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Privatdozent (abbreviated PD, P.D. or Priv.-Doz.) is an academic title conferred by some European universities, especially in German-speaking countries, to someone who holds certain formal qualifications that denote an ability to teach independently at university level. In its current usage, the title indicates that the holder has permission to teach independently at the conferring university, without holding a professorial chair. The title is not necessarily connected to a salaried position, but may entail a nominal obligation to teach at the conferring institution.
The title can be conferred by a university to an academic who has obtained a higher doctoral degree usually in form of a habilitation. The holder of the title may be employed by a university as senior researcher or senior teaching faculty; however, the title as such is not a salaried appointment and the holder may seek a private appointment elsewhere. Depending on local regulations, the title holder might be required to teach, regardless of a remuneration agreement, in order to maintain the status as privatdozent at the conferring institution. The holder ceases to be privatdozent if appointed professor.
Although rare, the title can be formally revoked ("Remotion") in case of serious misconduct or disagreements. For example, Eugen Dühring's permission to teach as privatdozent at the Humboldt University of Berlin was withdrawn in 1877 as a consequence of his sustained criticisms of the scientific practices of this institution. In Nazi Germany, most Jewish academics had their title removed under the Nuremberg Laws.
History and future
The title has its origins in German-speaking countries in Europe before 1800. It referred to a lecturer who received fees from his students rather than a university salary.
Friedrich Karl von Savigny was Privatdozent in Marburg University in 1802/1803. In Prussia it started around 1810, and became established around 1860. For many years, habilitation remained cumulative, i.e. it was based on already-published work, not a new monograph. From 1900 until 1968, most university professors who were appointed were title holders
During the university reforms which began in 1968, in order to broaden the professorial base for the many newly opened and expanding universities, professors began to be appointed without having held this title. This was seen[by whom?] as a political act to counter the alleged inherent conservatism and reactionary views of the German professoriate.
The life of the privatdozent can be unsatisfactory (Georg Simmel called it purgatory), as the title holder tends to be around 40, often has a family, and might not have salaried position or a lower position (possibly fixed-term) as Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter, Hochschulassistent, Hochschuldozent or Akademischer Rat. In 2002 a limited number of "junior professorships" were introduced which are fast-track, time-limited positions to qualify for regular professorships. Although this has been seen as the "beginning of the end" of the title, it turned out that it is still held in great esteem in German academia.
- Friedrich Karl von Savigny, Juristische Methodenlehre, K.F. Koeler Verlag, Stuttgart 1951, p.p. 5–7