Frequently Asked Questions

Who ist the programme for? Am I eligible to apply? Do I have to speak German?

The programme is designed for senior policy professionals, who are dealing with policy issues. We expect the fellows to have professional experience of at least 10 years. In addition, the fellows are required to lead teams or units within their organisation.

The fellowship programme is geared towards the following entities:

  • National governments: Head of unit or similar positions in ministries or other governmental organisations. Deputy heads of units in ministries are only eligible to apply if they are going to be promoted to heads of units by the start of their fellowship.
  • European Union or international organisations: heads of units. Deputy heads of units or team leaders are allowed to apply if the unit encompasses more than 10 members of staff.
  • Media: editors in chief, chief reporters, and similar positions
  • Foundations, trade unions and non-governmental organisations: directors, heads of units or similar positions
  • Members of parliament (national or regional)

If you are not certain whether you qualify for the programme, please get in touch with the programme office at Goethe-University Frankfurt (

The meetings with professors can be conducted in English. Since the induction events are conducted in German, we require all fellows to have a basis proficiency in German.

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How many fellows are being accepted into the Fellowship Program?

Approximately 25-30 senior policy professionals can be admitted to the program each year.

Selection Criteria:

The quality of the letter of motivation, which must indicate why participation in the programme adds value to one's own work as well as to the mission of the organisation.

Topics of interest: we have to ensure that fellows will have the opportunity to conduct 16 face-to-face meetings with scientists over the course of the fellowship. The more similar the thematic interests, the fewer fellows will be included in the programme. Otherwise we cannot ensure that there are enough researchers available for each fellow. Similarly, if there is a greater variance in thematic interests, more fellows can be included in the programme.

Diversity regarding the organisations backgrounds of the fellows: The fellowship cohort must include fellows from state institutions, EU and international organisations, media and non-profit organisations.

Size of the sending organisation: No more than one fellow should be accepted into the programme from organisations with up to 1,000 employees. Organisations with more than 1,000 employees can send up to two fellows to the programme, if they are approved by the selection committee. We therefore ask all applicants to inform the human resources unit at their organisation about their application in order to allow for a pre-selection by the sending organisation. The Directorates General of the European Union and the various organisations of the UN system ("UN family") are treated as independent organisations in the selection process. Thus, the European Union and United Nations can nominate more than two applicants if the applicants are working for different Directorates General or UN-Organisations.

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How competitive is the programme?

The number of applications exceeds the number of available fellowships. However, in several cases reapplications were successful. We therefore encourage rejected applicants to apply for the next year, if the application meet the criteria.

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How can I apply?

The application package consists of:

  • The completed application form including a letter of motivation
  • A curriculum vitae
  • A letter of recommendation from a senior supervisor of the sending organisation

Applications must be submitted via email to by April 20, 2020.

  • The call for applications is available here.

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How should I choose and describe the topics/questions I am interested in?

Please indicate a minimum of four (and a maximum of six) different themes that are of particular interest for you. Please add five subtopics or subquestions for each overarching topic . You can address all topics you are interested in - the only requirement is that scientists of the Rhine-Main Universities have to be able to talk about these topics.

Exception: Please do not provide topics solely focusing on internal management issues including human ressources, financial management and IT. These will not be considered. Example: How can I improve the IT management in my organization? How can the workflow management be improved?

Every fellow is expected to meet with some 16 academics over the course of the fellowship programme. We therefore ask you not to include very specific topics. The main topics should have a clear policy dimension. Please phrase your thematic interests in such a way that each overarching topic can be addressed by a different set of researchers. Example: "Political parties", "elections in Germany" and "political reforms" are different topics. However, the researchers conducting research on these topics are basically the same people. In such a case, it is therefore advisable not to list three very closely related topics , but to select one overarching theme (e.g. "Politics in Germany") as the thematic priority and then add appropriate sub-questions or sub-topics.

It is also advisable to find overarching themes rather than specific ones in order to allow for scholars from different academic backgrounds to be addressed.

Example: The theme "current research in geriatric medicine" is a rather specific one. Only a few researchers at our universities are experts on this issue.However, if you broaden the topic and ask about "current developments in the research on aging", disciplines, such as economics, sociology, law, biology, engineering, psychology or media studies, can be addressed in addition to medicine. The fellows can then choose from a large number of potential discussion partners and will become acquainted with new academic perspectives on their interests.

You can start with a specific question and ask yourself which questions/themes are related to your initial question. Example: You are interested in the question of which thermal insulation materials have been developed in recent years that can be used in the construction of buildings. In this case additional questions can be derived from the initial question. For example, the topic "Energy consumption in Europe" can be chosen as the main topic. Sub-questions or subtopics may look like:

"Thematic interest: Energy consumption in Europe” Sub-questions: What technical options can be used to save energy in buildings? How can energy consumption be reduced in Europe? How do European countries differ regarding energy consumption? How can governments promote the construction of energy-saving houses? What does research say about the effectiveness of promoting technology and innovation in European countries? How can research results be transferred to business? How can energy-saving behaviour be promoted among different user groups (e.g. young people)? How do international climate protection agreements affect energy consumption in Europe? Under what social conditions do technological innovations emerge (e.g. in the field of energy)? Etc."

