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Compact guide to starting a doctorate

  • Promotionseinstieg_kompakt.jpg

1. Doctorate – Yes or No?

There are many reasons for pursuing a doctorate – the title, career opportunities, financial incentives – but ideally the main reason should be your interest in research and your enjoyment of science. After all, a doctorate takes many years and demands a large amount of time and self-management besides knowledge of your subject and of methodology. If you are still unsure of whether a doctorate is the right step for you, there are a number of events that could help you decide:  

  • Once a year, Giessen University hosts the event “Wege in die Promotion” (Paths to a Doctorate), which is organised by the Giessen Graduate Centre for Humanities (GGK), the International Giessen Graduate Centre for the Life Sciences (GGL), the Giessen Graduate Centre for Social Sciences, Business, Economics and Law (GGS), the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) and the initiative Admission to this event is free of charge to anyone interested in participating. The language of the event is German.
  • The MArburg University Research Academy (MARA) of Marburg University stages annual events on the topic “Promotion - Ja oder Nein?” (Doctorate - Yes or No?). Please note: Students and graduates of the THM may register as external participants; once admitted as doctoral candidate, they can become members of MARA to be eligible for reduced attendance fees. The language of the event is German.


The website  “Rund um die Promotion” could also serve as a useful introduction to this topic.

For further information on a PhD in Germany, specifically addressing foreign applicants, please consult the website of the German Academic Exchange Service.

2. Average Duration of a Doctoral

According to a HIS survey on doctorates (“Promotionen im Fokus”) conducted in 2015, the average duration of doctoral procedures in Germany is 4.5 years; broken down into disciplines the average duration is as follows:


Humanities5.1 years
Education Science/ Psychology 4.3 years
Law, Economics and Social Sciences 4.6 years
Mathematics/ Natural Sciences 4.3 years
Engineering Sciences 5 years


The actual duration of a doctorate varies from case to case and depends on the subject, the doctoral project, the employment relationship and the doctoral student’s own life situation.   The German Council of Science and Humanities defines three years as a suitable duration for completing a dissertation, providing the employment situation of doctoral students is such that they are able to devote themselves fully to their research activities. (see “Empfehlung zur Doktorandenausbildung", 2002).

3. Doctoral Procedure

The acceptance of the doctoral candidate marks the beginning of the doctorate. After completing the written dissertation, the doctoral student submits an application in writing to open the examination procedure. The examination either takes the form of a rigorosum, i.e. an oral examination, or a disputation, i.e. an academic defence of the content of the dissertation. Once doctoral students have obtained their doctorate, they must publish their dissertation. After this, the doctoral procedure is completed with the presentation of a doctoral degree certificate. The former doctoral student is now entitled to use the title “Dr.”. The type of publication (cumulative or monograph), the number of deposit copies and the publication deadline is determined by the relevant doctoral regulations.

4. Financing Your Doctorate

In general, doctoral students may finance their studies either by a work contract at the university or a scholarship, or may support themselves (job outside the university, savings, bank loan, etc.) The universities participating in the Research Campus provide an overview of funding opportunities. Job vacancies for doctoral students can be found on the academic job boards of each university.


Eight doctoral positions at the Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences THM are funded through the FCMH. Please contact the Management Office of the Research Campus if you are interested.


  • Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences:

The Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences awards scholarships for initial funding of doctoral projects (the duration of funding is a maximum of six months) as well as short-term funding of the final phase of the doctorate (in the form of grants and research associate positions for a maximum period of six months). These are financed by resources from the Strategic Research Fund.


  • Philipps-Universität Marburg:

Philipps-Universität awards three doctoral scholarships a year, alternating between the area of humanities and social sciences and that of life and natural sciences. The MArburg University Research Academy (MARA) provides an overview of doctorate funding opportunities (including (research grants, travel assistance and doctoral scholarships, etc.) 


  • Justus Liebig University Giessen:

The Giessen Graduate Centre for Social Sciences, Business, Economics and Law (GGS) provides an overview of funding opportunities for doctoral students.

5. Balancing doctoral studies with family life

The three partner universities under the roof of the Research Campus help academics reconcile their research and careers with their family life. The Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences THM and the Justus Liebig University Giessen are certified “Family-oriented Universities”, Philipps-Universität Marburg has been awarded the quality seal “Family-friendly University”. All three universities provide family services offering a broad spectrum of counselling options and information:


  • The JLU hosts a regular series of events on the subject of family and career, spotlighting early career researchers, “Familie und Karriere – Nachwuchswissenschaftler*innen im Fokus”, which cooperative doctoral students of the Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences THM are welcome to attend. Further information will be provided here as soon as it is available.

6. Good Scientific Practice

The three universities of the Research Campus are committed to the rules of good scientific practice. Good scientific practice is not limited to the avoidance of scientific misconduct, the obligation to document research results or the identification of sources, but also strives to ensure that early career researchers obtain adequate support.


All three universities have established a permanent committee to review allegations of scientific misconduct, and provide an ombudsman service at each of the three universities for all researchers who are directly or indirectly affected by scientific misconduct and would like to take action against it. If possible, the ombudsperson will also attempt to mediate if there are prospects that good scientific practice can hereby be restored.


Philipps-Universität Marburg:

Ombudspersons and Principles for Good Scientific Practice


Justus Liebig University Giessen

Ombudsperson and Statutes of Good Scientific Practice


Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences:

Ombudsperson and Principles for Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice