Ph.D. Study in Germany
Students choose Germany for their higher study as it includes several highly-ranked and historic universities. Some prudent universities offer Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees to worldwide students. Additionally, when it comes to doctoral research and studies, Germany becomes a more preferred option among all the available options. German universities introduced Ph.D. in the nineteenth-century and since then, the specialized centers keep evolving in terms of tuition fees and programs.
Here is the entire information that one needs to know regarding the doctorate in Germany. You can also have an overview of the German Higher Education System with a better explanation of different German Ph.D. programs.
German is counted as the seventh-most-visited country in the world. The spacious history of the place is the key reason behind the same. Medieval and modern heritage sites are adding more pleasure to it.
Apart from being a top-rated tourist place, the German higher education system also provides a world-class education that has been produced by great thinkers like Albert Einstein. Let’s look at the compelling reasons to consider the Ph.D. in Germany –
- Global Ranked Institutions: Germany owned many renowned universities and institutions. The place has eight Global Ranked Institutions that are featured in the top 100 institutes.
- Dedicated Research Institutes: There are dedicated research centers in Germany that adding more expertise to the universities here. The prestigious Max Planck Institute is one of them.
- Affordability: The most important thing that sets the German universities away from the universities of the UK and the USA is their affordability. Many German universities have zero requirements as their tuition fee for Ph.D. students (irrespective of their nationality).
- The Ph.D. origin: The modern thesis-based research degree program i.e. Ph.D. is basically developed in Germany.
German Universities and Types
With more than 500 higher education institutions, Germany has gained much popularity among the students. These universities are generating highly trained researchers. The German Higher Education System includes several types –
- Research Universities (Universität): These universities are responsible for carrying the academic researches on different subjects.
- Technical Universities (Technische Universität): These universities are specialized in technology, engineering, and science related researches.
- Universities of Applied Science (Fachhochschulen): This focuses on vocational and professional subjects like business, engineering, or social science. They basically don’t award the PhDs to the students.
- Research Institutes: They carry important research projects in partnership with industry, businesses, and universities. They also operate within the larger networks like the Max Planck Society.
- Colleges of Art, Film, and Music: This focuses on the practical and performance-related tasks. It also doesn’t provide PhDs to the students.
Public and Private Universities
Research or technical universities and institutes are giving a great opportunity to Ph.D. students. There are 16 states (lander) in Germany where each one is responsible for administering their public universities. They also provide them with funding. Some other public universities are also getting the funds from the Catholic or Protestant church. Around 95% of other students within the country are studying in 400 Germany Public Universities for their Ph.D. course.
The rest 5% of the students are attending the 120 private universities. These private universities don’t receive state-level funding and most of this doesn’t offer Ph.D. programs.
As per the European qualification framework and Bologna Process, a doctorate in Germany is a third-cycle qualification. German PhDs are, somehow, following the format of the Bologna Process. But they are still a bit different in nature as it doesn’t take it completely as the third phase of studies. It further considered PhDs as a separate and higher research achievement.
Types of PhDs in Germany
There is a need for independent research towards the submission. A doctoral degree is all about the examination of a thesis. This was a German innovation, which is still available at many universities here. Apart from that, some other universities also offer more ‘structured’ programs:
- Traditional Ph.D.: The traditional Ph.D. is the one where a student identifies the research project and starts on it independently under an expert supervisor (Doktorvater / Doktomutter). Students can choose the desired institution where they want to conduct the research, either in a German company or organization.
- Structured Doctoral Programs: The Structured Doctoral Programs are largely conducted in English. The programs are internationally-oriented and it lets the students complete the other training along with their thesis. They also include collaboration and placements with the other external research institutes.
The Length of Program
There are usually two semesters in one academic year in Germany. The starting and completion date may vary in accordance with the institute and course structure. The two semesters are mentioned here –
- The Wintersemester (WiSe): From 1st October to 31st March (two-week break at Christmas and Easter).
- The Sommersemester (SoSe): From 1st April to 30th September (a break from July to September).
The complete length of a Ph.D. depends upon your selection of the program. Either it is a traditional Ph.D. or structured doctoral program; it takes around 4 and 3 years respectively.
The German Ph.D. process
This again depends upon your selection of the type of doctorate program. Traditional and structured doctoral programs are involving a research project and a thesis requirement. Apart from this, the key differences between both are mentioned here –
- Traditional PhDs: These PhDs award more flexible and independent Ph.D. There is no such compulsion for attendance, curriculum, and deadlines. All you need is to complete the research thesis and that is it.
- Structured Doctoral Programs: These programs include compulsory seminars, lectures, and interim assessments. The transferrable skills training in academic or scientific methods and soft skills are also available. The students work on major research projects, either individually or collaboratively.
