Frequently Asked Questions about Pursuing a Doctorate

    Making a decision on whether to pursue a doctorate

  • What is the motivation for pursuing a doctoral degree?

    There are many good reasons for pursuing a doctorate. However, according to the 2020 Nacaps survey among doctoral students, interest and enjoyment in research are among the most frequently cited motives. This is followed by personal motives and the prospect of finding an exciting, well-paid job.

    No matter what your reasons are for considering a doctorate – the sheer pleasure of doing research and the intellectual challenge should play a role in any case. If, on the other hand, you primarily want to fulfill your own or others' expectations, or if you rush into a doctorate for lack of alternatives, you will most likely experience it as a burden and be more inclined to drop out prematurely.

    Do you need help in reaching a decision?

    We’re happy to advise you.

  • How does a doctorate at a chair differ from a doctorate within a structured doctoral program?

    If you decide to pursue a doctorate directly at a chair, you will work on your doctoral dissertation project largely independently and without being tied to a fixed academic training program. During your doctoral studies, you will be supervised by a professor of your choice. A structured doctoral program, on the other hand, is completed within the framework of a fixed curriculum together with other doctoral students. You will not only be supervised by one person, but by a team of several professors.

    There are also differences with regard to your funding options: Structured doctoral programs usually ensure that their doctoral students are financed through fellowships. However, if you are doing your doctorate at a chair, you have to take care of your own livelihood – be it through an employment at the university, through a job at another institution outside the university, or through a fellowship, which, however, you have to apply for yourself.

    Those who like to work independently and value greater freedom and flexibility will feel comfortable with an individual doctorate at a chair. Those who value fixed structures, binding schedules, and more intensive supervision, on the other hand, may want to consider a structured doctoral program.

    For those who would like to do their doctorate part-time, i.e. who want to continue their employment relationship, for example in business, in parallel to their doctorate, the only option to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Mannheim is by completing an individual doctorate directly at a chair.

    Please note:

    Which path to a doctorate is suitable for you – an individual doctorate at a chair or a doctorate within a structured doctoral program – largely depends on your field of study and the preference of the respective chair or your supervisor: At the University of Mannheim, it is possible to pursue a doctorate in a structured doctoral program in Economics, Business Administration, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, and Mathematics in Business and Economics. In addition, all schools and departments – with the exception of the Department of Economics – generally also offer the possibility of pursuing an individual doctorate directly at a chair. If you are interested in pursuing a doctorate at the University of Mannheim and already have a professor in mind as your supervisor, we strongly recommend that you establish contact at an early stage and find out about the possible paths to a doctorate offered at the respective chair.

  • What opportunities does the University of Mannheim offer for pursuing a doctorate?

    At the University of Mannheim, you can pursue a doctorate either directly at a chair or within the framework of a structured doctoral program. The Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences (GESS) offers doctoral programs in business administration, economics, psychology, sociology, and political science that have an international focus and are taught in English. These prepare early-stage researchers in a targeted manner for a career in academia.

    For more information, please see “Doctoral Studies at the University of Mannheim”

  • Which requirements do I have to fulfill in order to be able to pursue a doctorate at the University of Mannheim?

    As a rule, you must hold a university degree (a master's degree, Diplom, Magister or state examination) with a final grade of “good” or better. In exceptional cases, a very good bachelor's degree may be sufficient. In addition, you need an agreement on the supervision of your doctoral dissertation from a professor. To find out which requirements apply specifically to your subject, please refer to the regulations and procedures governing the doctoral dissertation of the respective school/department.

    View the current non-official versions of the regulations and procedures governing the doctoral dissertation

  • Do I have to enroll as a doctoral student?

    Yes. According to section 38 subsection 5 LHG, you have to enroll once you have been accepted as a doctoral student by the University of Mannheim. Once you have been accepted as a doctoral student, you are automatically enrolled and remain enrolled (so-called “mandatory enrollment”) until you have successfully passed the oral defense (Disputation) or the oral examination to obtain a doctoral degree (Rigorosum). There is an exception for those doctoral candidates who are employed at the University of Mannheim under the Collective Agreement for Public Service Employees of the German Länder, TV-L, and whose working time equals at least 50 percent of the regular working time of a full-time position. These persons my submit a written request to be exempted from mandatory enrollment for the duration of the employment relationship.

    For more information, please see “Admission and Enrollment”

  • What costs will I incur during my doctorate?

    Doctoral students who are enrolled at the University of Mannheim must pay a semester fee in the amount of currently EUR 190.30 per semester. Doctoral candidates who are exempt from mandatory enrollment are not required to pay this fee. Tuition fees are not charged for the duration of the doctorate, not even for international doctoral candidates from countries outside of the EU/EEA.