Another example: “Environmental protection in Frankfurt since 2010” is a very specific topic. In such a case we advise to broaden the topic. Example: “Environmental protection in large cities”.

The face-to-face meeting vary depending on the interests of the fellows. Some fellows want to address specific questions. Others are more interested in receiving an overview on topics they are not familiar with.

If you have specific institutes, research projects or scholars in mind you would like to meet, you are very welcome to add them to your application. Many fellows ask about research trends in some areas (e.g. current research trends in life sciences) or are interested in concepts (e.g. “What do identity, or public value mean nowadays? What constitutes a successful innovation?”) or future trends (e.g. “How will demographic change affect European societies? Which technological developments will change European economies over the next 20 years? How will social media change forms of communication?”).

Upon acceptance the new fellows will receive comprehensive lists of potential researchers who can be approached for meetings. The policy fellows can inform us about their preferences. Due to capacity reasons we have to make sure that each list comprises at least 30 researchers. If you want to receive a preliminary assessment of the topics you are interested in, please get in touch with Mr Tome Sandevski at or 49 (0)69 798 12132 until 31 March 2020. The steering committee of the programme will decide on the acceptance of the programme after receiving complete application documents.

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Are certain topics particularly popular?

 In recent years, the following topics featured very prominently in the applications:

  • Politics in Germany and Europe (political parties and political institutions, reforms and implementation of political decisions, elections, populism, migration)
  • Media and communication (role of the media in politics, fake news and hate speech, importance of social media, public relations)
  • Digital transformations and artificial intelligence (future of work, innovation, data protection, digital transformation of business, society and politics)
  • Science policy, higher education management and education policies (science and higher education policies, issues of science and higher education governance (e.g. research funding, internationalisation, open science, technology transfer), education policy, learning in schools).

The above-mentioned topics can be included in applications. However, we strongly recommend fellows to not only confine their interests to these five topics but to include other topics as well. Questions relating to life sciences, engineering, and natural sciences were hardly included in the thematic interests in previous applications, although the Rhine-Main universities have a very strong track record regarding research in these areas.

Our office will be happy to help you if you would like to check in advance whether there is sufficient scientific expertise in the Rhine-Main region to suit your interests. You are welcome to contact Mr. Tome Sandevski (, ++49 (0)69 798 12132).

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How much time do the fellows invest into the programme?

The fellows are strongly advised to participate in the two joint sessions in autumn and spring. The exact dates are available in the Call for Applications. If the fellows cannot participate in the joint sessions, they can also visit the Rhein-Main-Universities on an individual basis.

Prior to visiting our universities all fellows will receive comprehensive information about the researchers they are going to meet. It usually takes several hours to prepare the meetings.

The fellows are also invited to workshops and other events in the Rhine-Main-Region, Brussels or Berlin.

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How is the fellowship programme structured? Do I have to be able to speak to German?

This is a tailor-made programme consisting of approximately 16 meetings with researchers at the Rhine-Main Universities. Each meeting is scheduled for an hour.

After having been accepted into the programme fellows will receive comprehensive lists of up to 30 researchers at the Rhine-Main universities among which they choose 16 researchers whom they would like to meet. In addition, fellows are free to suggest researchers which they already have in mind and whom they would like to meet.

The fellows will meet with approximately four researchers per day. Meetings with the researchers can be held in English. However, joint events like the opening events or visits of research projects are held in German. Fellows should therefore have basic proficiency in German.

After the completion of the fellowship fellows will become alumni of the Rhine-Main-Universities. The alumni-fellows will be invited to events at the Rhine-Main-Universities or in Berlin or Brussels. We will stay in close contact with the alumni after completion of the programme.

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Do the meetings result in follow-up projects? Can follow-up projects be supported?

In the past, fellows have already invited researchers to their ministries for lectures or workshops. In many cases, fellows have remained in contact with researchers. Fellows have already contributed short articles to our publications and participated in panel discussions and workshops.

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What are the costs? Are there any fees?

We do not charge any fees for the programme. The fellows have to cover for their own travel and accommodation. All other costs are being covered by a grant of the Mercator Foundation.

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What is special about the Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship-Programme?

We aim at establishing networks between academia and the policy-world. Fellows will receive a tailor-made programme consisting of meeting with accomplished scholars giving them access to the academic community at the Rhine-Main-Universities.

Furthermore, they will greatly benefit from the exchange with the other fellows from various professional and thematic backgrounds.

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How is the programme funded? Which institutions are involved? Why is the programme located in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main area?

The fellowship-programme is funded by Stiftung Mercator (Mercator Foundation), which is an independent private foundation. The foundation wants to strengthen Europe, improve integration through equal educational opportunities for everyone, drive forward the energy transition as a trigger for global climate change mitigation and firmly anchor cultural education in schools.

The programm is administered by the strategic alliance of the Rhine-Main Universities, Goethe University Frankfurt, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and Technische Universität Darmstadt.

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The Rhine-Main area is one of the most important metropolitan regions in Europe. The Rhine-Main area is

    • one of the leading regions in Europe for business and finance
    • one of the most prolific academic regions in Germany hosting the universities in Frankfurt, Mainz and Darmstadt as well as numerous independent research institutes

Only few regions in Germany can offer the wide range of available expertise in both academic and policy-oriented research.

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