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The habilitation is the highest-ranking university examination in Germany, Austria, France, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and some Eastern European countries, with which the teaching qualification ( Latin facultas docendi ) in a scientific subject is determined within the framework of an academic examination procedure . Recognition of the teaching qualification is the prerequisite for the granting of the teaching authorization , which is also called teaching authorization , teaching authorization or venia legendi (from Latin for "permission to read" [= to hold lectures, i.e. to teach]). In contrast to the teaching qualification, it is often linked to compliance with regular teaching obligations (title teaching). The habilitation is intended to test whether the scientist can represent his subject in research and teaching in its entirety .

At some universities, after successful completion of the habilitation process, only the academic designation Privatdozent (PD or Priv.-Doz.) Is awarded, which is then the only external distinguishing feature of the acquired qualification. However, numerous faculties also award the academic degree of a doctorate with a habilitation ( Doctor habilitatus , short: Dr. habil. ), Which is retained even after the end of teaching.

In Germany, since the 2002 amendment to the Higher Education Framework Act, the habilitation is no longer the only qualification for the profession of university lecturer at scientific universities, unlike in the past. The prerequisites for employment for professors are rather "additional academic achievements" at academic universities, which are required in various institutional settings - a habilitation, a junior professorship , research assistant positions, etc. Ä. - can be provided; corresponding requirements apply to artistic and technical colleges (cf. the respective university laws of the federal states).

The number of habilitations today is significantly lower than before 2002. In 2018, according to the Federal Statistical Office, 1,529 habilitations were carried out in Germany . 32% of the habilitations were by women. In 2019 the number fell slightly to 1518.

With regard to the practical importance of the habilitation, there are very large differences between the subjects. In some subjects it is still only possible in exceptional cases to get a professorship without a habilitation. In 2018, the Philosophical Faculty Day, as the political representation of the humanities, cultural and social science subjects at German universities, entered into the discussion about the habilitation and formulated quality standards for good habilitation in a resolution.

Origin and use

The word habilitation comes from the Middle Latin habilitatio , which in turn is derived from habilis (skillful, suitable, capable) or the verb habilitare (skillfully do, make suitable, enable).

In late medieval theology, this was particularly understood to mean the habilitatio ad gratiam , the habilitare se ad gratiam , namely the turning away from sin and turning to the good in preparation for the divine gift of grace, which is to be actively carried out by humans according to their own strength and possibilities. In legal usage, habilitatio and habilitare denote the legal act by which a person is granted the ability to exercise certain rights by an ecclesiastical or secular authority with a corresponding document, for example in the case of restoration to previous rights in connection with an absolution ( absolutio et habilitatio , also: rehabilitatio ), or as a dispensation for the removal of legal obstacles in the succession (habilitatio ad successionem) or for election to an office (see eligibility certificate ).

In medieval schools and universities, the term appeared seldom and without a specific meaning, for example in resolutions of the general chapters of the Dominicans in the 15th century, where habilitare in addition to doctorate or exponere for the admission of religious students linked to a previous study of logic and natural philosophy was used to study theology. In the university system of the early modern period, the term appeared more frequently, but also without a clearly defined meaning. This is how habilitatio sometimes referred to a disputation that had to be completed after obtaining the master’s degree in order to be able to apply for a position in the faculty or in order not to lose the right to obtain a seat in the faculty when leaving the university. According to an explanation of Zedler's Universal Lexicon , “habilitieren” was also used in a more general sense for the achievement of an academic degree.

In their current meaning, habilitation and habilitation, following the example of the use of the term in the statutes of the Berlin University of 1816, only established themselves in the course of the 19th century.

In German, the verb habilitieren can either be used reflexively (he is habilitating himself) or transitive with the accusative object (the faculty habilitating him, he is being habilitated). In recent times, intransitive use (he is doing his habilitation, he has done his habilitation) is also common.


