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Promotion - PhD made in Germany

The traditional way of pursuing a PhD in Germany (‘Promotion’) is a doctorate by research under the supervision of a university professor; unlike in most other countries, course work is generally not required.

For Phd programmes available in Gemany, please visit the following link at : www.phdgermany.de

The findings of the doctoral candidate’s research work need to be presented in the form of an independent, written dissertation covering new academic or scientific ground.
Apart from submitting their doctoral theses, candidates must also take an oral examination, known as ‘Rigorosum’, before the doctorate title can be conferred. Self motivation, dedication to the research project, and the ability to work independently are therefore important qualifications for candidates who are planning to obtain a PhD in Germany, which usually takes between three to four years to complete.
Students can work towards their PhD at universities and non-university research institutes as those of the Max-Planck Society, the WGL Science Association, the Fraunhofer Society, and the HGF Association of German Research Centres, which cooperate with universities. For more information about these research organizations, see below.

Within the universities themselves, graduate colleges (‘Graduiertenkollegs’) and collaborative research centres (‘Sonderforschungsbereiche’) offer PhD students particularly good conditions within a graduate school framework. Please take note that Fachhochschulen (universities of applied sciences) do not have the right to confer doctoral degrees.

All candidates applying for doctoral studies the traditional German way must first independently find an academic supervisor for their dissertation (known as ‘Doktorvater’ for male professors and ‘Doktormutter’ for female professors).
The supervisor must accept the proposed topic and must be willing to provide or arrange for academic supervision throughout the course of study (‘Betreuungszusage’). Feel free to use the internet to find and contact a professor in your field of research interest, then write to him/her, enclose your academic records as well as a detailed research proposal and cross your fingers that he or she is interested in your project. German professors are likely to accept you as a PhD student under their supervision if you can convince them that you will be able to contribute to their research.

If a professor is interested in your work, you will probably not only get a kind reply, but you can also expect help in finding financial support. Many professors will advise you to contact the DAAD in order to apply for funding.
Every year, the DAAD grants a limited number of full scholarships for PhD candidates and postdocs from Singapore. For more information, please click here.
In addition, there are funds available in Germany for which the foreign researcher cannot apply directly, but only through the host professor, eg grants awarded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), the central organization for promoting and supporting research at higher education institutions and other publicly financed research institutes in Germany.

But even if you are unsuccessful in obtaining any scholarship or grant, Germany still is an affordable destination for pursuing a PhD. The living expenses are about S $ 1300 – 1500 per month.

Once your proposal has been accepted by you host professor-to-be and the application for acceptance as a doctoral student has been approved by the doctoral committee of the appropriate faculty, you can apply for a visa at the German Embassy. www.sing.diplo.de

One university may admit you to doctoral studies without setting any additional conditions, while others will set conditions, such as that you may first have to attend one or two semesters of additional lectures, courses or seminars before you can commence with your doctorate. Please check directly with the university of your choice as to whether or not the degree you are currently holding qualifies you for admission into their doctoral programme.

The German language skills required will depend on the area in which you wish to gain your doctorate. As a general rule, you will need to have at least a basic foundation in the German language.
In many cases, however, it will be possible to write the thesis in English or another language. Please inquire at the university in question as to the precise arrangements.

More and more German universities are establishing structured international PhD programmes for doctoral candidates, modelled on graduate school programmes offered in the Anglo-American higher education system.
Not only is the medium of instruction predominantly English, but study-integrated German language courses also help students overcome the language barrier.

‘International Postgraduate Programmes made in Germany’ is a network of 50 postgraduate programmes offered in a wide range of disciplines at centres of scientific excellence throughout Germany, supported by both DAAD and DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft).
To find out more, please go to http://www.daad.de/ipp.

Graduate Colleges and the International Max Planck Research Schools represent another avenue for pursuing a doctorate in Germany. Research Training Groups or Graduate Colleges (‘Graduiertenkollegs’) are university training programmes established for a specific time period to support young researchers in their pursuit of a doctorate. They are funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Council) and offer excellent conditions for international PhD students.
In these colleges between 15 and 25 PhD students work in the framework of a co-ordinated research programme which has been designed by faculty members of the university the college is located at. A PhD student who is admitted as a member of a graduate college is granted a two to three year's scholarship by the DFG to cover his or her living expenses. The student will be supervised by individual advisors, but also be given the opportunity to discuss his or her work with other faculty members who participate in the graduate college.
A systematically organized study programme is offered which consists of presentations by doctoral and post-doctoral members of the college as well as of guest lectures by professors from all over the world. This ensures a broad and excellent academic training in the field the graduate college is engaged in.

