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You are considering doctoral studies at Goethe University Frankfurt?

Goethe University Frankfurt is one of the leading research universities in Germany and places a special emphasis on supporting academics and scientists in the early stages of their career. Here, you will find an excellent environment for pursuing your doctoral studies.

General information on doctoral studies in Germany:

Models of doctoral studies

In principle, there are two different models for doctoral studies: individual doctorates that are not embedded in a programme (also called “apprenticeship model“ or “traditional doctorate“) and doctorates within a structured programme. A special case is the binational joint doctorate / cotutelle.

1. Individual doctorate

In the case of an individual doctorate, you work mostly independently, supervised by a professor (doctoral supervisor). Your dissertation (doctoral thesis) is the core element of your doctorate and will be developed as an individual and independent work of research, in coordination with your supervisor. As a rule, the working language is German or English and the duration of the doctoral studies is 3 to 5 years.

You can pursue an individual doctorate at many of the faculties at Goethe University. About 80% of all doctorates at Goethe University are individual doctorates. You can find some preliminary information about whether your intended doctoral topic can be pursued at our university by checking the general course overview.

Please note that an individual doctorate is more common in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Natural Sciences and Life Sciences tend to offer specific doctoral positions or offer these in structured programmes and graduate colleges.

2. Structured doctoral programmes and graduate colleges

Structured doctoral programmes provide a framework for doctoral studies and look at one topic or theme from various different perspectives. This often results in researchers from various fields working together on one project. The doctoral work is usually integrated in a larger research programme and often also funded via this programme. Structured doctoral programmes frequently run over a three-year period, and therefore calls for proposals only go out every few years. These programmes comprise both training in how to research and various qualification events. Should you not succeed in securing one of the sought-after doctoral positions, you may be able to get an associated position so that you can participate in the qualification events and are supervised or mentored by one of the scientists or academics in the programme.

Details about the application process are available from the respective programme or faculty.

a) Graduate college at Goethe University Frankfurt

This comprises the DFG graduate colleges, Marie Curie Initial Training Networks, International Max Planck Research Schools and Helmholtz graduate schools. About 20% of all doctoral candidates at Goethe University pursue their doctorate at institutions like these.

b) Other coordinated doctoral programmes

c) Graduate School of Economics, Finance and Management:

Special programme based on the US-American model. Application is possible also for Bachelor graduates. After two years of Master’s studies you can continue directly with your doctoral studies.

d) Clusters of excellence, collaborative research centres, LOEWE Centres:

Clusters of excellence and collaborative research centres are special – sometimes interdisciplinary – research institutions for specific areas and topics. You can also pursue your doctoral studies in one of these institutions; however, not all collaborative research centres have structured doctoral programmes.

e) International doctoral programmes (Internationale Promotions-Programme, IPP) (only for select faculties)

These doctoral programmes  (see heading „internationale Promotionsprogramme“) offer structural support for doctoral students and PostDocs, however this includes no or very little financial support.

f) GRADE-Center

GRADE Centers usually have an interdisciplinary orientation and offer qualification measures and some other services (e.g. travel expenses, translation costs).

3. Binational joint doctorate / cotutelle

In a bi-national joint doctorate, the supervision of the doctoral thesis as well as the award of the doctoral degree are performed in conjunction at Goethe University and at an international (partner) university. After the successful completion of examination procedures, both universities award one joint doctoral degree. You can undertake a binational joint doctorate as an individual doctorate or, under certain circumstances, within a structured doctoral program. A binational joint doctorate requires diligent scientific and administrative preparation. Information about binational joint doctorate procedures is available at GRADE.

Financing your doctoral studies

The website of the DAAD offers a good overview of ways to finance your doctoral studies.

Doctoral studies are most commonly funded via:

  • Scholarships and grants (check out the scholarship data base of the DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service)
  • Doctoral positions: These positions are often part-time (65%, pay grade E 13) with individual professors or institutes within the framework of the so-called individual doctorate or within structured doctoral programmes. You can find current openings for paid positions (including teaching and research) at Goethe University on the page “Stellen Aktuell“
  • Or you could look for a job related to the subject of your doctorate in Frankfurt or surroundings > see brochure "Working a student job"

Language skills

As a rule, the working language at Goethe University is German. Some faculties allow writing the dissertation in English and, in some exceptional cases, also in another internationally recognised language.

Dissertation in German

If you want to pursue your doctorate in German, you must provide proof of sufficient language skills (C1 certificate) when you apply at Goethe University and pass the DSH examination ("Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang" – German language proficiency examination for access to higher education) before you enrol.

You can also participate at a university language course (DSH preparatory course) if you have a B1 certificate for German and so improve your language skills and prepare for the DSH exam. You have to apply for this via uni assist. (As it is a formal requirement that at the time you apply to the DSH preparatory course, you must have chosen a study course and as you cannot choose a doctoral programme via uni-assist, we recommend that you select a Master’s course (under “Fachrichtung“ on the application form). Please note that the uni-assist process requires payment of a fee for all undergraduate study courses (currently €75) but not for Master’s courses.)

Dissertation in another language

If you want to write your dissertation in a language other than German, you have to have this approved by the relevant faculty. The doctoral committee will include your choice of language in your notice of admission to doctoral studies. In this case, you can enrol as doctoral student without taking the DSH exam.