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The scheduled position of a university professor with the designation of full professor at a university (according to Duden also: at another university) is referred to as a chair (also ordinariate ) . These professorships are equipped with additional human and financial resources to carry out certain tasks in research and teaching. The term chair is therefore often used as a synonym for the entirety of all employees of the respective professor. In some subjects one speaks instead of working group or AG for short , in Austria also of research group .

Professor also be used as a full professor , full professor or full professor called.

To accept the invitation to a teacher, a professor or a professor, is a vocation (colloquially call referred). University professorships and chairs are not necessarily linked - every chair holder is a professor, but the reverse is not true.


Professor in the chair, at the lecture (from 1500)

The term chair is a loan translation from Greek-Latin cathedra , which can be paraphrased as "reading chair" and referred to the higher chair of the teacher at a university, the catheter .

The professor at a university with a Chair ( Chair ) is as full professor ( professor ordinarius ) or full professor called. After a university reform in the 1970s, the title of full professor was largely abolished in the Federal Republic of Germany, but the designation is still mentioned as a title in Article 12, Paragraph 3 of the Bavarian University Personnel Act and is still used informally in other federal states. In the second half of the 19th century, the term full professor also referred to a class teacher at a secondary school. At some grammar schools in Austria a class teacher is still called this today.

The chair relates to a specific subject area, e.g. B. Chair of Solid State Physics , which the chair holder works on. The chair is usually attached to an institute or seminar (in the sense of an educational institution) . There are - especially in smaller subjects - institutes that only consist of a single chair, while conversely at some universities (e.g. the University of Konstanz ) there are chairs but no institutes. In Germany, professorships are usually paid according to W 3 (until 2005 C 4).

The faculty or department that has to fill a vacant chair or professorship usually uses a complex appointment procedure in Germany to select a professor. An appointment committee draws up a list of appointment proposals, which are usually considered by the competent authority.

Extraordinaries or associate professors , on the other hand, are civil servants without a chair. In Germany they are mostly assigned to salary groups W 2 or (until 2005) C 3 and have fewer or no employees and less budget. However, they must also assert themselves in an appointment procedure and are full professors with regard to their rights and obligations . This distinguishes them and the chair holders from non-scheduled professors .


In the Federal Republic of Germany, professorships are generally paid according to salary group W 3 (formerly C 4 ).

At the end of 2017, according to preliminary results from the Federal Statistical Office, 47,568 female and male professors were teaching and researching at German universities (W1, W2 and W3 professorships). While their total number remained almost unchanged from the mid-1990s to 2008 (approx. 38,000 professorships), the proportion of women within the professorships has risen steadily since 1995. The proportion of female professors doubled in the period 1995–2007 from 8 to over 16 percent. The number of female professors reached a new high of around 11,442 in 2017. This corresponds to around 24% of all professorships.


In Austria the term used to be used Chair applied. Today the terms are professorship or chair no longer common.

The full professor was previously the full university professor . Since the University Organization Act of 1993 , a distinction is no longer made between full university professors and extraordinary university professors of the old type (there is, however, a difference to the extraordinary university professors of the new type, who despite this designation are not among the university professors). The previous full university professors may, however, continue to call themselves that.

Famous chairs

An academic tradition allows chairs to be named after their legendary predecessors, models or donors, especially in the Anglo-Saxon field. There is no such tradition in Germany, where some chairs are now named according to this rule. Endowed professorships often enjoy a special reputation. Four examples:

Chair as a work of art

The artist Hermann Bigelmayr has erected the large sculpture chair - empty chair in front of the Weimar University Library . The 20-ton work of art refers to the university as a teaching institution on the one hand and to the chair seating on the other hand, which is elementary in both the lecture hall and the reading room of the library.


  • The chairs at the scientific universities in the Federal Republic [and in West Berlin]. Schwartz & Co, Göttingen 1955–1970 (annual overview of number, designation and occupation and the young talent in the specialist areas).
  • Elisabeth Boedeker, Maria Meyer-Plath: 50 years of women's habilitation in Germany. Goettingen 1974.
  • Christiane Mück, Karen Mühlenbein: Chair Management. How universities can successfully develop and market their chairs. VDM Verlag, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-86550-023-4 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Chair  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Friedhelm Golücke : Student dictionary . 4th edition, 1984
  2. BayHSchPG: Law on the legal relationships of university lecturers and other academic and artistic staff at universities (Bavarian University Personnel Act - BayHSchPG) of May 23, 2006 (GVBl. P. 230) BayRS 2030-1-2-WK (Art. 1–43) - Citizen Service. Retrieved April 1, 2020 .
  3. Federal Statistical Office : accessed on November 11, 2019.
  4. Chair - empty chair. ( Memento of March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Retrieved December 29, 2012.