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Structured Doctoral Education

In recent years structured doctoral education has been gaining ground in Germany as an alternative to the traditional “apprenticeship model,” in which a professor supervises a candidate’s doctoral work on an individual basis.

One of the main features of pursuing doctoral studies in a structured program is the qualification program that accompanies the research phase. It is meant to support doctoral candidates in their research and in the development of their interdisciplinary competences. The curriculum therefore includes disciplinary courses on methods and theories or colloquia as well as interdisciplinary transferable skills.

Another feature is that the doctoral candidate will usually have a team of two or more professors and postdocs, who will act as supervisors or mentors. The doctoral program will assign at least the primary supervisor while considering suggestions of the doctoral candidate. Ideally, the supervisors should represent the interdisciplinary scope of the research project.

Frequent exchange with fellow candidates and intensive contact with the supervisory team help develop the project. Contact with the “academic community” is ensured at an early stage through conference participation and early publication. English is often used in courses and in everyday interactions. The normal duration of doctoral studies should not exceed three years. Beside a good degree, a successful application to a doctoral program is required.

The four phases of a doctorate in a structured program are: applying to a doctoral program, research and study phase, completion of the doctorate, and career entry.