A longitudinal study of doctoral candidates and doctorate holders

Nacaps is a long-term study of doctoral candidates and doctorate holders and includes regular surveys on career paths of highly qualified academics in Germany – for the use of researchers and academic policy makers.

The study is a joint project of the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW) and more than 50 doctoral degree-granting universities across Germany. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). For the first time, doctoral candidates were surveyed for this study in February 2019. The second round of the survey has closed in April 2021. The first cohort of participants of the panel study was invited to participate in the follow-up survey in June 2021. 


Who can / should participate?


7 good reasons for taking part

All doctoral candidates of Goethe University who
have started with their PhD project after
November 30, 2018 are invited to take part in
the survey. Participation is voluntary.

With your participation you will support a project in
the context of higher education research and science
study, directed above all at the scientific community.

  • You will be actively supporting a research project.
  • Your experience will influence future decisions.
  • You will help to underpin arguments with facts.
  • Your personal path counts.
  • You can refelct on your own career.
  • You will be part of a unique study.
  • There is a thank you for participation...

How do you participate?

You will receive a personal invitation via email including a link that grants you access to the online survey.

The second round of the survey ended in April 2021.

You receive a personal invitation to each round of the survey, if your contact data is valid and recorded by one of the following procedures:

  • Acceptance as a PhD candidate at one of Goethe University's faculty
  • Registration as doctoral student
  • Participation in the GRADE program
  • Member of a structured PhD Program at Goethe University

The contact information are pooled to get a list of all PhD candidates at Goethe University. If you request a personal invitation with an access link, your data will be added to this list. This contact information is used only for survey invitation and will be deleted afterwards.

The procedure has been reviewed and verified by Goethe University's data security representative.

Data protection

Cyber security 3400657 640

What happens to your data?

If you give your consent, Nacaps will save your personal contact data so they can contact you for follow-up surveys. This information will be saved separately from your survey answers in a protected area of DZHW’s in-house server. The information given in the survey is pseudonymised before being processed (i.e. cleared of names or addresses).

Sensitive information and all open statements are specially protected to ensure that they cannot be traced back to individual participants.

Study Design

Since 2019, new doctoral candidates (from 2021 also doctoral holders) are included in the panel at regular intervals. Their consent provided, existing participants will be invited to the survey repeatedly.

If you agree to resubmit the follow-up questionnaire when registering for the first time, your contact details will be stored in compliance with the privacy policy. After two years, you will be invited again as a doctoral candidate or as a postdoc for a follow-up questionnaire.

The survey is carried out in cooperation with over 50 higher education institutions, including Goethe University. Doctoral candidates and doctorate holders throughout the country are surveyed at regular intervals on the study conditions for their doctorates, career aims and professional development, as well as on their general life situation. Consequently, the panel history will give an overview of career paths and the biographical development of doctoral candidates beyond the immediate phase of the dissertation. Detailed information on the study design can be found on the Nacaps website.

Survey Findings

The results of the first survey in 2019 have been evaluated and are available via the NACAPS data portal. The data portal provides an overview of the conditions for doctoral research and the situation of doctoral candidates on the basis of 32 indicators and is regularly supplemented with current data. The data basis is formed by the responses of more than 20,000 doctoral candidates at 53 German universities eligible to award doctorates who participated in the first doctoral candidates survey of the panel study in spring 2019.

The aggregated and evaluated datasets were also made available to the participating universities anonymously in a data portal and as a microdata set. They provide most useful insights into the careers and living conditions of doctoral candidates and doctorate holders in Germany. As a result, they can effectively increase the quality of their qualification programs and higher education offers. Relying on the new and comprehensive data on doctoral study conditions and doctorate success, GRADE, too, aims at supporting doctoral candidates and postdocs even more specifically on their individual pathway during and after their doctorate.

The first results of the second survey in 2021 are expected to be available from the beginning of 2022.

If you would like to be informed about the publication of study results in a timely manner, we recommend you to subscribe to the Nacaps newsletter. Publications obtained from the survey will also be announced on Twitter and on the Nacaps website.