The habilitation is only granted after a thorough assessment of the candidate by a habilitation committee . It is the highest academic examination in which outstanding achievements in scientific research and teaching must be proven. The prerequisites are usually:

  • the previous doctorate with which the ability to conduct independent research was certified,
  • the submission of a habilitation thesis ,
  • Other publications demonstrating the candidate's scientific ability, and
  • Experience in scientific teaching . If this is still missing - as for example with non-university researchers from industry or from medical institutions - it is often determined through a series of trial lectures .

First of all, formal requirements must be checked, which may include personal integrity .

More recently, many German universities have formalized the habilitation process more strongly and, among other things, introduced the need for supervision by a member of the faculty who has already qualified as a habilitation.

Habilitation thesis

The habilitation needs in Germany as opposed to the thesis usually not in a regular manner (i. E. Usually in a publishing house or in the series of publications of a university institute ) will be published, to complete the process. However, it must meet several formal and content requirements and meet the standards of a scientific monograph . The main aspects are legally regulated, including de facto nor the specific practices are the respective subject area. Many German habilitation regulations stipulate that at least one of the at least three written statements that are requested on the thesis is written by an external reviewer.

Instead of the habilitation thesis, a number of specialist publications with the scientific weight corresponding to a habilitation thesis can usually be accepted (cumulative habilitation). In most subjects, however, the submission of a monograph is the rule.

With the habilitation the applicant should prove his special ability for independent scientific research and teaching in the whole breadth of his subject. Proof of teaching qualification ( facultas docendi ) is provided with the habilitation ; this is the prerequisite for being granted the license to teach as venia legendi . The habilitation or equivalent scientific achievements are a common requirement in Germany for the appointment as a university professor . Successfully completing a junior professorship has been de jure equal for some time ; In practice, the handling varies greatly from subject to subject.

In the GDR , according to the doctoral regulations of January 21, 1969, a doctorate B was obtained instead of the previous habilitation, for which the submission of a dissertation B was required. With the PhD B, however, there was no acquisition of a teaching qualification as with the habilitation; this had to be acquired in a separate procedure to obtain the “facultas docendi”, which was generally carried out beforehand. In contrast, the license to teach “venia legendi” with the appointment as a university lecturer ( university lecturer or professor ) was deemed to have been granted and did not have to be specifically applied for.

Position of the post-doctoral candidates

During the habilitation process, the habilitation candidate is often employed as a (employed) research assistant or (civil servant) academic adviser at the university where the process is running. In the past, the habilitand was mostly employed there as a research assistant or university assistant on a temporary basis. However, this is not a mandatory requirement for the habilitation: Occasionally, employees of non-university research institutions, other universities , especially abroad, from universities of applied sciences, from industry or the teaching profession at high schools (external habilitation). One third of junior professors do their habilitation alongside their work as junior professors. Some post-doctoral candidates are financed through scholarships or collaboration in third-party funded projects . In the case of positions financed by third parties, civil servant status is not possible, so that the official position must be that of a research assistant or a scholarship holder.

Because of the abolition of the salary regulations C1  for university assistants, which went hand in hand with the introduction of the junior professorship in 2002, it was initially no longer possible to hold office for post-doctoral candidates. Thus, after the reform, the attractiveness of habilitation positions had noticeably worsened, since the net pay now always, despite the higher function, is significantly below the z. B. a civil servant school teacher ( salary order A  13) was. Some departments made do with habilitation positions disguised as junior professorships. All federal states except Brandenburg , Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt have reacted within a few years by adapting their state university laws and introducing temporary academic councils (A 13). However, as before the reforms, it is left to the individual universities to decide whether to offer their post-doctoral candidates a temporary or a fixed-term contract, which is handled differently.


In the Middle Ages, teaching began informally after obtaining the academic degrees of licentiate and master's degree within the artist faculty or the doctorate in the higher faculties.

In academic history, the habilitation is an institution of the late modern period. In times of the medieval and early modern universities , the habilitation was largely unknown. The doctorate had the status of the highest academic education; the so-called disputatio was the rule.

In the time of Martin Luther, for example, when theology was still the dominant discipline at universities, one defended one's doctoral theses with the disputation and then became Doctor theologiae. His theses were posted in the neighboring university towns. This so-called notice board was the invitation to the disputations. Anyone who wanted to come came along, and one was always specially invited to discuss critically with the candidate. These disputations were also mostly published, but not by the candidate but by the examiner.

