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Special features of German doctoral programs

German doctoral programs do not have uniform rules and structures; these are established by the university faculties concerned. Applicants must as a rule have studied their subject for at least 8 semesters and have achieved a very good grade in their degree.

In contrast to the system in many other countries, German universities traditionally regard doctoral study as demonstrating the ability of the candidate to work in a free and disciplined manner without a fixed curriculum. However, postgraduate study at German universities is currently undergoing radical change, and many universities have opened graduate schools or centers offering a structured doctoral program. This may be mandatory or – as it is in Wuppertal – optional.

Nevertheless, such centers remain few and far between, and the principal structure in the German system is still the supervisor. As he or she is the main contact person for the doctoral student, it is of the utmost importance to find a professor with whom you can work profitably in the field of your choice.

Information sources on structured doctoral programs and on finding a supervisor

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provides a search mask entitled International Degree Programs in Germany as well as a link to the documentation of the annual meeting of the DAAD and German Research Foundation on 'Value Added and Perspectives of Structured Doctoral Programs'.

The following web pages will help in the search for a supervisor:

  • German Rectors' Conference (HRK) – Hochschulkompass (University compass) provides a search facility by subject, university, degree type and language
  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) – research portal provides a search facility by texts and theses
  • Study Guide Baden-Württemberg – provides detailed information in English on how to contact a potential supervisor.
  • German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) – provides information on conditions and requirements for taking a doctorate in Germany, as well as general information on living in Germany
  • Integrated Online Application and Information System for International Student Applicants (INOBIS) – provides information on conditions and requirements for taking a doctorate in Germany, as well as general information on living in Germany.

Legal requirements – Obtaining a PhD in Germany means living in Germany, and for foreign nationals that entails fulfillment of certain legal requirements as well as the academic requirements of the university. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provides useful information brochures on Entry and Residence Requirements for Students and Scholars and Work Permit Regulations for Students and Scholars.