Extraordinary Professorships under New Higher Education Law

The Czech Higher Education Institutions Amendment Act (No 137 / 2016) has partially but significantly altered rules for appointment of professors at higher education institutions.

Traditionally, professorship is conferred upon a person by a state-accredited procedure organized by a higher education institution, whereby the scientific board, after completion of all the steps required from a candidate, makes proposal to the President of the State to appoint a professor. The professorial appointment is made ad personam, does not in itself constitute an employment posting, and thus represents a special type of professional qualification, which is transferable among institutions in the country. Being a holder of a professorial title is a requirement for being employed by a higher education institution in a position of a professor; by law, only professors (incl. associate professors) can be study programme directors, and perform other  functions reserved by law, such as serving as degree examiners without specific authorization from designated institutions.

For professorial appointment, a traditional academic path is generally being required, starting with PhD degree and through acquisition of venia docendi (habilitation) rights, which give the status of Associate Professor. Typically, a professor will then have at least 10-15 years of continuous academic career after completion of PhD. Exceptions from this traditional path may be granted to persons, who had previously been professors at a recognized foreign higher education institutions. However, this is rather uncommon.

By the new law effective from 1 September 2016, higher education institutions will have the option, under certain procedural and substantive conditions, to appoint “extraordinary” professors outside the traditional path.

Under new legislation, appointment of extraordinary professors (with status and rights equivalent to ordinary professors) will be possible for higher education institutions granted institutional accreditation (new accreditation scheme to be implemented from 2018). The appointment will have to be in a field of education, which is approved as part of the institutional profile.

The path to extraordinary professorship will be open to candidates, who either were professors of some degree (including associate) abroad, or have been working as practitioners in the relevant field for at least 20 years. There is no formal education requirement, lest a PhD degree requirement, for extraordinary professorship appointment by law. It is however legally required that the person must be a “recognized expert in the field”, and the appointment must be approved by the institution’s scientific board, whereby the institution acknowledges responsibility for these appointments towards meeting accreditation standards.

Unlike the traditional professorship, which is dual (the state appointment and then employment post pre-conditioned by the title), extraordinary professorship is inherently connected, and inseparable from, employment contract with an institution in respect of a particular position.

While yet waiting for implementation, and subject to quite rigorous limitation with regard to years of practice, this new path still provides an alternative route to more flexible careers, and is likely to support an inflow of experienced senior practitioners into higher education as increasingly there is shift away from life-long careers in one single track.