Application and Selection Procedure

In line with its statutes, the Studienstiftung supports "the university education of young people who, because of their exceptional academic or artistic talents and personal qualities, can be expected to make an outstanding contribution to society as a whole". Its programmes include comprehensive support for doctoral students. Applications are invited from highly qualified and socially committed PhD students, in conjunction with their academic supervisors.

Application requirements

  • The doctoral candidate has been accepted on a doctoral programme at a German university where the thesis will also be submitted; nationality is irrelevant. German citizens pursuing a Ph.D. abroad may also apply; in this instance applicants must provide an explanation for their choice of university.   
  • The last academic degree should have been completed no longer than four years prior to submission of the application. Periods of professional qualification, for example legal or teacher training (Referendariat) do not constitute grounds for an extension of the four-year deadline; pregnancy, childcare, periods of extended illness or inability to work as well as periods of care for dependents will be taken into account. Relevant documentation must be supplied.
  • The scholarship must start at the latest 6 months following receipt of funding approval from the Studienstiftung; otherwise, the funding offer will expire.
  • Applications can be submitted at the earliest during the final semester of a Masters degree programme, or equivalent. In the event that a final degree certificate or diploma has not been issued at the time of application, applicants should submit a transcript with the results of all degree courses completed to date. This will form the basis on which the review procedure will be conducted. Before the application can be submitted to a final the selection board following the review process, a degree certificate or equivalent official confirmation of the successful completion of studies and a complete transcript of all courses studied must be submitted to the Studienstiftung.
    It is important that all applications include a well-developed and academically convincing exposé outlining the doctoral research project; it is not possible to submit revised documentation in the course of the application process or to resubmit an application following a rejection.
  • Previous holders of scholarships from the Studienstiftung or the Max Weber Programme, Bavaria, may apply for a scholarship to participate in the academic programmes for doctoral students, without taking advantage of financial support for their Ph.D. The selection procedure is the same for all applicants. If funding for the doctoral thesis has been awarded by another funding body, this must be terminated at the latest 6 months following receipt of funding approval from the Studienstiftung; otherwise, the funding offer will expire.
  • Part-time doctoral degrees cannot be funded. During the period of the scholarship, Ph.D. candidates commit to concentrate fully on their dissertation; parallel study on a taught degree or professional training programme (for example for lawyers, teachers, psychologists/psychotherapists) is not compatible with the scholarship.
  • Doctoral studies undertaken parallel to a medical degree are not eligible for the doctoral scholarship programme; support is offered for these projects within the framework of scholarships offered by the Studienstiftung for taught degree programmes.
  • Previous membership of the Studienstiftung is not a requirement for the doctoral programme.

Selection criteria

  • an ambitious and innovative thesis project, which can be completed within a three-year funding period;
  • effective supervision appropriate to the project and the doctoral candidate;   
  • excellent degree results obtained within the regulation period of the study on the respective degree programme;   
  • evidence of broad extra-curricular interests and an active commitment and engagement with society at large.

For more information on the goals and support offered by the Studienstiftung, please see our Mission Statement.

At a glance: Application and selection process (in German, PDF, 0.2 MB)

Applications may be submitted at any time; there are no deadlines. The necessary forms can be downloaded below.

Everyone involved in the application and selection process must agree with the principles of good scientific practice as fixed by their university resp. by the “Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice” of the German Research Foundation (DFG). We expect that the exposé of the proposed PhD project is based on the applicant’s authorship.

Selection procedure

The review procedure takes place in two phases:

A preliminary review of applications is conducted in the Studienstiftung according to the formal application requirements listed above. At this stage, the exposé of the doctoral thesis is not taken into consideration.

If an application is successful in the preliminary selection, it proceeds to the academic review phase: Two qualified academics provide written assessments of the applicant’s academic and extracurricular qualifications, as well as the quality of the proposed research project. The first review is conducted on the basis of the application documents; the second also includes a personal interview of the candidate.

First reviewers will be familiar with the applicant’s field of research. They formulate their assessments on the basis of the written documents provided by the applicant and, in particular, consider in their review his / her academic qualifications, as well as the exposé of the proposed dissertation project.

For the second review, an interview with the candidate is conducted in addition to the assessment of the written documents. In this case, reviewers drawn from the applicant’s discipline also have a standing relationship with the Studienstiftung; they may not necessarily be experts in the candidate’s narrow field of research. The second review assesses the academic aspects of the application and takes the applicant's personal qualities and extra-curricular activities into consideration.