    Please keep in mind that you will not only have to provide for your living expenses (housing, Internet and telephone, food, etc.) during your doctoral studies, but may also have to pay for your health insurance and any other insurances.

    If you are planning to travel to conferences, workshops or even to spend a research stay abroad, you can apply for grants at the University of Mannheim or at external funding organizations, foundations or similar. However, these may not cover the entire costs of the stay and travel, which is why you should possibly expect to have to pay extra.

    For more information, please see “Insurances for Doctoral Students”

  • What options do I have to finance my doctorate?

    Generally, you have three financing options for your doctoral studies:

    1. You can either work at the university, e.g. as an academic staff member,
    2. be employed at another institution outside the university
    3. or apply for a doctoral fellowship.


    Fore more information, please see “Financing”

    Preparing your doctorate

  • I would like to complete a doctoral program at the Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences (GESS). What do I need to know about the application process?

    Applying to the GESS is only possible via the GESS online portal, which is activated between November and March each year. The preliminary application deadline for early birds is either January 15 or January 31 each year, depending on the center (business administration, economics, social sciences). After that, applications must be submitted by March 31 at the latest.

    For more information, please see the website of the GESS.

    Go directly to the GESS application

  • I would like to pursue a doctorate directly at a chair. How do I find a doctoral supervisor?

    Students envisaging to pursue a doctorate directly at a chair must find their own supervisor. As a rule, the university's professors, junior professors, and senior academic staff members (Privatdozenten) are eligible as doctoral supervisors. The exact regulations are stipulated in the regulations and procedures governing the doctoral dissertation of the individual schools/departments.

    Before contacting a professor, please familiarize yourself with their research focus and check whether your thematic focus and research interests are covered at the respective chair. It may also help to take a look at the doctoral dissertation projects currently supervised at the chair in question. The websites of the individual chairs provide a lot of information in this regard.

    To establish contacts we recommend sending an e-mail introducing yourself and giving a brief summary of your dissertation project. If you have already prepared a research proposal, you can attach it to your e-mail.

    Doctoral students participating in a structured program do not have to take care of their supervision during their doctoral studies. In these programs, a team consisting of several professors will be responsible for the supervision of your doctoral dissertation project. 

  • What are the next steps once I have found a supervisor?

    As soon as you have received an agreement on the supervision of your doctoral dissertation from a professor, you will jointly conclude an advising agreement. This is intended to make the relationship between the doctoral students and their supervisors more transparent in terms of content and time and to define it by mutual agreement. Part of the advising agreement are a structured work and time schedule as well as agreements on progress meetings and/or feedback.

    Then you have to submit an application for admission as a doctoral student to the dean's office of your school/department.

    Fore more information, please see “Admission and Enrollment”

  • How do I get access to IT services and the University Library?

    To use the services of the University IT (UNIT) and the University Library (UB), you need a personal user ID and the corresponding initial password. Both are automatically generated and assigned to you. The first thing you need to do after you log in to the portal for the first time, is to change the initial password.

    Doctoral students who are not employed at the University of Mannheim will receive the user ID and the initial password after enrollment and as soon as the semester fee has been paid and booked.

    Doctoral candidates who are employed at the University of Mannheim will receive their personal user ID and the initial password together with their employment documents. If you already have a student ID and change to an employment relationship for your doctorate, no new ID will be generated. In this case, please submit a modification request (Änderungsantrag) so that your personal user ID will be updated to match your new status.

    For more information, please see “User ID becomes Uni-ID”

  • What is the ecUM, what do I need it for and where do I get it?

    The electronic card of the University of Mannheim (ecUM) is your university membership card and bundles various functions. You can use it...

    • as a student ID card with a stamp of the period of validity,
    • as a library ID card (with personal global user ID),
    • for cashless payment at the Mensa, EO Cafeteria, and Café Soleil,
    • to use the lockers at the University Library,
    • for different functions at the self-service terminals,
    • to transfer money to your print account,
    • as your semester ticket.

    To get your ecUM, please proceed as follows:

    First upload a photo to Portal² under “ecUM-Foto-Upload”. Access to the Portal² is via the login, for which you need your user ID and the corresponding password. As soon as you have uploaded your photo, your ecUM will be created and you will receive a notification by e-mail informing you where and when you can pick up your ecUM.

    More about the ecUM

    During your doctoral studies

  • I am encountering problems with my supervisor. Where can I find support and advice?

