Top Universities in Germany for Ph.D.


Germany has emerged as one of the most desired study abroad destinations for Indian students to pursue a Ph.D. degree abroad. A Ph.D. degree from Germany is highly valued worldwide. German universities are known to nurture serious talent interested in innovation and making new discoveries. They have an impressive line-up of industry focused doctorate programs that combine theoretical studies with in-depth research and testing. A strong economy and favourable government policies make it possible for Ph.D. students of high merit to complete their studies in Germany with low or no tuition fee.

Table of Contents

Top reasons to pursue Ph.D. from Germany

High Quality Research and Development

High Quality Research and Development

German universities are known for their research-centric approach. They have a legacy of valuing high-quality research work; even smaller institutes are known to invest in it. Many path-breaking discoveries have been made in Germany over the past few decades because of top-notch talent being absorbed in big organizations to work for them. This is a phenomenon common across industries like automobiles, engineering, biotech, information technology, and aeronautics to name a few.

Low or No Tuition Fee

Low or No Tuition Fee

Ph.D. students can still enjoy a tuition free course in Germany. The government bears all the cost; however, no tuition fee is applicable only upto 3 years of Ph.D. studies. Beyond that students will have to pay for the fees themselves.

Intellectual Legacy

Intellectual Legacy

Germany has a notable line of internationally acclaimed Influential thinkers, scientists, and writers. From Immanuel Kant, Nietzsche, Goethe, Thomas Mann, Max Planck to Albert Einstein, the German intellectual tradition has made an enormous contribution to the growth of art and science globally.

Job opportunities

Job opportunities

Students who successfully complete their doctoral program from a German University find plenty of jobs in the marketplace. This has been made possible due to a strong academic and industry linkage. A lot of private and public corporations support and participate in research programs at various German Universities. Students who perform well are taken on-board by these organizations post completion of their studies, this is especially true for internships. 

Doctoral Degree from German Universities

Doctor Degree

 A number of national and international education institutes offer international students’ options to pursue a Ph.D. degree from Germany.  There are two primary approaches to study for a Ph.D. course from German Universities:

Individual approach

Individual doctoral studies involve identifying a supervisor (Doktorvater / Doktormutter) at a German University who is willing to guide a student’s research. This kind of doctorate takes about 3-5 years to complete.

 Structured doctoral

Structured doctoral programs are internationally oriented, conducted largely in English. Supervision is carried out by several university teachers. These programs lead to a Ph.D. in about 3 years.

Top Ph.D. Universities to Study in Germany

  1. LMU Munich

LMU Munich

The public university offers a wide range of Ph.D. programs in the field of Science, Humanities, Social Science, Economics, Natural science, and Medicine. Doctoral Training Program in the Learning Sciences (DTP), Ph.D. in Literary Studies, Doctoral Program of Modern and Contemporary History (ProMoHist), Ph.D. in Neurosciences, Doctoral Program in Microeconomic Determinants of Labour Productivity, Doctoral Program in Evidence-Based Economics (EBE), Doctoral Programs in Life Science, Quantitative Biosciences, Synthetic Biology, Cell-Fate Decisions in the Immune System, Statistics, Ph.D. in Medical Research in Epidemiology & Public Health, Ph.D. in Medical Research in Genomic and Molecular Medicine – Personalized Approaches to Childhood Health, Ph.D. in Medical Research – International Health, Doctoral Program Clinical Pharmacy are some of the popular programs.

There is no tuition fee for doctoral programs however student union fee (Beiträge für das Studentenwerk) is required to be paid by all students on a semester basis. The duration of most of the programs is 3 years with discipline-specific and interdisciplinary courses.

Students are supported with individual scholarships awarded by institutions or foundations. There are options of student funding by non-university research organizations through scholarships or employment too.

  1. Technical University of Munich

Technical University of Munich

There are various ways to pursue a Doctorate at TUM. Doctorate as a research associate, Doctorate with scholarship, Cooperative doctorate, External doctorate, and Guest doctorate.