Only over time did the disputationes develop into the habilitation at German universities . The term habilitation can be derived from the neo-Latin certificate of proficiency, based on the middle Latin habilitare (to do skillfully, to enable). From the High Middle Ages to the Reformation , a doctor still had the right to teach at all western universities ; this right was called the ius ubique docendi . With the introduction of the habilitation, there was also the need to first acquire the Venia Legendi .

Reich Habilitation Regulations 1939

For the universities of the German Reich, uniform regulations for the habilitation and the acquisition of the license to teach were issued with a circular of December 13, 1934. The shortage of young university professors caused by the political developments and other reasons led to a revision of the Reich Habilitation Regulations in 1939. This regulated an abbreviated procedure and an economic safeguard for the next generation of university lecturers by appointing the lecturers to civil servants when they were granted the license to teach. H. unscheduled officials were withdrawn.

In the German Democratic Republic, the habilitation was renamed to Doctorate B. Claims and procedures, however, reflected the habilitation process. The habilitation could be done in different ways, u. a. can be achieved through a scientific aspiration . For a teaching position at a university, the additional qualification of the Facultas Docendi (teaching qualification) had to be proven in an additional procedure.

The habilitation was necessary because the level and scope of most dissertations no longer seemed to meet the increased demands of the 19th and early 20th centuries; the first substantial research achievement at that time was often the habilitation thesis. In many subjects, especially in the humanities, the doctorate takes place much later than then (instead of ten years later in the early twenties). Dissertations in these disciplines can now quite often compete qualitatively with habilitation theses and represent important research contributions. This is one of the reasons why the necessity of the second book in some subjects is now controversial.

Until the end of the 20th century, the habilitation in most subjects (except engineering and artistic subjects) was a standard requirement for appointment to a professorship at universities and equivalent colleges in Germany , whereby equivalent scientific achievements were also recognized as a de iure qualification. With the junior professorship / junior professorship created in Germany since 2002 based on Anglo-Saxon education systems , the possibility of being appointed professor at a university without habilitation has been expanded. This qualification path competes with the habilitation, so that this has since lost its importance and is carried out much less frequently. In fact, it still plays an important role in many subjects today, which is why many junior professors also strive for a habilitation there, but hardly in others.

Habilitation process

The right to conduct a habilitation procedure lies with the faculties or departments of a university or university of equal rank. The conditions for the habilitation, which are regulated nationwide in Austria, are stipulated in Germany within the framework of the state laws in the habilitation regulations of each university and include the doctorate as a prerequisite , then the habilitation thesis ( opus magnum, Latin: large work) or several scientific publications of outstanding quality (cumulative habilitation). Furthermore, an oral examination with a specialist lecture in front of the faculty, followed by a detailed scientific discussion in the form of a colloquium , also known as a disputation , and a public lecture are common . The pedagogical and didactic suitability is usually proven by a course-related course.

In Germany, in some federal states, the academic degree of a habilitated doctor (Dr. habil.) Is awarded with the habilitation, so that the existing doctorate is supplemented by habil. (habilitata / habilitatus) may be extended. In the GDR , the addition sc. For scientiae has been added to the doctoral degree since 1969 , after the doctorate B had been completed and the "Doctor of Science" was obtained in accordance with the doctoral regulations of January 21, 1969.

The habilitation proves the ability to teach ; The right to teach is usually granted to the habilitated person on application by granting the academic title of private lecturer , provided that he lectures at the university. The private lecturer, like the non-scheduled professor, belongs to the group of university professors (the wording of the HRG is misleading or not relevant, as this is exclusively determined by state law, e.g. in Bavaria by Art. 2 (3) BayHSchPG). However, habilitation and teaching authorization do not expressly establish an employment relationship and no entitlement to establishment of an employment relationship.

