Frequently Asked Questions

Here you can find answers to frequently asked questions about requirements, application and funding concerning the Studienstiftung’s doctoral scholarships.


1. Requirements

Does the Studienstiftung favour certain disciplines, subjects or universities?

No. We have no thematic, academic or regional focuses, nor do we have any quotas.

Do I have to complete my studies with the best grade or as the best student in my year to have a chance of receiving a doctoral scholarship from the Studienstiftung?

No. We would like you to be among the top 10% in your year. This is only a rough guide. We consider different disciplinary cultures.

I have a very good chance of receiving a scholarship with very good grades.

In general, yes. However, we also consider it important that you organised your studies individually beyond university requirements, and still completed your course quickly. We also expect you to have actively pursued extracurricular interests and demonstrated commitment to social causes.

What do you mean by "a study programme that has been completed with a high level of commitment and exceptional results"?

First of all, we consider the standard course length specified in the examination regulations and we assume that this can be met by especially capable students. We make appropriate allowances for internships, study periods abroad or other study-relevant activities, likewise prolonged periods of illness, pregnancy, periods of child care or special personal circumstances.

What is your understanding of "individually organised studies"?

We hope that you not only followed the guidelines of the general course syllabus, but that you supplemented your studies with additional work experience, a period abroad, a conscious change of university, classes in general studies (Studium Generale) or research activities.

What do you mean by "commitment to social causes"?

We hope that alongside your studies, you are also committed to helping others and assuming social responsibility. There are no prescribed categories. We value active participation in activities in which you take on responsibility and support others in the areas of sport, politics, environmental protection, art, in schools, at university, in churches or charities, or as part of social projects, etc. Merely reading journals or regularly attending the opera or yoga classes, however, is not considered sufficient.

What standards does my doctoral project have to satisfy? Can a doctoral project follow on from my Bachelor's/Master's thesis?

Your doctoral project should make an innovative, scientific contribution towards current research and advance academic debate both thematically and methodically. In the second selection phase, this aspect is reviewed by two persons with suitable academic qualifications. It is of secondary importance whether you follow on from your Bachelor's/Master's thesis or whether you examine a new subject. The quality of your project is what counts.

I completed my last university degree longer than four years ago. Will my application still be accepted for the selection procedure?

Yes, this is possible if you can prove and explain why you were not able to start your doctoral degree earlier. The four-year period may be exceeded in the case of pregnancies, child-care periods, proven periods of prolonged serious illness or incapacity to work, and proven periods of home care for close relatives with at least Care Level 3 (cf. § 15 (3) No. 2 Federal Education and Training Assistance Act – BAföG). Please note that preparatory periods such as stages of practical training after a law or teaching degree or as part of ministerial training as well as longer periods of employment do not constitute reasons for exceeding this term. The four-year period is considered sufficiently long to be able both to complete preparatory work and write applications for demanding thesis projects within this period.

What about students of human medicine and pharmacy – Is the Practical Year credited against the four-year term?

No, only after the Practical Year is concluded does the calculation of the four-year term begin.

I am currently funding my doctoral studies by working or with a scholarship from another funding organisation. However, I would prefer to be funded by the Studienstiftung. Can I apply for funding?

Yes. You simply switch to Studienstiftung funding after you have received our funding approval. We expect you to start your funding at the latest six months after the funding approval date. Otherwise, the funding approval expires. We also offer purely academic support to candidates who were funded in previous study programmes by the Studienstiftung or Max Weber-Programm.

I have already received funding approval from another organisation for the complete duration of my doctoral programme but would like to take part in the Studienstiftung's support scheme. Can I apply for academic support only for my doctoral degree from the Studienstiftung, because I do not need financial support? Is there a simplified selection procedure for this?

We do not offer purely academic support without financial support unless you were already funded during previous studies by the Studienstiftung or Max Weber-Programm. These students are eligible to apply for academic support only. The selection procedure for such support is the same as the regular procedure because you can switch to financial support at any time after admission.

I am not a German citizen but am completing a doctoral degree at a university in Germany. Can I apply for doctoral funding from the Studienstiftung?

Yes, this is possible.