However, the majority of students prefer traditional doctorate. On the other hand, there is a constant growth in the number of people who choose structured doctoral programs, especially in the mathematics and natural science realm.
Assessment and Examination
Since there are two types of doctoral programs, the assessment and examination procedure also differ in those terms. Both are discussed here, separately –
The traditional Ph.D. requires the submission of a doctoral thesis. The student further needs to complete an oral presentation and examination of work, which is further known as Rigosorum. The presentation and all are performed in front of the relevant professors of the specific field. When the oral examinations are replaced with a defense of the thesis, it is known as Disputation. The thesis defense is more focused on the conducted research. On the other hand, an oral examination is highly focused on the level of knowledge you have.
Structured programs are giving the typical requirements for the doctoral students where they need to attain around 180-240 ECTS credits. Students need to complete several compulsory units. With all the seminars and lectures, your knowledge and comprehension will be noticed. You will need to submit a thesis and complete the oral examinations in a bit more advanced manner.
Fees and Funding
Doctoral degrees in Germany are normally free for all national and international students. It is a generous public investment in education. The students may require some amount as the other parts of fees during their complete study.
In Germany, the doctoral level of education and tuition is free for the students, irrespective of the nationality of the students. The students may need to pay the tuition fee for the extended period of their education if they continue, which is apart from the standard length of a regular Ph.D. i.e. three years or six semesters.
Although there is no such fee to be charged from the students, some of approx €250 is required as a semester contribution i. e. Semesterbeitrag. This amount covers many expenses like administration costs, student governance, and service (Studentenwerk).
Living cost is generally higher in Germany in comparison to other European countries. Since you are not paying tuition fees, your only and key expense is the living cost within Germany. German Studentenwerk (student union network) international projects that a student may need to have around €850 for the required expenses like food, accommodation, and other needs.
The term accommodation itself offers three different options to the international students within Germany:
- Hall of residence: A student needs to spend around €160-360 per month for a single dormitory room. This may further include health insurance and a Semesterticket for transport.
- Wohngemeinschaften: This is basically private shared flats. WG is very popular and the cheapest accommodation in Germany that costs around €150-350 per month.
- Private rental: This is the most expensive accommodation option that costs around €500 per month.
Germany offers various scholarship programs to international Ph.D. students. This further allows them to cover different expenses and living costs while studying –
- Student Grant: Supervisor may nominate you for a grant of around €1,250 per month from the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des Deutsche Volkes).
- Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst scholarships: Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (abbreviated DAAD) is a scholarship of €1,200 per month, offered by the German Academic Exchange Service. These scholarships are given to foreign students for their Ph.D. in Germany.
- StipendiumPlus: This scholarship is offered by a group of 13 organizations. International students in Germany are enjoying funding of around €1,350 per month.
The different funding programs are designed in Germany for soothing the life of international students. In the structured doctoral degree program of Ph.D., the students will receive a monthly allowance of around €1,000 to €1,400 along with their studies.
Work along with studies
Germany offers great working opportunities to the students along with their studies. They can earn side by side without any compulsion of nationality –
- The students from the EU, EEA, and Switzerland can work along with their studies. They don’t need any residence permit and if they are working over 20 hours in a week, the students can pay national insurance contributions as well without any restrictions on hours.
- Apart from the above-mentioned nationalities, other students are having a restriction on working hours as they can work for either 120 full-days or 240 half-days per year. If students want to exceed the working days, they need to take permission from the local employment agency i.e. Agentur für Arbeit, and Foreigner’s Registration Office i.e. Ausländerbehörde.
International Ph.D. students are getting a great working opportunity as student assistance and teaching appointments. You can also supervise the library, research literature for professors, and demonstrate in labs. The salary will be applied according to the work that doesn’t rely on the 120-day rule.
Ph.D. application in Germany
Germany has a different application procedure than many other countries across the globe.
For Traditional PhDs, students need to find a supervisor. You will request the supervisor to supervise your thesis in your program.
For Structured PhDs, the applications are directly made to the institution (or graduate school) for the required program.
Prior to the doctorate, a student must complete the academic study of a minimum of eight semesters. This will make you compatible or equivalent to a German Master's degree that will let you continue for the doctorate programs.
Your qualification should be recognized by Dekanat i.e. Dean’s Office or Promotionsausschuss i.e. Board of Examiners of the university you are applying for.
On the flip side, a fast-track program also exists for exceptionally well-qualified international students. They can take admission onto a Ph.D. program and all they need to do is to complete an entrance examination.
The language requirement is such a crucial thing if you are willing to start a Ph.D. in Germany. But it basically depends upon your course selection.