Habilitation application

The applicant submits a written application for admission to the habilitation stating the subject or subject area for which he wants to acquire the teaching qualification (habilitation application) to the dean of the responsible faculty of the chosen university. The following should usually be attached to the habilitation application:

  1. the habilitation thesis or equivalent scientific publications in five copies each,
  2. the declaration that the habilitation thesis and other submitted scientific work were prepared by the applicant himself and without any aids other than those specified and that the positions taken over verbatim or in terms of content were identified as such, in the case of joint work, the information on what the applicant's cooperation extends to,
  3. a list of the applicant's scientific publications, if possible with offprints attached. Research results that have not yet been published can also be submitted in manuscript form.
  4. a curriculum vitae that provides information about personal and professional career,
  5. Appropriate evidence of the prerequisites (doctoral degree and academic activity), in particular the doctoral diploma , the dissertation and a description of previous academic teaching activities,
  6. a declaration of any previous habilitation requests at other universities and their results,
  7. three suggested topics for the scientific lecture and, if applicable, three suggested topics for the trial lecture; the proposed topics can be changed by the applicant until the decision on acceptance of the habilitation thesis has been made,
  8. a declaration that a certificate of good conduct to be sent to the responsible faculty in accordance with Section 30 (5) of the Federal Central Register Act has been requested from the responsible registration authority.

A proposal for up to three possible reviewers can be attached to the habilitation application. The proposal does not entitle to consideration. Documents must be submitted in writing and must be authorized or officially certified by the applicant. The number of reviews required varies, but at least three are required everywhere, including at least one external.

Cumulative habilitation

A cumulative habilitation (also known as collective habilitation ) is a type of habilitation that leads to a habilitation through several publications in specialist journals . This encourages post-doctoral students to make the results of their scientific work available to the public at an early stage. In an international environment, it also aims to ensure that academic selection does not focus on a single achievement.


Who habilitation or equivalent qualifications ( Austria : gleichzuhaltende qualification) from a university for lecturers and university lecturers has been appointed may be appointed at another University as Lecturer in general, with the Venia legendi local based on a shortened Procedure, the rehabilitation , is acquired. The qualification as a habilitated doctor is retained, even if you leave the previous university. Only the admission to teaching at another university has to be acquired again. The same applies to the extension of the habilitation to a related subject. In this case, it is usually sufficient to submit relevant publications and a test lecture to prove that you are also qualified to teach in the new subject. This process is also often referred to as rehabilitation.

Habilitation in other countries

In addition to Germany , Austria and Switzerland , the habilitation as an academic qualification for university lecturers is also planned in other European countries, in particular in Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland , Slovakia , Hungary , Ukraine and Russia , but also in Finland (Dosentti). In many countries, a state-approved additional qualification replaces the habilitation, e.g. B. in Denmark and the Netherlands .

In Austria, an artistic habilitation process is planned in addition to the scientific one. The basis is an artistic degree at least at master's or diploma level. Instead of scientific achievements such as publications, artistic achievements must be proven. The habilitation thesis is replaced by a shorter written contribution. The designation of private lecturer also applies to professors who have qualified as professors in artistic subjects .

In France , the habilitation à diriger des recherches (HDR) has now firmly established itself again as the central qualification for admission to the professorship.

In many European and most non-European countries the habilitation process was never planned (e.g. in Great Britain and the USA ) or was abolished (e.g. libera docenza in Italy ). In the international area , emphasis is placed on extensive publications, the so-called publication list , on scientific issues and research results, preferably in internationally respected specialist journals. This publication list ( English : publication list ) is often divided into articles (article) or papers, reviews, book chapters (scientific publications, reports, book chapters) and books (books).