For more information on Graduiertenkollegs, please click on the following link:

In 1999, the MPG, together with the Association of Universities and Other Education Institutions in Germany, launched an initiative to promote junior scientists, called the International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS). At these centres of scientific excellence, gifted young scientists from Germany and abroad who have excelled in their respective field and are working towards their doctorate degree are offered a structured PhD programme and excellent research conditions in many innovative and interdisciplinary research areas such as molecular biology, neurosciences, computer science, demography, law, plasma physics and polymer research. 29 International Max Planck Research Schools have already been initiated involving a total of 34 Max Planck Institutes and many faculties and universities. For more information, please visit the MPG’s website on research schools:


Overview of German Research Organizations

© Foto: GSF

Whether you are a university graduate interested in pursuing a PhD or a faculty member who would like to collaborate with German colleagues on a research project, Germany offers international students, postgraduates and guest researchers one of the finest academic and research environments available in the world today. www.research-in-germany.org

It is no coincidence that Germany – a country renowned for excellence in science, mathematics, engineering and much much more - has produced 84 Nobel Prize winners to date! Foreign researchers will experience a warm welcome into Germany's scientific community that uses English as the common language of research, which makes integration easy.

For general questions on research and living in Germany, please consult the DAAD homepage

Research is carried out not only at the universities, but also at approximately 350 institutes and organizations which receive public support. Very often the directors of the institutes are at the same time faculty members of universities. This is why these institutes have the right to confer doctorate degrees in cooperation with the affiliated universities and have since become a popular choice for PhD students.

The most prestigious of these research institutes are those of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science (MPG/Max-Planck-Gesellschaft). The Max-Planck-Gesellschaft is an independent non-profit research organization focused on basic research in the interest of the general public in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. There are currently 78 institutes, research centres, laboratories and project groups employing approximately 12 300 people, among them about 4200 scientists and scholars. In addition, there are also about 9600 doctoral candidates, post-doctoral fellows and guest scientists and scholars from abroad. In 1999, the MPG, together with the Association of Universities and Other Education Institutions in Germany, launched an initiative to promote junior scientists, called the International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS). At these centres of scientific excellence, gifted young scientists from Germany and abroad who have excelled in their respective field and are working towards their doctorate degree are offered a structured PhD programme and excellent research conditions in many innovative and interdisciplinary research areas such as molecular biology, neurosciences, computer science, demography, law, plasma physics and polymer research. 29 International Max Planck Research Schools have already been initiated involving a total of 34 Max Planck Institutes and many faculties and universities.

An organization which connects pure research and applied research is the Leibniz Association (Wissenschaftsgemeinschaft Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz e.V. http://www.leibniz-gemeinschaft.de/en/research/), an association of presently 84 non-university research institutes working in different fields of science. The Leibniz institutes are demand-oriented, interdisciplinary centres of competence, which regard themselves as co-operation partners for industry, public administration and politics; scientific co-operation with universities is particularly close and intensive.

For applied research the Fraunhofer Society (FhG/Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft) is the leading research organization in Germany. The services of its currently 57 Fraunhofer Institutes are solicited by customers and contractual partners in industry, the service sector and public administration. The FhG website http://www.fraunhofer.de/en.html offers a search option by research fields and given key words.

Fifteen big research centres with a total staff of around 24 000 have joined together to form the Hermann von Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres (Hermann von Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren). The centres are involved in research and development in the fields of chemistry, physics and engineering as well as in biology and medicine. Further details can be found on the website http://www.helmholtz.de/, which presents each Helmholtz Centre in a short portrait.

