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Doctoral Studies at Bielefeld University

At Bielefeld University, a large number of international doctoral candidates are doing research in various departments. There are no deadlines for application for individual doctoral studies. Generally, graduate colleges and graduate schools have their own timelines for submitting applications and publicize these on their individual websites.

If you are interested in pursuing your doctoral degree at Bielefeld University, the important steps are:

A doctorate consists of doing research and writing a doctoral thesis (dissertation) independently. You will be supervised by a professor doing research and teaching at Bielefeld University. First of all, you should define the research topic you wish to earn your doctorate in. Then, you have to find out whether this topic is addressed at Bielefeld University by checking the homepages of the institutions and faculties. Plans for your research project should be made quite early, since some preparation time must be allowed for meeting educational requirements and acquiring language skills, as well as for visa and scholarship applications. 

In general Bielefeld University offers the opportunity of doing doctoral studies in all faculties and in all subjects represented.
There are two different paths a doctoral candidate can take, i.e. either by working in the context of a structured programme in a research training group or graduate school, or by doing a so-called or "individual" doctorate.


a) Doctorate in a (international) research training group or a graduate school:

These are institutions at Bielefeld University where doctoral studies are done in the framework of a coordinated, interdisciplinary research programme. Intensive supervision as well as exchange among fellow students is an important part of the programme. A list of research training groups and graduate schools at Bielefeld University can be found here.

If you are interested in doing your doctoral studies in the context of a structured programme, please contact the persons in charge listed on the relevant websites in regard to application procedures.


b) "Individual" doctorates:

As an individual doctoral student, you have to find out on your own which professor in your special subject area might act as a supervisor (in Germany often called "Doktorvater" or "Doktormutter"). Research activities of potential advisors are provided on the websites of the faculties. These might help you get an overview to find the most suitable researchers to address.

Contact your preferred supervisor and indicate your wish to pursue your doctoral studies, present your research project, submit your CV and describe your academic background. Let her/him know what language you intend to do your doctoral thesis in. If possible, you should also give funding details, e.g a stipend from your home country, a stipend from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), etc. When getting into touch, please keep in mind that potential advisors receive many requests for supervision, but just a limited number of applicants can be accepted.

If an advisor agrees to supervise your doctorate, it must be approved by the doctoral admission committee of the faculty concerned. Enrolment for doctoral studies is only possible with written approval.

For more information please click here.

A list of contact partners in various faculties can be found here.

After receiving the confirmation that your doctoral studies will be supervised, or you have been accepted into a graduate school, you will have to be accepted by the University as a doctoral student. Applicants who have obtained their qualifications outside Germany must send their application for admission directly to the Students' Office (Studierendensekretariat) of Bielefeld University.

The following documents are required:

  • A. School leaving certificate
  • B. Certificates of university degrees, including transcripts
  • C. Evidence of a command of German
  • D. Written confirmation by your supervisor, using the form provided by the examinations office (Prüfungsamt), or your faculty or graduate school admission committee
  • E. A completed matriculation form (you can either obtain this online form here or directly from the Studierendensekretariat (Student Office))
  • F. Proof of current health insurance with a German statutory public health insurer
  • G. One passport photograph
  • H. Your passport, including visa
  • I. Letter Of Faculty, that you have been accepted as a PhD candidate. Find an example here.

You enrol at the Studierendensekretariat (Student Office: C0-138). A few days later, you will receive a bank transfer form with the university bank account number and your Matrikelnummer (student identification number). About 10 days after you have paid your study fees using the bank transfer form, you will receive your semester enrolment slips and either your Semester ticket or NRW-Ticket (entitling you to free use of public transport in and around Bielefeld or throughout the state of North Rhine-Westphalia).

If the final degree you earned in another country authorizes you to do a doctoral degree, you can generally expect to be accepted for doctoral studies in Germany. Additional requirements may need to be fulfilled. For further information, please contact the Students' Office, where your degree will be checked for equivalency with German university degrees.

If your doctoral dissertation is to be written in German, you are required to pass the German Language Exam for University Acceptance (DSH) or the TestDaF. In most faculties, a dissertation in English is also acceptable. If another language is to be used, written permission from the doctoral admission committee of the faculty is required. Regardless of your doctoral thesis language, you must demonstrate adequate knowledge of German, unless your supervisor confirms that the German language is not required or that your knowledge of the language is adequate. In such cases, you are exemted from having to show proof of the DSH exam or TestDaF.

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