    No matter what problem is bothering you: We treat your inquiry confidential and will not take any action without your consent. If you encounter conflicts with your supervisor, you can first contact us, the staff members of the Central Doctoral Students' Office in Division I. We will discuss your concerns with you confidentially and provide initial assistance for the next steps. In the case of more serious conflicts, we recommend that you consult the ombudspersons for doctoral students, who will act as neutral mediators between you and your doctoral supervisor.

    For more information, please see “Advising in Cases of Conflict”

  • I would like to have more contact with other doctoral students. What opportunities do I have?

    There are several ways to get in touch with other doctoral students:

    • Get to know other doctoral students at your chair. Team meetings or research colloquiums are good opportunities to do so.
    • Most schools and departments organize regular meetings and get-togethers for doctoral students. For more information, please contact the doctoral students' council of your school/department and their representatives.
    • Visit the events organized by the council’s chair. These are always aimed at all doctoral students at the university and are a great opportunity to get to know like-minded people in a relaxed atmosphere. 
    • You can also meet doctoral students from other departments, for example, at the Open Science Meetup. The members meet regularly for relaxed discussions around the topic of “Open Science”.
    • A good tip not only for women: The manifold events organized by the WUMAN network, where you can exchange ideas and network with other female and male researchers.
    • Take part in our breakfast for early-stage researchers, which takes place once a year and combines the pleasant with the useful: Over coffee and croissants, you can get to know the various services that the University of Mannheim offers to early-stage researchers and exchange ideas with other doctoral candidates.
    • Take advantage of the opportunity to take part in interdisciplinary workshops and trainings. Many friendships have been made and working groups have been formed during the workshops and seminars.

    For more information, please see “Networking”

  • I would like to travel abroad for a conference or summer school. Can I apply for financial support for this?

    Yes. The IDEUM and Women go abroad programs provide financial support for studying abroad in the form of grants. IDEUM is open to male and female doctoral students, while only female doctoral candidates can apply for Women go abroad.

    For more information, please see “Going Abroad”

  • I would like to gain further qualifications in interdisciplinary workshops and trainings. What opportunities are available?

    The University of Mannheim offers workshops and advanced trainings for doctoral students in many areas. For example, those who would like to improve their writing skills or reflect on the writing process itself will find the right training within the framework of the Doc Writing Lab, the writing workshop for doctoral students. In addition, the university regularly offers workshops on presentation techniques, communication, and career development. The University Library also supports you with courses on academic writing and research. Female doctoral students can participate in the acadeMIA program offered by the Department of Equal Opportunity and Social Diversity, and can take advantage of a wide range of measures to support them on their way to a doctoral degree. 

    We have compiled an overview of all workshops and trainings for you:

    All events for doctoral students at a glance

    The German act on fixed-term contracts in academia (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz, WissZeitVG)

  • What is the German act on fixed-term contracts in academia (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz, WissZeitVG)?

    The Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG) is an act on fixed-term employment contracts for academics in Germany.

  • What does the German act on fixed-term contracts in academia (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz, WissZeitVG) cover?

    The WissZeitVG stipulates how long a higher education institution (or any other German research institution) is authorized to employ an academic staff member on a fixed-term basis.

  • Whom does it apply to?

    The act applies to nearly every academic employee participating in research and teaching or artistic work with a fixed-term employment contract who is paid from the university’s budget (especially doctoral candidates, postdocs, habilitation candidates, lecturers for special assignments, etc.). However, the WissZeitVG does not apply to professors and junior professors.

  • What does the 12-year rule (“Zwölfjahresregel”) of the WissZeitVG mean?

    Academic staff members may not be employed with fixed-term contracts at a higher education institution for more than six years each for the two respective qualification phases, the doctorate and the habilitation. After these 12 years of qualification, academic staff members must only be employed on a permanent basis or own a professorship by then. If a doctoral candidate successfully completes their doctorate after less than six years, the “unused” years before completion of the doctoral program can be added to the six years after completion of the doctoral program (so-called “eingesparte Promotionszeiten”).

  • Can the 12-year rule be extended?

    If a doctoral candidate has to care for biological children, stepchildren or foster children under the age of 18, the six or twelve years can be extended for two years per child. If a doctoral candidate has a disability or chronic illness, the 12-year rule can be extended for two years.

  • Are there any exceptions from the 12-year rule?

    Fixed-term employment contracts in research projects financed through external funding can still be concluded after the 12 years, as there is a specific factual reason for temporary employment. The duration of the temporary employment depends on that of the research project. When a person has completed their doctorate and habilitation in research projects financed through external funding, these years will be taken into account in accordance with the WissZeitVG.