innovative questions and will open up further scope for the humanities and social sciences.

The same applies to the Sibylla Merian Centres located in different regions of the world. Here, academic talents can advance research in larger transnational work contexts and over a period of more than a decade. An open-topic programme is also intended to create academic freedom for international (junior) research groups.


Figures from the Federal Report on Young Academics 2017 ("Bundesbericht Wissenschaftlicher Nachwuchs 2017" (BuWiN))

The main sponsors of the qualification and promotion of young talent in Germany are the universities and the institutes of the non-university research organisations Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V. (FhG), Hermann von Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren e.V. (HGF), Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften e.V. (MPG) und Wissenschaftsgemeinschaft Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz e.V. (WGL).

The number of young scientists has increased significantly since 2005:

  • At universities, the number of scientific and artistic staff (excluding professors) under the age of 35 grew by 78% between 2005 and 2018, and the number of scientific and artistic staff between the ages of 35 and 45 (excluding professors) grew by 43%.
  • At non-university research organisations, the number of non-doctoral scientists under 35 grew by 8% between 2014 and 2018, and the number of doctoral scientists under 45 grew by 20%.

Between 2005 and 2018, the number of junior professors increased by 156%, while the total number of professors increased by 27% during the same period. The number of junior professors in 2018 was 1,580. 

Source: "Bundesbericht Wissenschaftlicher Nachwuchs 2021" (PDF, German)



Reading tip: New Tenure Track Professorships

A total of 1,000 tenure track professorships throughout Germany are now receiving additional funding. Similar to a junior professorship, the academic is initially hired by a university for a limited period of time, but – after a successful tenure track – immediately receives a permanent professorship. In September 2019, 532 tenure-track professorships at 57 universities were selected for funding. In the first round of approvals in 2017, 468 tenure-track professorships were appointed already. This brings the total number of universities and equivalent institutions benefiting from the programme to 75.

More about Tenure Track Professorships