Some university politicians and officials rate the traditional habilitation process as no longer appropriate. The qualification for independent research is already provided with the dissertation . The aspect of teaching is formally included in the habilitation, but in reality it has an extremely subordinate importance for the examination procedure in relation to the habilitation thesis. In addition, most of the habilitation theses did not meet the actually required coverage of the breadth of specialist knowledge for qualifying for academic teaching, which went beyond a dissertation, but only that of a further dissertation. Particularly problematic is the immense amount of time which leads to the fact that the habilitated students only enter the actual professional life at an advanced age, which has both private-family and economic consequences, but also puts graduates worse off compared to other countries. After all, many private lecturers are left with nothing economically if they do not get a professorship, because the habilitation is hardly rewarded for a position outside the university and too many years have passed since the doctorate. Prominent scientists therefore called for the abolition of the habilitation without replacement, which was finally implemented in 2002 in connection with the introduction of the junior professorship. However, this abolition was repealed in 2004 by a lawsuit by three federal states. As President (1998–2006) of the German Research Foundation (DFG), Professor Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker described the habilitation as obsolete , a career obstacle and ultimately an instrument of power for veteran professors over the next generation. Nevertheless, in many (primarily humanities) subject areas, people are still convinced of the meaning of the habilitation. Most university administrations also assume that the habilitation will remain the decisive qualification characteristic in certain subjects.

Academic teaching

The license to teach is awarded for a specific subject. The prerequisite for the authorization to teach is the teaching qualification, which according to previous law is awarded by the habilitation, an equivalent achievement or after a successfully completed junior professorship. In Bavaria, for example, the distinction between teaching qualifications and teaching permits was regulated by the University Teachers Act or by country-specific legislation. For universities of applied sciences , different regulations apply to the acquisition of teaching qualifications than for universities and universities of equal status .


In Germany, the number of habilitations has risen steadily since 1985 and reached its highest level in 2002 with 2302 procedures. Since 2003, the number of habilitation procedures has fallen again to 1,646 in 2012. The decline in habilitation procedures is likely to be partly due to the introduction of the junior professorship . The proportion of women doing habilitations rose from 18.4% in 2000 to 30.4% in 2016. Of the total of 1,581 scientists who completed their habilitation in Germany in 2016, 481 are women. Most of the habilitations (802) in 2016 were in human medicine and health sciences. In this subject group, the proportion of women was 26% (206 habilitations), well below the average. Law, economics and social sciences recorded the highest proportion of women at 42%. 194 habilitations were completed by foreign scientists. Again, most of them (73) related to human medicine and health sciences. The proportion of habilitations by foreign scientists rose from 10% to 12% in one year.

See also

Wiktionary: Habilitation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: habilitation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  • Elisabeth Boedeker, Maria Meyer-Plath (Ed.): 50 Years of Habilitation for Women in Germany. Documentation covering the period from 1920–1970. Schwartz, Göttingen 1974, ISBN 3-509-00743-3 . (= Publications of the university association, 27).
  • Rüdiger vom Bruch : Qualification and specialization: the history of the habilitation. In: Research and Teaching . 2, 2000, pp. 69-70.
  • Alexander Busch: The history of the private lecturer - a sociological study on the large-scale development of German universities. Enke, Stuttgart 1959. Reprinted by Arno, New York 1977, ISBN 0-405-10036-1 .
  • Steffani Engler: “In loneliness and freedom?” On the construction of the scientific personality on the way to a professorship. UVK, Konstanz 2001, ISBN 3-89669-809-5 .
  • Jochen Fröhlich: The habilitation in France. University of Karlsruhe: Froehlich_HDR_2005.pdf
  • Hiltrud Häntzschel : On the history of the habilitation of women in Germany. In: Hiltrud Häntzschel, Hadumod Bußmann (ed.): “Threateningly clever”: a century of women and science in Bavaria. Beck, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-406-41857-0 , pp. 84-104.
  • Wolfgang Kalischer (Hrsg.): Habilitation: Development since 1960. Habilitation statistics 1976–1977. Documentation department of the West German Rectors' Conference. Bonn-Bad Godesberg 1979. (= documents on university reform, 35).
  • Wolfgang Kalischer (Ed.): Habilitation statistics: 1978–1979. Documentation department of the West German Rectors' Conference. Bonn-Bad Godesberg 1980. (= documents on university reform, 39).
  • Ernst Schubert: The History of the Habilitation. In: Henning Kössler (Ed.): 250 years of Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg. University Library, Erlangen 1993, ISBN 3-922135-91-9 , pp. 115–151. (= Erlanger research, special series 4).
  • Hermann Horstkotte: Academic Doctoral Games - Professor Dr. hc Volkswagen. Spiegel Online, November 15, 2007.