When selecting interviewers, we seek to limit travel times to a minimum; we are unable to cover travel expenses. If candidates are abroad at the time of application, we will, if possible, arrange an interview locally. Applicants should, however, be prepared to attend interviews in Germany. Interviews are intended to enable an assessment of the candidate based on personal meeting and cannot, therefore, be conducted by telephone or skype.

Following receipt of both reviews, the application proceeds to the selection board for doctoral scholarships for the final decision. The board is appointed by the governing body of the Studienstiftung and convenes four times a year. From start to finish the selection procedure takes an average of about four to six months, but can also take a shorter or longer time in individual cases.

At a glance: General guidelines for the selection process (in German, PDF, 0.1 MB)

Application documents

To minimise processing times, we ask you to provide us with all the necessary documents when you submit your application. Please name two or more academics eligible to function as academic reviewers.

We require the following documents (in duplicate):

  • The completed application form (cover sheet for application) (in German, DOC, 2.1 MB / PDF, 0.2 MB)
  • The questionnaire for applicants (in German, DOC, 2.1 MB / PDF, 0.1 MB)
  • Questionnaire for the doctoral supervisor (in German, DOC, 2.1 MB / PDF, 0.1 MB)
  • Optional, the English questionnaire for the doctoral supervisor (DOC, 0.1 MB / PDF, 0.1 MB)
  • If available, a copy of the supervision or PhD agreement
  • CV of applicant in both tabular and narrative form
  • A copy of applicant's final degree certificate (MA, MSc., Diplom, Staatsexamen etc.) (or provisional certificate) with a full transcript listing the results of all assessed work, examinations and qualifying thesis, as well as the weighted overall degree result
  • If available, a copy of the applicant’s Bachelor degree certificate with a full transcript listing theresults of all assessed work, examinations and qualifying thesis, as well as the weighted overall degree result
  • A summary of the last qualifying thesis (MA-thesis) (insofar as a final project is required in the respective subject) – no more than two or three pages
  • An exposé of the proposed PhD project (German or English; maximum 20 pages), including the following information:
  1. working title
  2. abstract (approx. half a page)
  3. key terms outlining the area of study
  4. introduction
  5. research question / problem / hypothesis
  6. research status/ own preparatory work
  7. methods / provisional structure
  8. schedule and work plan
  9. reference list and / or archival or other sources to be used

Details concerning the eligibility of potential reviewers and the Studienstiftung’s regulations on impartiality and confidentiality can be found on the proposal form. Reviewers will be contacted by the Studienstiftung; neither the doctoral supervisor nor the doctoral candidate should contact proposed reviewers beforehand.

We need all of the above documents in paper form with original signatures. The documents should reach us in the order given above. Please do NOT use double-sided prints, stapled or bound documents, transparent sleeves, paper clips or application folders.

Please do not submit additional documents – including training certificates, CD-ROMs, letters of recommendation or special editions of own publications.

All documents should be submitted in the order listed above in a single envelope to the following address:

Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes
Ahrstraße 41
53175 Bonn

Application document checklist to download (in German, DOC, 2.1 MB).

If we are unable to approve funding, the documents will remain with the Studienstiftung for a period of six months, after which they will be destroyed. Due to the volume of applications we receive, we are unable to return application documents.


We would like to ask for your understanding that we will not confirm receipt of the application documents. Only complete applications can be further processed and included in the preselection. Incomplete application documents remain unprocessed, in this case the applicants will be informed after some time.

Following a decision in the preliminary selection (duration approx. 4 weeks from receipt of the complete documents), you will be informed whether or not your application will proceed to the review phase.

As soon as your application has been reviewed, we will inform you of the date on which your application will be discussed by the selection board.

Following the meeting of the doctoral selection board, you will be notified of the final the decision regarding your application.

The Studienstiftung cannot provide individual feedback on the decision.


Program Coordinator

Dr. Sandra Schmitt

If you have further questions concerning your application that you cannot find answered on the "Frequently asked questions" page, please contact the following person:

Ms. Martina Lang

At the moment, we do not offer information by telephone and ask you to contact us via email, indicating your doctoral subject, at: promotion(at)studienstiftung(dot)de