How does the graduate school work

The path to a doctorate

Career goal doctorate. A doctor in front of the name is doing well. No question! A doctorate also needs to be carefully considered. Anyone seriously considering the step of doing a doctorate will face a challenge of several years. The road to a doctorate is not always rosy.

What does PhD mean?

A doctorate means that the university studies are systematically continued in the direction of research after the first degree. More precisely, it is about making an independent contribution to research - within the framework of a doctoral thesis / dissertation. The dissertation must be prepared independently and contain new scientific findings. The doctorate is awarded after successful completion of the doctorate and the publication of the doctoral thesis. (In Germany, dissertations are required to be published)

Who can do a PhD?

Those who have a sufficiently good average grade in their first degree (usually at least 2.5 or better) can find a doctoral supervisor to supervise them or to get a place in a doctoral program. A dissertation can be prepared as an individually supervised project or by participating in a structured doctoral program.

Which variant is better and what suits me?

There is no better or worse. Doing a doctorate on your own or a structured program - both have advantages and disadvantages. The decision for a model is a matter of taste.

Individual doctorate

Doing your own doctorate or doing an individual doctorate is the "classic" variant of doing a doctoral thesis. As a doctoral student, you are relatively independent in this way. Supervision is provided by a self-chosen lecturer with whom the topic has been coordinated in advance.

The application proceeds as follows:

  • Contact the doctoral supervisor
  • If they give their approval, the examination office gives them the right to do a doctorate
  • With the authorization to do a doctorate, you can enroll at the student office for doctoral studies

For the doctoral student, a time begins that he mostly spends alone at desks to familiarize himself with a topic that only he knows in detail about. A high degree of independence and intrinsic motivation is therefore required for an individual doctorate. The free time management is a privilege that also has its pitfalls. In any case, the connection to the outside world is more likely to be guaranteed in a structured program.

PhD courses and programs

Research Training Groups

Graduate colleges are temporary institutions at universities in which doctoral students have the opportunity to carry out their work as part of a coordinated research program. There are always several university professors involved in this program, an interdisciplinary orientation of the research and study program is desirable.

The integration into a structure creates a feeling of togetherness and the college can act as a discussion platform through which all participants benefit from each other. The doctoral students are involved in the research work of the participating institutions. Funding is available and can be used for travel and research. There are also regular events, research colloquia, workshops and summer schools.

DFG Overview of Research Training Groups in Germany>

Graduate schools

In addition to the graduate colleges, which are characterized by a thematic focus and a joint research project, graduate schools have emerged in recent years that are directly integrated into the universities for an unlimited period of time.

Graduate schools aim to promote a new generation of excellent scientists. The aim is to optimize the research and learning conditions for doctoral students and to offer intensive supervision and seminars with independent management. The Excellence Initiative is investing heavily in this new concept. Around 40 graduate schools each receive an average of one million euros per year.

DFG overview of graduate schools in Germany>

Questions that can be helpful when deciding on a model:

  • Is my independence important to me?
  • Can I easily motivate myself?
  • Do I want to be integrated into a structure?
  • Are I interested in the research topics of the colleges?
  • Do I have free space for college events such as lectures or participation in publications? Or does that seem appealing to me?

How can I finance my doctorate?

Little money, little time and a high intellectual burden! With a few exceptions, doctoral students belong to the low-income population groups. Compared to their peers, they cannot afford status symbols such as cars, condominiums and expensive vacations.

Financing options are:

With the individual doctorate

  • Research assistant at the university
  • Funding through a scholarship
  • Promotion in the company
  • Doctorate alongside work

The advantage of a structured program:

  • Funding is included in DFG-funded research training groups and graduate schools

Can I do a doctorate with a university degree?

The right to award doctorates is reserved for universities. PhD opportunities for university graduates are still very rare - but they do exist. The universities can regulate the selection of their students themselves, i.e. an application is required both for an individual doctorate in the linear model - doctoral candidate / supervisor / mother - and for participation in a graduate program. Whether this is possible with a university of applied sciences degree is stated in the examination regulations of the respective university. The tendency, however, is that many universities are trying to enable graduates of universities of applied sciences to do a doctorate - provided that aptitude for scientific research can be proven and determined by the university / the lecturers. (Studies preparing for a doctorate or an aptitude assessment procedure are usually required before things can start.) However, three federal states have officially granted the right to award doctorates to universities. After Hesse had already embarked on this path and a doctoral college with the right to award doctorates is currently being set up in North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt is now the third federal state and the first in the new federal states to open up new opportunities for doctoral studies at HAWs.