One of the most important aims of the German Research Council (DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) is to promote young scientists and scholars. As the central public funding organization for academic research in Germany, the DFG annually promotes around 20 000 research projects and awards a limited number of fellowships to foreign scholars. The DFG-funded ‘Graduiertenkollegs’ (graduate colleges or research training groups) offer excellent conditions for international PhD students. PhD students who are admitted as members of a Graduiertenkolleg are granted a two to three year's scholarship by the DFG to cover their living expenses. The students will be supervised by individual advisors, but also be given the opportunity to discuss their work with other faculty members who participate in the Graduiertenkolleg. A systematically organized study programme is offered, which consists of presentations by doctoral and post-doctoral members of the college as well as of guest lectures by professors from all over the world. This ensures a broad and excellent academic training in the field the graduate college is engaged in. Furthermore, universities and public research institutions can apply to DFG to get support for Collaborative Research Centers (‘Sonderforschungsbereiche’ or SFBs). These are university institutions in which scientists and researchers from different academic fields cooperate in long-term interdisciplinary research programs (up to 12 years). Presently, the DFG sponsors 292 collaborative research centers. Some 25 new projects are added to the list every year, taking the place of older projects that have been concluded or run out. These collaborative research centres also offer a limited number of doctoral research opportunities. For more information on the DFG in general and on the Graduiertenkollegs and collaborative research centres in particular, visit the following website: http://www.dfg.de/en/research_funding/programmes/index.jsp

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AVH) is among the most important research foundations for international scientists. The foundation awards up to 500 research fellowships annually to highly qualified foreign scholars, enabling them to undertake long-term periods of research in Germany. Researchers from all nations and from all fields of research can apply for the fellowships. In addition, the Humboldt Foundation grants up to 25 Georg Foster Fellowships to highly qualified scholars from developing countries. For more information, please visit the AvH’s homepage https://www.humboldt-foundation.de/web/sponsorship.html as well as that of the German Welcome Centres at the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) ): https://www.humboldt-foundation.de/web/welcome-centres-en.html. The Welcome Centre's purpose is to provide information and assistance to scientists and scholars coming to Germany to work in research.

For a comprehensive overview over funding programmes offered by German organisations, visit www.funding-guide.de

For funding by other organizations, please click on http://www.stiftungen.org/.

In Recognition of Quality

Research in Germany

Germany can look back on a long tradition of research and development. A multitude of inventions and the works of German Nobel Prize winners have left a memorable impression in the world of international science. Now, as then, the extreme diversity of research establishments, constantly improving public sector conditions and effective competence networks ensure that scientists in Germany can depend on an optimum research environment. Both students and top-level researchers benefit from the system of sponsoring programmes, scholarships and exemplary interfaces between research and industry.


What can Germany offer me?

Germany is interested in promoting young, international elites at German higher education institutions and research facilities. Why? There are a number of reasons. Among them is the idea of "helping others help themselves." This is a way of providing long-term assistance to other countries in areas of learning that can make a tangible difference later in the visitor's home country: how to build roads, machinery, canals, sewer systems, electric utilities and much more. Furthermore, it promotes an understanding of Germany, of scientific cooperation in general, and can help sustain or improve good political and business relations with the countries from which the student has come. For the student, this translates into a good education in Germany, exposure to German culture, business and people, and a rewarding career at home or possibly even in the host country.

The German university system is internationalizing its study programs to increase their universal appeal. With better counseling, project support, language assistance, scholarships and recognition of university work done elsewhere, it is now easier than ever to take advanced degree courses and conduct research in Germany. Recently introduced changes in immigration legislation now make it easier for foreign students to come to Germany and stay on for post-graduate or post-doctoral work and even pursue a career.

A German higher education offers foreign students a chance to earn a Bachelor's, Master's or Ph.D. - in many cases with English as the study language - that is compatible with and comparable to the formats of other countries. It is recognized internationally, opening up a wider range of career opportunities or further study. In most cases, there are currently no or only low tuition fees at German universities and the general cost of living for students is below that of many other western countries. Studying in Germany essentially costs the same as in Britain or the United States, it's just that in Germany the tab is picked up by the taxpayers and not the individual.

For students who qualify, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) as well as a number of public and private foundations have scholarships available. The German Foundation Index (http://www.stiftungen.org/) is a good link to scholarship sources. In addition, it is also possible for good students to earn a little extra money on the side as a teaching assistant; in particular, in the natural sciences and engineering faculties.

What are Germany's particular strengths?

Germany has always excelled in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering, but also in business and economics, law, social sciences and the arts. What makes German higher education institutions so special are the combinations of teaching and advanced research. Students have numerous opportunities to pursue project and thesis work within the scope of ongoing research activities. Courses are often taught by staff who are both researchers and teachers. University departments in their specific fields interact closely with national and international academic institutions and research institutes, as well as business and industry.

Studying in Germany also exposes students to state-of-the-art technology in the classroom as well as the laboratory. Independent study with special guidance counselors and tutors for foreigners give students the moral support they need while motivating them to pursue their special interests.

What makes the German university system so good?

