Doctoral research | FAQ about starting a doctorate at the UDE

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How to start a doctorate?

Doing a doctorate means working intensively on a specific topic for several years and finally publishing your own scientific findings in a doctoral thesis. A doctorate is the highest academic degree in Germany and is usually an essential requirement for an academic career. A doctoral degree also offers attractive career opportunities beyond academia in the private or public sector.

Are you thinking about doing a doctorate at the University of Duisburg-Essen, or have you recently started your research project? You will find an overview of common questions about the process involved on this page. For subject-related and organisational questions, the dean's offices and professors are your main contact. We will, however, be happy to help you with all other concerns.

Is a doctorate the right choice for me?

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This is a question many students ask themselves at the end of their Master's programme. It is important to consider carefully what a doctorate implies and whether it suits your career goals.

A doctorate allows you to work very intensively on a research topic over a longer period (on average 4–5 years) and to gain numerous valuable experiences. By completing your PhD, you prove that you are able to work independently in your research field. The doctoral degree opens up a wide range of career options – in research and science-related areas as well as in business or civil service. When considering your options, also bear in mind that doctoral studies place particular demands on you and require, among other things, perseverance and good self-management.

Our tips for decision-making:

  • Think carefully about your motivation to pursue a doctorate. Most importantly, you should have an in-depth interest in a research question or topic.
  • Find out whether a doctorate fits in with your desired career goal or is perhaps even a prerequisite.
  • Think about the research topics that interest you.
  • Look for a potential supervisor early on and discuss possible topics with her/him.
  • Attend our Frühjahrsakademie under the umbrella of Research Academy Ruhr and/or the workshop "Promovieren – eine Idee für mich?“(Doctoral Studies – An Idea for Me?).
  • Make an appointment for an individual consultation at GC Plus.
  • Take the "Promotions-Test "at (in German language, registration required).

What are the steps for getting a doctorate?

On average, it takes between four to five years to complete a doctorate in Germany. Although the path to a doctoral degree is very individual and depends on the respective subject culture, some stages during the process are quite characteristic:

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What are the different ways to get a doctorate in Germany?

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In general, German universities offer two different ways to obtain a PhD:

  • Individual doctorate

    You choose and work on your research topic independently and will be supervised by a university professor. Please keep in mind that you are responsible for finding a supervisor on your own. An individual doctorate is often combined with employment as a research assistant at a department or institute.
  • Structured doctoral programme

    In contrast to individual doctorates, structured doctoral programmes are quite similar to PhD programmes in English-speaking countries. These programmes are based on a fixed curriculum and include supervision from a team of professors. Structured programmes such as DFG Research Training Groups usually offer you funding in the form of a position as a research assistant. The application modalities differ depending on the programme. You can find further information and job advertisements on the doctoral programmes' websites. Click here for an overview of all structured PhD programmes at the UDE.

In addition, there are further differences that relate, for example, to employment or to the design and publication of the final thesis (dissertation). You can find a good overview of the different types of doctorates and paths at

Are you unsure which path best suits you and your goals? Feel free to make an appointment with us.

What are the requirements for working towards a doctorate at the UDE?

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The departments or faculties have the sole right to award doctoral degrees. They determine the requirements, the procedure, and the rules for doctorates at our university. These rules are laid down in the published doctoral regulations of the respective faculty, which in turn are based on the UDE's model regulations governing doctoral proceedings.

The current doctoral regulations at the UDE (including an English version of the model regulations governing doctoral proceedings) can be found here.

If applicable, please note the different regulations at the Faculty of Medicine. You can find these on the Faculty of Medicine's website, as well as FAQ on the old and new doctoral regulations for medicine.

How do I find a supervisor?

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If you wish to pursue an individual doctorate at the UDE, you first have to find a supervisor for your doctoral project on your own. You can either apply for a vacancy or contact a (junior) professor in your field of interest.

In general, your qualification, research topic, and research project feasibility are important criteria for a professor to supervise your doctoral studies. If necessary, the professor will ask for an exposé to better assess your project. In this exposé, you define an initial framework for your dissertation's content and time frame.

If you plan to do your doctorate in a structured doctoral programme, supervision will be arranged within the framework of the respective programme. You will usually agree on a fixed curriculum with your supervisors.

Do I need a co-supervisor and if so, how can I find one?