TUM does not charge any tuition fees for a doctorate.

  1. Heidelberg University

Heidelberg University

Both individual and structural doctoral programs are offered through various study programs. There are currently 40 structured doctoral programs involving different levels and varying elements of study. Binational doctoral training or cotutelle is also possible at Heidelberg University. There are three different forms of structured doctoral programs:

  • Graduate Schools (Graduiertenschulen) – large facilities with 150–300 doctoral candidates covering a wide range of research fields.
  • Research Training Groups (Graduiertenkollegs) – medium-sized groups with 15–50 doctoral candidates. The individual dissertation topics often come from a variety of research fields and faculties but are all focused within a defined topic area.
  • Research Training Groups (Promotionskollegs) – small groups with five to seven doctoral candidates covering very specific research questions.

Dr. phil., Dr. rer. nat., Dr. iur., Dr. med., Dr. med.dent., Dr. sc.hum., Dr. rer.pol. and Dr. theol. doctoral degrees are offered by the university

  1. Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

The university offers interdisciplinary, international graduate programs that lead to the degree The Ph.D. degree can be obtained both within the scope of the individual as well as structured programs. The Ph.D. degree can only be obtained by pursuing doctoral studies on the advanced track. The advanced track requires accompanying studies equivalent to 30 ECTS credit points. Doctorate accompanying courses have been made compulsory to improve the quality of biomedical graduate education. 

  1. University of Tübingen

University of Tübingen

Doctoral programs at University of Tübingen are characterized with a common research context, e.g., through a graduate college, a collaborative research center (SFB), or a cross-faculty program. Emphasis is laid on the scientific exchange through various associations and other activities.

The names of various doctoral programs include- Graduate school, Research Training Group, International Research Training Group, Ph.D. network, Additional network, Research School. Economic, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and Law are some of the streams offering Doctoral programs. The most common funding for doctoral programs is through: classic scholarship, State graduate funding, Employment as scientist Employee “Assistant”, Research Training Groups, and grants from smaller foundations or for specialized purposes.

  1. Humboldt University of Berlin

Humboldt University of Berlin

It is a university of international repute that offers doctoral programs in all major research fields. It is one of the top public universities in Europe. Humboldt University has 28 structured member programs. Health Data Sciences, Computational Systems Biology, Clinical Exercise Science, Biodiversity, Evolution & Ecology, Genetic Engineering, Medical Neurosciences, and Multiscale Bio-Systems are some of the programs offered at the university in Berlin.

  1. University of Freiburg

University of Freiburg

There are 11 faculties of the University of Freiburg that offer doctoral programs. It offers both individual and structural doctoral programs. With global partnerships and memberships in transnational networks, University of Freiburg facilitates international exchange and enables research cooperation as part of the doctoral programs. Students can choose doctoral programs from Humanities and Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Life Sciences, and Engineering

  1. RWTH Aachen University

RWTH Aachen University

At RWTH Aachen University the doctoral program is a combination of application-oriented studies and professional experience. Doctoral students independently work on challenging new scientific findings supervised and supported by experienced faculty during the course of the program. Mathematics, Computer Science, Natural Sciences, Electrical Engineering, Information Technology, Georesources and Materials Engineering are some of the streams that offer doctoral programs at the RWTH Aachen University

  1. University of Bonn

University of Bonn

Students have both individual studies and structural program options for a doctoral degree here. Currently, they offer 30 structural programs offered by the Faculty of Agriculture, Arts, Medicine, Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Law and Economics. There is ample support provided through scholarships, some of which require students to apply themselves while others require their supervisors to nominate. Other than scholarships there are supplementary grants and research awards to support doctoral students.