In Traditional PhDs, students need to write a thesis in German. Some also allow their students to write in other languages. You may need to prove German language proficiency to represent your knowledge in this language by getting certified through DSH or TestDaF.
In Structured doctoral programs, students are taught in the English language. If a student coming from a nation where English is the first language, the rules are different. Other than this, the students need to complete an English language proficiency test like IELTS or TOEFL. Institutions are free to set their thresholds for students.
Here are the normal application requirements for a Ph.D. in Germany that a student normally require –
- In traditional Ph.D. projects, students need to have a statement from his or her doctoral supervisor. The statement should be submitted by describing the intention of projects.
- Students should submit various academic documents. The certified copies of academic transcripts from the previous degrees need to be submitted before starting the program.
- Students need to submit proof of recognition, especially for the qualification from the Dean’s Office or University Board of Examiners.
- Academic references are also required where you need to include at least two professors as referees with whom you have worked.
Students need to submit the above-mentioned requirements to the relevant department / doctoral committee. This will further confirm your eligibility to begin a Ph.D. program.
Some institutions may include an interview as an essential step for admission into Structured Ph.D. programs. The interview will be performed in front of the supervising board for the program. On the other hand, traditional Ph.D. programs need an interview that can be conducted with the chosen supervisor. This interview seems more informal than the previous one. Skype interviews are the most preferred way for international students.
Since Germany is one of the most popular destinations for international studies among the students, it has kept an easy immigration system for international students. Students can freely enter Germany and start their studies without any requirement of a Visa.
Though Germany has no such Visa requirement for the students from various other locations, some other details should be discussed here. The students from the following countries need no visa for their studies in Germany –
- The EU, EEA, and Switzerland
- Australia, Israel, Canada, USA, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand
- Students must hold a Special Administrative Region passport if they belong to China, Hong Kong, and Macao
- Students must have an identity card number on the passport if they belong to Taiwan.
- Students must hold a biometric passport if they belong to Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, and Ukraine
- Students must not intend to seek separate employment before or after degree if they belong to Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco, and San Marino
If you belong to any country, other than the above-mentioned locations, you must obtain a visa as an international student. You will need to enter into the Visa requirement to start the Ph.D. program in Germany.
Two types of Visa are required for Ph.D. students in Germany –
- VisumzurStudienbewerbung is a Student Applicant Visa that allows the students to enter Germany for three months to complete the admission. You can use this to opt for a full student visa.
- VisumzuStudienzwecken is a Student Visa that allows the students to enter Germany for up to three months once accepted for PhD study. Hereafter, you can apply for a residence permit.
Irrespective of the Visa requirements, students will be required to register the presence in Germany when they enter –
- Bürgeramt / Bürgerbüro is the Resident Registration Office where the international students (all nationalities) need to register themselves within a week of arrival in Germany. Students will receive a Meldebestätigung as the confirmation of their registration to allow their stay in Germany.
- Ausländerbehörde is the Alien Registration Office in Germany where the Non-EU/EEA students will apply for a residence permit before their visa expires.
The requirements for Visa
Students need to go through a few requirements for their Visa or residence permit. Here are the required documents –
- Academic documents are required along with a letter of admission to a recognized German university. Full academic transcripts are required.
- Personal documents include a passport along with two passport photos, which are valid for the duration of PhD. This further includes a tenancy agreement as proof of a secured accommodation.
- Other documents are also required in terms of health insurance (for overall stay), language qualifications (for the language of thesis), and evidence of financial resources that costs around €10,332 per year. If you are also applying for a residence permit, Meldebestätigung is also required. This residence permit and Visa will cost €110 and €75, respectively.
Every resident in Germany should have valid health insurance that abides by the laws. Otherwise, you can’t apply for a Visa or get enrolled at any university.
European Health Insurance Card (abbreviated EHIC) is here for the students from the EU. Germany has some social insurance agreements with the European Union member states to cover many required things.
Many insurers exist in Germany, which is offering medical insurance to international students. Some universities also provide advice and assistance with their relevant international office.
Germany paves the way for a prosperous career. It becomes necessary, to begin with, an apparent career planning during the doctorate. You can also start learning in Germany, preferably.
After Ph.D. work opportunity in Germany
After Ph.D., the working regulations depend upon the nationality of the individual students.
If you belong to the EU and EEA countries, you don’t need any work permit after your Ph.D. You will be offered the same access to employment opportunities as the German nationals have.
If you belong to any country, other than the EU and EEA, you may need to extend the residence permit for up to 18-months.
EU Blue Card
After getting a job in Germany, you will need to apply for a German residence permit or an EU Blue Card. EU Blue Card is required if you want to work in any other EU state that again requires a settled job of at least €49,600 per year.