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"It requires tact and sensitivity"

Teaching at German higher education institutions: Clarissa Schöller helps international teachers find their way to the Technical University of Munich (TU Munich).

Matthias Vogel , 12.09.2022
Clarissa Schöller manages new arrivals in Germany
Clarissa Schöller manages new arrivals in Germany © Astrid Eckert, TU Muenchen

German universities train urgently needed specialists. To do this, they also need highly qualified personnel themselves – often from abroad. In such cases, the Dual Career Office of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and its relocation service helps newly appointed professors to start their professional careers in Germany. Consultant Clarissa Schöller, 37, describes her job to

Ms Schöller, where does your role begin when the TUM finds a person abroad who might come and teach in Munich?
Once it becomes clear after the application process who the university would like to have, we make contact straight away, i.e. right at the beginning of the negotiation phase.

Where do you start with your relocation service and why so early?
Attracting the best scientists isn't easy. International competition is fierce, and universities in Germany can't always match the kinds of salaries offered in other countries. So we have to make up for that in other ways: How many staff will the professor have at his or her disposal? How big is the laboratory space? How good is the cooperation with research institutes? In addition to these hard factors, we enter the race with soft ones – relocation services. What support does the candidate need to be able to come at all? And that varies from case to case. 

International competitive pressure is fierce.
Clarissa Schöller, TU Munich

Can you give us an example?
Just recently, we recruited a professor from Italy who had been living in the U.S. with his wife and child. We helped them with apartment-hunting and organized their relocation. Then other topics came up, such as visas, childcare and health insurance – which is very complex. As is often the case, the partner also needed a job. In this case it was quite practical because she was a laboratory assistant and we happened to have a suitable vacancy in-house. Then we organized language lessons. This meant that the biggest problems were solved. Opening a bank account and transferring a driving license is less time-consuming; and the tax number is assigned automatically.

What should scientists definitely not forget to do before coming to Germany?
It's a good idea to have apostilles made for important documents. Not all originals are recognized here.

You have completed your doctorate and have now been working in the Dual Career Office for three years. What's the biggest difficulty you face in your job?
The whole process is complex and sometimes very bureaucratic. The final granting of the residence permit can take a very long time and is out of our hands. It really requires tact and sensitivity to keep top international talent on board at this stage. After all, they want planning security.

Have you ever been confronted with a task that meant you had to stop and take a deep breath?
Oh yes: one professor has a pet horse that he wants to bring with him – across the Atlantic! The case is currently with the regional financial authorities and has not yet been fully resolved.


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