  1. Free University of Berlin

Free University of Berlin

Dahlem Research School is the center for junior researchers at Freie Universität Berlin that offers doctoral and postdoctoral researcher training. Humanities & Social Sciences and Natural & Life Sciences are two main streams under which doctoral programs are offered in subjects like Economics, Accounting, Finance and Management, Business Research, Plant Sciences, and more. The university offers a part-time option too for completing doctoral programs.


Admission Tests

Admission test

To pursue a Ph.D. degree in Germany, students should have a good academic score for their graduate studies. Higher education degree has to be equivalent to German master studies. In some cases, the fast-track option can be availed basis an exceptional academic record in undergraduate studies and interview performance.

For foreign students who want to apply to Ph.D. courses in English, it is mandatory to prove their language proficiency based on international standards.

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

It is one of the most popular high-stakes English language tests. It is a test of choice for many educational organizations, professional associations, and employers across Germany.

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

German universities have accepted TOEFL scores for admissions. Like IELTS the grade of the test is equally combined out of the four parts reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

For foreign students who want to apply to Ph.D. courses in German, it is mandatory to prove their language proficiency based on standards set by German Universities.

  • Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache (TestDaF)

The TestDaF, Test of German as a Foreign Language is a standardized test for gauging proficiency in the German language. It comprises of reading, writing, listening, and speaking sections. The test can be taken at different places outside Germany. 

  • Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang (DSH)

The DSH is a standardized test framework for German language proficiency. It has a little different pattern than the TestDaF. It consists of five sections instead of four listening, reading, writing, comprehension, and use of science and study related language and oral examination. DSH can only be taken in Germany.

Some German universities may require applicants to submit specific GMAT/GRE scores to apply for Ph.D. programs 

  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Graduate Record Examination is accepted at most of the graduate and business schools in Germany. This entrance exam is a test on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.

  • Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

Graduate Management Admission Test is a preferred entrance test for admissions in most of the business and management programs worldwide. The test consists of analytical writing assessment, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.

  • Finding a Supervisor

If applying for individual studies first finding a supervisor who will support you through the program is essential. DAAD, Ph.D. Germany, Hochschulkompass.de, and academics.de are some credible online search platforms that help students find a supervisor in the field of their interest.

Intakes & Deadlines

Intakes & Deadlines

Both admission and application deadlines will largely depend on a particular university.  Application deadlines for the admissions to Ph.D. courses at German Universities depend on semester intake-Summer/Winter. Usually for the summer semester intakes are open in the months of December-January and for the winter semester in the months of June-July. However, it is advisable to check with individual universities for exact deadlines while preparing to apply.


Tuition Fees

Tuition Fees

Doctoral degree/Ph.D.- At public universities it is free for all. Students are expected to make a contribution of not more than 250 EUR per semester towards administrative and other costs.

Scholarships and other Financial Support for International Students

Competitive scholarships/grants are available for Ph.D. students from private universities, DAAD and European Commission. Some popular scholarships available for Indian students in Germany are:

Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Scholarship

This scholarship program focuses on international students along with doctorate candidates. It welcomes applications from students who have completed their Bachelors/Masters in their home country and are looking for higher studies. The eligibility criterion for the program is to have an above average academic record along with a keen interest in political topics.

Candidates belonging to developing countries receive preference. The scholarship reward amount depends on the study objective. It can either be tuition fee reimbursement up to € 500 or a monthly stipend of € 1,100 for 3 years.


The PROSA LMU foreign scholarship program is financed by the DAAD (Promos) and the Bavarian State (Fond Hochschule International) and is aimed exclusively at enrolled students and Ph.D. students at LMU. Funds from the university society can be used to grant the best 2-3% of applicants special grants to support the cost of living. The University Society’s scholarships are 1.5 times the normal maximum funding.

Humboldt Research Fellowship for postdocs and experienced scientists

The fellowship is open to students from all nationalities With the Humboldt Research Fellowship, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation supports above-average qualified researchers. It provides students with individual support to carry their personal research projects at various levels of careers in cooperation with hosts from a research institution in Germany. Around 400-500 scholarships are awarded every year.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)

The scholarship part of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research funding scheme. It is open to students of all nationalities and covers costs of accommodation, travel, monthly living allowance, and family allowance for up to 4 years.