I am doing a doctorate at a university abroad so will submit my doctoral thesis there. Can I still apply for doctoral funding from the Studienstiftung?

Yes, under certain conditions. Firstly, you must be a German citizen or, if you are a foreign national, you must have obtained your higher education entrance qualification in Germany. In addition to your application documents, we require from you convincing reasons (approx. one page) as to why your project is thematically best carried out at the university abroad, what alternatives you have considered and rejected in Germany and whether and which academic links you maintain with Germany. In this context, it is not deemed sufficient for you to have spent part of your studies abroad and to feel at home there.

Do you support Cotutelle doctoral programmes? Which supervisor should complete the supervisor's questionnaire?

We support Cotutelle degrees. In this case, the questionnaire should be completed by your first reviewer at the German university. We welcome an additional assessment from the second reviewer at the university abroad.

My doctoral studies/PhD programme includes a course phase in which credits from a study programme have to be gained. When is the earliest I can apply?

If your doctoral programme includes a clearly defined course phase to be completed as a full-time study programme which is followed by a full-time thesis phase, you can apply from the last semester of this course phase; the same comments apply regarding documents to be submitted as to those for an application before completion of the study programme. In other constellations, applications can generally be submitted as soon as you have completed a first study programme and if you begin the full-time thesis phase of the doctoral programme within the following six months.

Funding can only begin once you have started your doctoral studies on a full-time basis.

If you have any questions or in borderline cases, please contact us before applying.

I am doing a fast-track doctorate. When is the earliest I can apply?

If the fast-track option includes a clearly defined course phase to be completed as a full-time study programme, you can apply in the last semester of this course phase; the same comments apply regarding documents to be submitted as to those for an application before completion of the study programme. For other fast-track options, you can usually apply as soon as you have finished your study programme (e.g. Bachelor's) and if you begin the full-time thesis phase within the following six months. Funding can only begin once you have started your doctoral studies on a full-time basis. If you have any questions or in borderline cases, please contact us before applying.

I already have a PhD. Can I receive funding for a second doctoral degree?

We generally only fund the first doctoral degree unless you have written a thesis for your degree in medicine and now wish to complete a second doctoral degree (e.g. in a natural science subject) after finishing your studies.

I am studying medicine and working on my doctoral thesis parallel to my studies. Can I receive a doctoral scholarship?

No. Until you have completed your second state examination (and therefore your medical studies), we cannot support you with a doctoral scholarship. However, you can be recommended for student financial assistance up to three semesters before the end of your standard study period.

2. Application

What are my chances of receiving a doctoral scholarship?

Currently, around one third of applicants are successful.

Are there application deadlines? How long does the selection procedure take?

We accept applications for doctoral funding at any time. The first selection phase (preselection) takes about four weeks. If you pass this, you can expect to wait around three to five months for the second stage (main selection). In some cases, the application procedure may be shorter or longer.

My project is being supervised by a postdoctoral researcher who will not be the formal first reviewer in the doctoral procedure. Who should complete the supervisor's questionnaire?

The questionnaire should be completed by the first reviewer who is assessing your thesis.

I am doing a PhD as part of a collaborative programme offered jointly by a university / institution entitled to confer doctorates and a university of applied sciences. Who should complete the first reviewer's questionnaire?

The questionnaire must always be completed by your supervisor at the university / institution entitled to confer doctorates. We welcome a second, supplementary questionnaire from your supervisor at the university of applied sciences.

Do I have to be registered as a doctoral student at the university when I apply or during the funding period?

Registration rules differ from university to university. From our point of view, enrolment is not absolutely necessary. The only requirement for the start of funding, once funding has been approved, is that you have been admitted to a doctoral programme.

Can I submit my documents in English?

Yes, you can also submit documents in English. You can download the English version of the supervisor's questionnaire from our website.

I would like to apply during the last semester of my study programme. What should I mention in the summary of my Bachelor's/Master's thesisif I have not yet completed it when I apply?

In particular, you should discuss reasons for choosing your subject, problems and research question as well as the methodology of your project and progress to date – for example, results achieved so far, further working hypotheses and your approach.

