A Guide to Study PhD in Germany


Germany is undoubtedly one of the best study-abroad destinations. However, when it comes to pursuing doctoral research, the country has a lot to offer. German universities offer innovative, high-quality doctoral programmes and the best part is that they do not charge tuition fees. We have compiled all the information you need to know about pursuing a PhD in Germany.


Why Pursue PhD in Germany?

Apart from the world-class education system, beautiful landscapes, and medieval/modern heritage, Germany is home to some of the best universities in the world. Let us look at some of the reasons why you should consider studying PhD in Germany this year:

  • Highly ranked institutions – It is important to note that Germany houses seven universities that currently rank in the top 100
  • Research-centric institutes – Germany has some of the best research institutes including the Max Planck Institute. Most of the universities have a tie-up with research centers, providing a holistic experience to students
  • Cost-effective–German universities do not charge any tuition fees for PhD students
  • Origin of PhD – PhD (research-based study) was actually developed in Germany


German Universities Classification

Let us look at the type of German universities:

  • Research Universities (Universität)
  • Technical Universities (Technische Universität)
  • Universities of Applied Science (Fachhochschulen)
  • Research Institutes
  • Colleges of Art, Film and Music

If you are an aspiring PhD student, you are supposed to apply to research/technical universities or research institutes. Moreover, you will be studying at one of the 400 public universities in Germany that offer state funding to PhD students irrespective of their nationality.


Types of PhD in Germany

  • The Traditional PhD – This type of program will enable you to pursue a research project independently under the guidance of an expert supervisor. You will have the right to choose the institution where you wish to conduct your research. You can choose a university or non-university organisation, as well as a German company. It is a flexible program with no compulsory attendance or set curriculum. Your main focus will be on completing your research and writing a thesis
  • Structured Doctoral Programmes – These programs are provided in English and are globally-oriented. You will get an opportunity to get additional training alongside your thesis. This program requires compulsory lectures, seminars and interim assessments. You will be required to attend transferable skills training in academic/scientific methods as well as soft skills. You will also be expected to work on wider research projects with other students and a team of academics.


Length of the Program

There are two semesters in the academic year in Germany, detail of which are mentioned below-

  • The Wintersemester (WiSe) – Starts on 1st October and ends on 31st March (two-week Christmas break and Easter)
  • The Sommersemester (SoSe) – Starts on 1st April and ends on 30th September (July to September break)

Note: A traditional PhD takes 4-years whereas, a structured doctoral program takes 3 years

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How Much Does it Cost Indian Students to Study PhD in Germany?

Even though doctoral degrees in Germany are free for all students, you may have to pay some other fees during your stay. If you extend the period beyond the standard length of your PhD program, you might have to pay the tuition fees which is called semester contribution. The amount is usually around €100-350 which includes your administration costs, student governance and student services. Since you won’t be paying any tuition fees in Germany, you will be bearing your living expenses. For international students, this amount will need about €867 per month to cover accommodation, food and other living expenses.


Requirements to Study PhD in Germany?

As an Indian student, you will be required to submit the following documents to study PhD degree in Germany:

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Master’s Degree recognized in Germany
  • Letter of Recommendation
  • Proof of Language Proficiency (TOEFL/IELTS)
  • Relevant Job Experience

Note: In case your degree is not recognized by the university, you can take a fast-track preparatory course to gain the skills/knowledge required to take up doctoral studies in Germany. That way, you may get accepted by the University for the PhD program. Also, German universities may admit international undergraduate students who have top-quality academic/professional experience in their related field.


Application Process

Once you have completed all documents required to submit your application, you need to contact your PhD provider since the details of the application procedure may differ from university to university. After finding an available professional tutor for your individual PhD degree, there will be a committee in charge that will decide if your academic profile is suitable and matches the requirements of their PhD program. You will be asked to submit a statement from your personal mentor, certified copies of your qualifications, academic references and Proof of Language Proficiency. You can submit these documents online in PDF or JPG format. To find out if you are the right candidate, you might be asked by the committee to do a Skype interview.


How to Get a German Student Visa?

You need to have a German student visa to legally stay and pursue your doctoral degree in Germany. Once your admission gets approved by your PhD provider, you will need to book your visa appointment and on the appointed day, you are required to visit the local German embassy and commence the student visa application process.

List of documents required for the German Student Visa:

  • Duly completed student visa application form
  • Recent Photos (two copies)
  • Valid passport (with validity up to the period of studies or more)
  • Proof of mentors acceptance to supervise your doctoral thesis work
  • Health insurance
  • Proof of sufficient financial coverage for doctoral studies –a blocked German bank account (€11,208 per year)
  • Certificates of education (all formal and informal education)/ academic transcripts
  • German and/or English language skills (IELTS/TOEFL)
  • Academic references –at least two professors who have worked with you

Hope this information assists you in making your stay in Germany enjoyable and fruitful. In case you are hungry for more information and tips, please reach out to our expert advisors at Manya-The Princeton Review.


Manya – The Princeton Review Advantage

Manya – The Princeton Review offers end-to-end study abroad services encompassing admissions consulting services, test preparation, English language training, career assessment, and international internship opportunities to study abroad aspirants. Founded in 2002, Manya holds an impeccable track record of enabling more than 4 lac students to accomplish their study abroad dreams through its network of 47+ centers across India.

Manya has formed long-lasting global alliances with several market leaders in the education industry in order to maximize the benefits of its large service portfolio. Their list of esteemed partners and affiliations includes – The Princeton Review (TPR), Cambridge University Press (CUP), Cogito Hub, British Council, Tuding to name a few. Manya has also forged 600+ partnerships with international universities across top study abroad destinations.

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When should I apply for the German Student Visa?

It is advised to apply for a visa as soon as your admission is approved by your provider. Once your admission gets approved by your PhD provider, you will need to book your visa appointment and on the appointed day, you are required to visit the local German embassy and commence the student visa application process.

Can I work in Germany after my PhD?

It depends on your nationality. If you are from EU or EEA countries, you will not need a work permit. For others, they need to apply for a Job Seeker’s Visa, valid for 6 months.

How can I cover my living expenses in Germany?

You won’t normally pay any tuition fees but you will still need funding to help cover your living costs. Some of the options available include graduate assistantships and fellowships from your university, public funding for international students by the German government as well as funding from business, industry and independent research hubs such as the Max Planck Schools.

Can I get an EU Blue Card?

Once you are able to secure a job in Germany, you can apply for a German residence permit – EU Blue Card. You are eligible to apply for it only if your job is fetching you at least €56,800 per year.

Do I need to learn the German language for a PhD in Germany?

It entirely depends on the program you are going for. Some traditional PhD programs may expect you to write your thesis in the German language. Whereas, Structured PhD programs are mostly taught in English.

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