Other than scholarships, there are vacancies opened by universities such as for research associates and assistants where Ph.D. students can apply for temporary/ part-time employment.

Post-Study Work Rights and Immigration in Germany

After graduation, international students can apply for a residence permit while they look for a job. Being a technology hub, some of the world’s largest Fortune 500 companies are based or operative in German cities.

There are several online job portals where Ph.D. students and post doctorates can apply for research-oriented jobs: fraunhofer.de, helmholtz.de, leibniz-gemeinschaft.de, mpg.de/jobboard, gerit.org are some of the well-known websites. 

Essential Documents Required to Apply for Ph.D. in Germany

Essential Documents Required to Apply for Ph.D. in Germany

  • Resume
  • Doctoral thesis outline
  • Credits Equivalency
  • Language Proficiency
  • Valid passport
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of sufficient funds
  • Records of previous study and language skills
  • If applicable: letter of acceptance from your higher education institution
  • If applying for a prospective student visa: a recognized higher education entrance qualification

If you are convinced about pursuing your Ph.D. from a reputed German University, act now. Or you can always reach us at MANYA for admission consulting. Our team of admission advisors will be happy to assist you, as they do for many other aspirants like you. For more information, call our Study Abroad Helpline 1800 102 4646

At Manya – The Princeton Review, as study abroad consultants we have helped thousands of students like you make it to their dream colleges. So, contact our counselors today to experience a smooth process to your admission into a top US university. Also, get unlimited support on applications, essays, scholarships, and programs available.



Is Ph.D. free in Germany?

Yes, Ph.D. in Germany is free. For upto 3 years, the tuition fee is borne by the government.

Is it worth doing a Ph.D. in Germany?

Yes, as being tuition-free it will be much cheaper than any other country and a Ph.D. degree from Germany is highly valued the world over as it is known to combine theoretical studies with top-notch scientific research.

How to apply for a Ph.D. in Germany?

IELTS/TOEFL/GRE scores are required to apply for a PhD course in English from Germany. Along with GRE, TestDaF(Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache) / DSH (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang) scores are required for a PhD course in German from a Germany University.

What is the average duration of a Ph.D. in Germany?

Three Years is the average duration for Ph.D. in Germany

What is the GPA requirement for Ph.D. in Germany?

Generally, a GPA score of 75% is acceptable. The requirement may however vary according to universities.

How can I get a scholarship for Ph.D. in Germany?

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is the biggest financial support provider for international students in Germany. There are several other scholarship options such as Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Scholarship, Humboldt Research Fellowship for postdocs and experienced scientists, and other options available for students studying Ph.D. from Germany.

Is there any age limit for Ph.D. in Germany?

There is no age limit for pursuing a Ph.D. from Germany

Can I do a Ph.D. without a master’s degree in Germany?

A Ph.D. degree cannot be done without a master’s degree. Some programs may allow a dual-degree option, which means a student can simultaneously study for a master’s and Ph.D. degree.


Find Your Dream University

If you are planning to study abroad and searching to match your profile with the best suited university, Experts at Manya – The Princeton Review have gathered important information of top Universities from abroad. Surely, this information will help you narrow down your quest for universities.

You can access accurate & authentic information related to rankings, application fees, average tuition fees, cost of living, scholarships, latest updates, and much more from more than 1000+ universities. You may also search for universities by name, country, or courses in common specializations, such as Physics, Finance, Business, Language and Culture, Agriculture, Environmental Science, Computer and IT, Media and Communication Marketing.

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.

For more information, call our Study Abroad Helpline 1800 102 4646

Sharing is caring:
Book your Free Counselling Session now!

Planning to study abroad?
Get free 1-on-1 counselling with our experts

Subscribe to this blog