I have read that the standard funding period is two years. Should I aim to complete my doctoral project within two years, even though doctoral degrees in many subjects take at least three?

We expect you to be able to complete your project within the maximum funding period of three years (if you have a child, within four years). In other words, you can also plan to take 2½ or 3 years. What is important, however, is that the presented schedule is realistic.

I already received funding from the Studienstiftung during my studies. Does this mean I have a better chance of being offered a doctoral scholarship? Do you review my documents from the study sponsorship application?

Statistically, Studienstiftung alumni have a better chance of receiving funding. However, we do not give former scholarship holders bonus points. All applicants go through the same selection procedure and are assessed according to the same criteria. We do not review documents and information from the study sponsorship application. So please send us your full application with all details, including the certificates you already sent to Bonn in connection with your previous funding.

I have one child / more than one child. Is this taken into account in the application and funding conditions?

Yes. We make allowances for pregnancy and child-raising periods in the selection procedure. Doctoral students with a child also receive additional payments and may take advantage of longer funding periods.

I have been invited to attend an interview in the second selection stage. What will be the subject of the interview? Does the Studienstiftung cover travel expenses?

During the interview you will be asked about your project but also about your interests and activities beyond your academic specialisation. You are required to pay for travel expenses yourself.

Can I apply a second time if my application for a Studienstiftung doctoral scholarship is rejected? What happens if I withdraw my application from an ongoing selection procedure?

You are not permitted to apply twice. A rejection in the pre-selection and main selection is final. The same applies if you withdraw your application in an ongoing selection procedure. In these cases, you can generally only apply a second time if you are being supervised by another person and you are working on a different subject to the one proposed in your first application. The other formal application requirements remain unchanged if you reapply.

3. Funding

I have so far financed my doctoral degree by working at university or through a scholarship. Does this affect the funding term offered by the Studienstiftung?

Yes. In certain cases, we credit periods of doctoral funding before the start of funding by the Studienstiftung against our maximum funding period of three years (four if you have a child).

We must deduct the term of other doctoral sponsorships in full, however we do not count periods of employment as a research associate or graduate assistant.

Can financial support from the Studienstiftung be combined with funding from another funding organisation?

It is not permissible to accept a doctoral scholarship from other institutions alongside Studienstiftung funding. Moreover, financial support from other institutions for projects abroad may not be compatible with or may be credited against Studienstiftung payments.

Holders of Studienstiftung scholarships are obliged to inform the Studienstiftung if they receive or are offered a scholarship from another organisation so that compatibility with the Studienstiftung's funding can be reviewed.

If the issue of the compatibility of other scholarships with our funding is important to you before your application, feel free to contact us.

Am I allowed to work part-time as a scholarship holder?

Yes. A part-time job in research and teaching is permissible for up to 10 hours a week, in all other areas a maximum of five hours a week.

Can I interrupt the funding period, for example, to complete a longer period of work experience?

Yes. On request, it is possible to interrupt funding for up to one year, six months of which are not normally deducted from the Studienstiftung's funding period. If funding is interrupted for health or family reasons, this is possible for up to one full year without it being deducted from the maximum funding period.

Am I allowed to complete a second degree or a graduate course, e.g. an LLM, MBA or psychotherapy training during the funding period?

No. Our doctoral sponsorship is not compatible with another study programme or training course, or with part-time studies.

Do I have health and/or accident insurance coverage as a Studienstiftung scholarship holder?

No. The Studienstiftung does not offer any institutional insurance cover.

Does the Studienstiftung pay contributions towards trips that are important for my doctoral project?

Yes. If you travel abroad to conferences or for research visits in connection with your project, you can apply for an allowance in addition to your scholarship. To cover the cost of journeys made within Germany, you receive a monthly research cost allowance of € 100 which we pay you in addition to your doctoral sponsorship.

What happens if I have a child during the funding period?

We welcome the birth of a child and extend the maximum funding period by 12 months for mothers and fathers. Additionally, mothers may take advantage of the three-month maternity protection period. There are also financial allowances for parents.

Can I receive an allowance from the Studienstiftung to publish my thesis?

No. The Studienstiftung does not pay a printing cost allowance, either for external candidates or scholarship holders.