Individual evidence

  1. Press release of July 3, 2019 by the Federal Statistical Office
  2. FAZ of 7 July 2020 with reference to the Federal Statistical Office
  3. For good habilitation procedures! Recommendations of the Philosophical Faculty Day. (PDF; 115 kB) In: phft.de. Philosophical Faculty Day, June 30, 2018, accessed on February 12, 2019 .
  4. Pseudo-Bonaventure (Hugo Ripelin of Strasbourg): Compendium theologiae veritatis lib. V, cap. XII, in: A. C. Peltier (Ed.): S. Bonaventruae Opera omnia. Vol. 8, Paris 1846, p. 175.
  5. E.g. Quintiliano Mandosi: Signaturae gratiae praxis. Rome: Apud Antonium Bladum Impressorem Cameralem, 1559, p. 82 f. ("Absolutiones, & Rehabilitationes").
  6. E.g. Pietro Antonio de Petra, De iure quaesito non tollendo per principem tractatus , Frankfurt am Main: Ex officina typogaphica Matthaei Beckeri, 1600, p. 597 (“de habilitatione foemine, ad successionem feudi in praeiudicium agnatorum”).
  7. B. M. Reichert (Ed.): Acta Capitulorum Generalium Ordinis Praedicatorum. Volume 2, Rome 1899 (= Monumenta Ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum Historica, 4), p. 153.
  8. ^ Friedrich Gottlob Leonhardi, history and description of the district and trading town of Leipzig and the surrounding area. Leipzig: bey Johann Gottlob Beygang, 1799, p. 568 f.
  9. ^ Ewald Horn: The disputations and doctorates at the German universities mainly since the 17th century. Leipzig: Otto Harrasowitz, 1893 (= supplements to the Centralblatt für Bibliothekswesen, vol. 4, booklet 11, pp. 1–126), p. 17 with a document from 1678 for the demand for such a disputation quae habilitatio dicitur .
  10. “Getting a Habilitation means being skillful, making yourself comfortable. It is said in particular that if someone becomes a licentiate or a doctor, he is habilitated ”(Volume 12, Halle / Leipzig 1735, Col. 52); see. also Ulrich Goebel, Oskar Reichmann (ed.), Early New High German Dictionary. Volume 7, delivery 2, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 2004, col. 826.
  11. As an earlier reference, Alexander Görner, Die Hauptlehren der Nationalökonomie , Lutzeyer, Bad Oeynhausen 1942, p. 159.
  12. Duden The large dictionary of the German language in 10 volumes. 3rd edition, Dudenverlag; Mannheim, Leipzig, Vienna, Zurich 1999.
  13. RUI 730.11, Reich Ministry for Science, Education and National Education .
  14. (Rust): WA 2920/38, ZIIa, ZI (a): Reichs-Habilitation-Ordinance from February 17, 1939 together with implementation regulations, introduction.
  15. Cumulative habilitation. Department of Geography at the Philipps University of Marburg. Published October 27, 2010. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  16. ^ German Society for Psychology: Recommendations of the Board of Directors on the cumulative habilitation. Psychologische Rundschau, 1998, 49 (2), pp. 98-100. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  17. Hunt for young talents , interview by Andreas Sentker and Martin Spiewak with Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, Die Zeit , No. 1 of December 28, 2006, p. 32, accessed on May 18, 2009.
  18. Winnacker laments the “sluggishness” of the German science system , Handelsblatt , message dated December 27, 2006, accessed on May 19, 2009.
  19. Habilitation for Physicians - Is it really out of date? , Press release of June 15, 1999 from the University of Würzburg, accessed on May 19, 2009; pro & contra habilitation , research magazine "Ruperto Carola", issue 3/1999.
  20. Federkeil, book: Five years of junior professorship - Second CHE survey on the status of the introduction. P. 29 f.
  21. Press release of the Science Council on key data and key figures at universities of March 4, 2002. Accessed on July 26, 2019 .
  22. Communication from the Federal Statistical Office, in: Chirurgische Allgemeine, Volume 18, 11th + 12th Issue, 2017, p. 494.