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Before you can begin your doctoral studies in Germany, there are some preliminary steps you must take, for instance, getting your post-graduate degree recognised. The following is an overview of the most important requirements.
1. Is German a “must”?
Although being able to speak the host country’s language is extremely useful, if you are doing an individual doctorate writing the doctoral thesis in German is often not a requirement. You can find out which languages can be used for your thesis in the respective doctoral regulations.
Structured programmes frequently allow students to complete their doctorate in English. If you are working for an individual doctorate and wish to enrol for a doctoral course at the university, in some cases you may need to present a German language examination certificate. More information: Learn German
Doctoral Regulations: These contain the most important academic and departmental rules governing the doctorate procedure. They cover admission to a doctoral programme, admission conditions (degree qualifications, grades, etc.), regulations on submitting the dissertation and drawing up expert opinions, as well as the details of the oral examination.
2. Finding a PhD position
As you begin your search for a doctoral position, you must decide whether you wish to pursue a doctorate on your own with professorial supervision (individual doctoral study) or participate in a structured PhD programme at a graduate school. Then you have to search for a PhD position or PhD programme. More information: Find your PhD position
3. Recognition of your higher education degree
The most important formal qualification for being able to do a PhD/doctorate in Germany is a very good higher education degree that is recognised in Germany. Generally, a minimum of eight semesters of academic study is required, and the degree must be equivalent to a German Master..
Exceptionally well-qualified international applicants might be admitted as doctoral students with a Bachelor degree (fast-track programme). Usually an examination is then required. More information can be found in the PhD/doctoral regulations.
Recognition of the University degree
Each university is responsible for decisions on the admission of PhD/doctoral students and the accreditation of qualifications. That is why applicants must apply for their degree to be recognised by the dean’s office ("Dekanat") or the board of examiners ("Promotionsauschuss"). In some cases admission is dependent on a further examination that determines whether the applicant’s knowledge reaches the standard required for a German higher education degree.
4. Acceptance as a doctoral candidate in a university department
Once you have found a supervisor, you have taken the most important step. Now the responsible department or doctoral committee must confirm your eligibility as a doctoral candidate.
This usually involves completing an application that includes a statement by your doctoral supervisor, certified copies of certificates and the university degree that entitles you to engage in doctoral study.
5. Admission to doctoral studies
Permission to commence doctoral studies is usually issued by the Student Office after it has reviewed all the required certificates, diploma and – if applicable – proof of language proficiency.
If the doctoral programme requires that the dissertation be written in German, the candidate must submit proof of adequate knowledge of German (by passing the DSH or TestDaF examination).
But in most cases, it’s not necessary to write one’s dissertation in German. Conditions pertaining to the language of the dissertation are outlined in the doctoral regulations of the corresponding department, normally posted on the faculty’s website.
Your next step is to enroll. There are several advantages to enrolling as a doctoral candidate, for instance, securing better legal status as a foreign resident. To be eligible for enrollment, the university must first accept your application for admission to doctoral studies (see no. 5 “Admission to doctoral studies”).
However, not all departments require doctoral candidates to officially enrol at university. Provisions pertaining to enrollment are stipulated in the doctoral regulations issued by the faculty, which are usually posted on the faculty’s website.