In order to make the grade in today's globalized market, young people need more than just an excellent grasp of their particular field. The business and scientific communities require an understanding of foreign cultures, fluency in foreign languages, problem-solving skills, analytical thinking, social skills for teamwork and flexibility. The ability to apply and communicate your expertise in changing social environments is paramount to success. These skills are best obtained through personal experience abroad in an academic environment dedicated to personal and professional achievement.

To this end, the German institutions of higher education have designed a system of rankings and benchmarking to evaluate their academic processes. Since the mid-1990s universities have banded together to test and compare their courses of study and to see how these fit the needs of both students and industry. This peer review process among universities and universities of applied sciences focuses on ways to improve degree programs in an evaluation that examines the strengths and weaknesses of the offered courses. Rankings are a key aspect in the continuous process of improving the German higher education system. They help evaluate circumstances in the classroom and laboratory. Prospective students are presented with information about such things as class size, equipment, how extensive a library is and the level of satisfaction among the student body.

Specifically in the area of research, two organizations rank universities and their degree programs according to a professor's research performance. The Center for University Development (CHE) and the German Research Association (DFG) evaluate schools on the basis of outside funding and the number of published findings, or in the case of engineering, the number of patent applications.

If you're interested in finding out more about the quality of a particular German university or university of applied sciences, you can examine ranking evaluations on the following internet education web site:


What does it all mean for foreign students?

One of most important tasks for any student is finding the right school, the right professor, or the right laboratory. We don't have to tell you that finding the right place to complete your work is the crucial stepping stone to your next career opportunity.

Over the years, English-speaking countries have had an edge over Germany, mostly because of the language. That is no longer the case. Today, students in Germany have the option of taking many courses and programs in English.

Which isn't to say learning a new language, like German, isn't beneficial to your career - in particular here in Singapore, with over 900 German companies present.

In Singapore, it's possible to enroll in a German course at a Goethe Institut even before arriving in Germany. Check out http://www.goethe.de/singapur.

Once you've arrived, you can still take part in German summer school classes that will also prepare you for the language proficiency test (TestDaF) required for university programs held in German. Other German classes are also available throughout the school year for a small fee at off-campus evening schools called Volkshochschulen (VHS)

Germany boasts an enormous academic and research network - both inside and outside the university corridors. Studying in Germany is a cultural experience in a country renowned for excellence in science, engineering, economics and much, much more.

Germany would like to welcome you to one of the finest academic and research environments available in the world today!

A Compendium of German Achievement

Germany is more than Mercedes, penicillin and kindergarten
Ever since the days of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the movable type printing press, or Martin Luther, whose Reformation changed the face of European society, Germans have been at the forefront of intellectual curiosity and scientific discovery. Names like Einstein, Koch, Röntgen, Planck, Humboldt, Hertz or Hegel don't need much of an introduction. But there are many others who made important and lasting contributions to humanity.

In the 100 or so years since the Nobel Prize has been awarded, Germans have received this prestigious honor 84 times - that's ten percent of all the Nobel prizes ever presented. Both German and foreign Nobel laureates have benefited from the research opportunities, funding and support provided by Germany. Here, a random sampling:

1971 - Willy Brandt: Nobel Peace Prize for his resolute pursuit of detente with then-communist Eastern Europe.
1985 - Klaus von Klitzing: Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the Quantum Hall Effect. Since 1990, it has been used worldwide to calibrate electrical resistance.
1989 - Wolfgang Paul: A pioneer in particle physics. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) supported his work with substantial funding.
1988 - Johann Deisenhofer, Robert Huber and Hartmut Michel: Chemistry prize for determining the "three dimensional structure of a photosynthetic reaction centre." They benefited from the DFG's special Collaborative Research Centre program.
1991 - Bert Sakmann and Erwin Neher proved the existence of ion channels between cell membranes and won the Nobel Prize in physiology/medicine.
1994 - Reinhard Selten: Co-winner in economics for his "pioneering analysis of equilibria in the theory of non-cooperative games."
1995 - Christine Nüsslein-Volhard: Co-winner in physiology/medicine for her work on genetic control of early embryonic development in fruit flies.
1999 - Günter Grass won the Nobel Prize in Literature, following in the footsteps of Heinrich Böll and Thomas Mann.

And more recently...

2001 - Wolfgang Ketterle (Physics)

2005 - Theodor W. Haensch (Physics)

2007 - Professor Dr Peter Grünberg (Physics)

2007 - Professor Dr Gerhard Ertl (Chemistry)


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