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Usually, your doctoral project will be supervised by only one professor. However, a co-supervisor can be involved from the beginning or in the ongoing research process, if it seems helpful or if you are doing your PhD in a structured doctoral programme. Sometimes contacts to potential second supervisors arise from research stays at other institutions or abroad.

Your final doctoral thesis will be reviewed by at least two professors. In the case of a "summa" preliminary evaluation, even a third reviewer is usually required. In many cases, you will need to find international professors to serve as reviewers. The Aurora Doctoral Pool is a useful search tool if you are looking for thematically suitable professors from our partner universities in the European universities network Aurora. The user-friendly database contains entries of about 300 researchers from all Aurora universities, who can be requested, for example, as a reviewer for a dissertation or as a member of a doctoral committee. The profiles can be filtered by keywords, subject areas, and pilot domains.

What is the doctoral committee’s responsibility?

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The deaneries and, above all, the faculties' doctoral committees are responsible for the proper doctoral process. After you have found a supervisor, the doctoral committee will check whether you meet the doctoral requirements and decide if they accept you as a PhD candidate. You can then enrol as a doctoral student (see next section).

Where can I enrol as a doctoral student?

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In order to be eligible to do a doctorate at the UDE, you must enrol as a doctoral student within the enrolment deadlines (in German language) for degree programmes without admission restrictions. For enrolment, you must submit the certificate required according to the respective doctoral regulations (confirmation of the supervising university teacher or the doctoral committee) as well as the completed application form (in German language).

You can find all necessary information such as opening hours, enrolment deadlines, and required documents in the application form. You can enrol in the enrolment area at the Essen or Duisburg campus. Please note

How can I finance my doctorate?

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It is crucial to think about how to finance your doctorate as early as possible. We also recommend you to discuss your options with your supervisor. Common ways of financing a doctorate are:

  • Employment as a research associate

    A position as a research associate enables you to combine your doctorate with a secure income. In the context of an individual doctorate, you will usually be employed within the faculty and closely involved in research. Open positions at chairs are advertised, and you can apply for them. Structured programmes such as DFG Research Training Groups also offer funding in the form of positions as research assistants. You can find respective job advertisements on the PhD programmes' websites.

    Good to know: For all personnel matters and questions about employment as a research associate, you can contact the staff council for academic and artistic staff.

  • Scholarship

    A wide range of foundations provides financial support through scholarships. As a rule, they offer funding for a maximum period of three years. Scholarships also often include training and networking opportunities.We recommend you ask your supervisor for advice on which foundation might suit you. Furthermore, you can contact us for an individual consultation. An overview of selected foundations offering doctoral scholarships can be found here.
  • Employment outside the university

    Another way to finance a doctorate is to work at an external institution such as a university of applied sciences or a Max Planck or Fraunhofer Institute. In this case, you usually work on clearly defined projects and are enrolled at the university at the same time, as the external institutions do not have the right to award doctorates. Therefore, you need a university professor as a supervisor. Another common alternative is employment in a company where the abovementioned conditions also apply.

Tip: Additional funding

Many foundations and societies offer additional funding opportunities for conference participation or research stays abroad. See our "Funding "section for further information on current calls for proposals and funding programmes.

What advisory services are available for doctoral researchers with disabilities and chronic diseases?

Living with a disability and chronic illness feels different for everyone. Also, structural barriers can challenge a doctorate additionally. UDE works on reducing these barriers by intersecting diversity with equality, inclusion and family-friendliness. The German Rectors' Conference (HRK) awarded the commitment of the UDE in the "Diversity at German Universities" initiative.

On this page, you will find the following information for those interested in doing a doctorate, doctoral candidates as well as doctoral supervisors:

  • counselling offers at the UDE 
  • Information and news about our frequent exchange event
  • a link to the portal "Promotion inklusive" of the University of Cologne with lots of essential practical information for doctoral candidates and doctoral supervisors

What is important to know when I come from abroad to do a doctorate at the UDE?

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As a prospective PhD candidate, you must identify a supervisor and propose a scientific topic on your own. You can find an overview of the UDE's faculties and main research areas here. Your supervisor will send a letter of acceptance and your certificates to the International Office. They will then check the equivalence of your degrees. If you are not writing your dissertation in German, you will also need written confirmation from your department's doctoral committee stating the language of your doctoral thesis.

For further information on the required documents and enrolment, please contact the Welcome Service of the International Office.

If you are searching for information on German language courses, please click here.