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How to apply for a Ph.D. in Germany?


Germany is a top-rated destination for postdoctoral studies. Because the Ph.D. in Germany is free for all the students (national and international), almost all public sector universities are offering Ph.D. to international students. These universities are offering two types of Ph.D. programs.

  1. Individual doctorate
  2. Structured Ph.D. programs

1. Individual doctorate

An individual doctorate is a traditional kind of Ph.D. in which students work individually under only one professor’s supervision. The duration of this Ph.D. varies from 3 to 5 years. It depends on the student’s ability and the topic on which he is doing the research. Students can do research work for this Ph.D. in German or English language. This type of Ph.D. is also prevalent among students.

2. Structured Ph.D. program

The structured Ph.D. program focus on a group of students and a group of supervisors. In this type of Ph.D. program, a group of students works under the supervision of another group of professors. It’s the same kind of Ph.D. program offered in different English countries. This type of Ph.D. has a more international orientation, and mostly this Ph.D. is offered only in the English language because of teamwork.

What is the cost of a Ph.D. in Germany?

German universities are offering tuition-free Ph.D. programs. These free Ph.D. programs are offered to all students regardless of nationality. In some universities, Ph.D. students have to pay the semester contribution fee that is around 180 to 200 euros. Usually, universities take this fee to give a semester ticket that includes free transportation for the whole semester duration.

How to get a Ph.D. in Germany?

First, decide which kind of Ph.D. you want to pursue: individual doctorate or structured Ph.D. It usually depends on your qualifications, research area, and personal circumstances. After this decision, follow these steps:

  • Identify a topic of interest.
  • Develop a proposal with a clear rationale, research objectives, questions/hypotheses, research methodology, knowledge gap, and your contribution and timeline.
  • Search German universities related to your study discipline and make a list. Check this article to know how to find German universities for admission.
  • Look at the websites of these universities and search relevant departments and responsible professors. Check the personal details of all the professors of these departments. If their qualification and current subjects that they are teaching match with your research area. Then try to get their email.
  • Now, email these professors with a request for Ph.D. In the email, introduce yourself, summarize your research topic, and request if they are willing to supervise you.
  • Share a research proposal with the professor once he/she has shown initial interest in reply to your email. Remember, a Ph.D. research proposal will demonstrate your academic skills; therefore, it should be of high quality. The research proposal is the most crucial factor which determines your suitability to pursue a Ph.D. program.
  • Once the professor agrees to supervise you, the rest of the application process is handled by the administration (they will explain their requirements and procedure).
  • Many universities/departments do not have fixed application deadlines for Ph.D. students. So you can apply at any time.
  • Ph.D. application is not evaluated just on a CGPA basis. However, your entire profile, particularly the research proposal and CV, will be assessed. So, give importance to each and everything.

Developing your Ph.D. Research Proposal:

The following guides will provide you an introduction to writing a good Ph.D. proposal. Links are also mentioned for your help.

  • Develop A Research Proposal. [Link]
  • How to write a research-proposal for a strong Ph.D. application? – The University of Sydney. [Link]
  • Writing a Good Ph.D. Research Proposal, Find a Ph.D. [Link]

Resources where you can find a Ph.D. program:

  • International Programmes in Germany [Link]
  • Higher Education Compass [Link]
  • Research in Germany [Link]

Ph.D. in Germany with Scholarship:

There are many ways to acquire funding or scholarship for a Ph.D. in Germany.

Get funding from the chosen University or Professor.

Get funding from University/department where you applied for Ph.D. Discuss with your supervisor and faculty staff of the university/department. They can also arrange funding and scholarships for Ph.D. students. Most German professors also have funding for research projects, so don’t hesitate to ask them.

DAAD Scholarships

DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) is the largest German Academic Exchange Service that provides scholarships and financing to international students. It offers a wide range of scholarships and financing options for German universities’ doctoral and postdoctoral courses.

So find a Ph.D. scholarship on the DAAD official scholarship portal or personally visit their office that is present in your country and ask about Ph.D. funding.

DFG Scholarships

DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) is a self-governing research foundation in Germany. DFG gets fundings from the federal government and other German states. This foundation provides scholarships to foreign students the same as DAAD.

Erasmus Scholarships

Erasmus is the biggest European student exchanging scheme. It offers scholarships to both EU and non-EU students. Erasmus scholarships provide fundings that fully cover all living and educational expenses. The Erasmus scholarship program is also very famous among students.

Max Planck institute

Max Planck Institute is a private German research institute. It also provides funding and research opportunities to master students who want to pursue a Ph.D. in Germany.

The Heinrich Böll Foundation

The Heinrich Böll Foundation is a German legally independent political foundation affiliated with German Green Party. This foundation also offers scholarships to international students for undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. programs.

DKFZ Ph.D. Scholarships

The DKFZ is Germany’s largest biomedical research institute. This institute offer Ph.D. scholarships to international students. This scholarship program is suitable for medical students.

Please keep in mind that acceptance into a Ph.D. program is a bit complex and requires you to research well from the beginning! Each university/department or Ph.D. program may have different requirements, but the above tips are generally useful. Finally, nobody else can identify a topic or supervisor for you! So, make efforts by yourself.

Student Visa Process for Ph.D. in Germany:

Once you successfully get a Ph.D. with an offer letter from your professor or university and funding or scholarship. Immediately book an appointment in the German embassy and prepare all required documents for the visa process.

If you get a Ph.D. and funding/scholarship from Daad, they will help you get a visa. In some countries, Ph.D. students do not require an appointment to get a visa. So, check these details on the official website of the German embassy related to your country. Check this [Link] to know about the German embassy’s visa process and requirements related to different countries.

FAQs about Ph.D. in Germany:

How to get a Ph.D. in Germany with a scholarship?

You can get a Ph.D. with a scholarship for Germany from the following institutes:
1) DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst)
2) DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)
3) Erasmus
4) Max Planck institute
5) The Heinrich Böll Foundation
6) DKFZ (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum)

What is the average duration of a PhD in Germany?

The duration of a Ph.D. is not usually fixed and takes between 3 to 5 years, depending on the research field.

Is it worth getting a Ph.D. from Germany?

Yes, getting a Ph.D. in Germany is the right decision because of the following reasons:
1) Ph.D. is free in Germany.
2) If you have funding, then you will get a fair amount during the Ph.D. Germany is one of the markets where Ph.D.’s are most respected.
3) After completion of your Ph.D., you can get access to the EU market.

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