The precondition for initiating the doctoral examination process is the submission of a written doctoral thesis. The requirements are high: a thesis is expected to demonstrate the candidate’s ability to engage in profound independent academic research. Furthermore, it must constitute an advance in scientific or scholarly knowledge.
Additionally, it must satisfy specific formal criteria, which are defined in the examination regulations of the relevant departments. Writing the doctoral thesis in German is often not a requirement. By arrangement with the supervisor and subject to the relevant examination regulations, the thesis can also be written in English or another language.
According to surveys by the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), the doctoral regulations at more than one in two departments allow candidates to complete their doctorate in a number of cumulative steps. Primarily in the natural sciences or medicine, it is meaningful to combine several essays published in prestigious specialist journals as a cumulative thesis instead of an exhaustive monograph, in other words, a single text.
In addition to an assessment of the thesis, the doctoral examination process also includes an oral examination in the form of either a disputation or rigorosum. This differs from university to university and from department to department. The oral examination normally lasts between one and two hours and, depending on the doctoral regulations, can be conducted in a foreign language.
As a rule, the doctoral title is only awarded to the candidate after the thesis has been made available to an academic audience by printing or equivalent forms of reproduction within a specific period and a specific number of obligatory copies have been presented to the university. The candidate then receives the right to bear the doctoral title.
Download our brochure:
Doing a PhD in Germany (2019, 40 pages)
This booklet for (prospective) international doctoral students presents the different options for doing a doctorate in Germany. It explains the formal requirements and gives some practical advice on finding the right supervisor or doctoral programme. It also outlines different sponsorship and funding options.