The Doctoral degree procedure step by step


1. Finding a supervisor and doctoral agreement

Potential doctoral students must first find a supervisor (a professor or associate professor – “Privatdozent”) in the faculty and agree with the supervisor on a dissertation topic. Then the applicant and the supervisor complete the doctoral agreement together.

In addition to the primary supervisor a second supervisor resp. evaluator must be named, at the latest when the dissertation is submitted.  As a rule, both evaluators must be professors or associate professors (Privatdozenten) belonging to the Faculty of Philosophy. Should the doctoral student wish to have an external evaluator, he or she must submit a written request to the doctoral committee.

Please note:

  • A second evaluator from outside Heidelberg University can be approved on a case to case basis if the following two conditions are fulfilled: a) the second evaluator has completed a “Habilitation” or an equivalent if he or she comes from an academic system without “Habilitation” and b) his or her home institution has the right to offer doctoral studies and award doctoral degrees.
  • A second evaluator from another faculty at Heidelberg University can be approved if he or she works in a related research field.

2. Admission as doctoral student and enrollment at the university

Before the for admission as a doctoral student you have to register with your personal data in the online portal heiDOCs. Only then you can apply for acceptance as a doctoral candidate using the appropriate forms in the doctoral office. After being admitted to the faculty by the doctoral committee, doctoral students must enroll at the university.

An exception applies to doctoral students working full-time at the university, provided they have submitted a written declaration that they do not wish to enrol.

The following documents constitute an application for admission and must be submitted to the Dean’s Office (Promotionsbüro) of the faculty:

  •  All previous university certificates or diplomas (bachelor, master etc.) and academic transcripts demonstrating that the applicant fulfils the admission requirements as defined in § 4 of the doctoral regulations (see download center); the secondary school certificates (high school diploma, baccalaureat, lise diplomasi, GCE etc) in order to show the fulfillment of the language requirements.
  • specification of the intended topic of the dissertation and a brief research proposal
  • the doctoral agreement (see download center), filled out and signed by the applicant and the supervisor
  • a curriculum vitae outlining the applicant’s personal and academic background
  • a declaration regarding any previous or current attempts to obtain a doctorate (see download center)
  • a copy of the applicant’s passport;
  • the questionnaire (see download center).

Further documentation is required in the following cases:

  • If the overall mark received for the preceding degree is lower than “good”, admission to the doctoral programme can be granted if two professors or associate professors (Privatdozenten) belonging to the faculty submit supporting statements that testify to the candidate’s academic aptitude.
  • If the doctoral subject was not the major subject of the applicant’s preceding degree, the candidate must prove his or her knowledge of the doctoral subject to the doctoral committee in a colloquium. In addition, publications and other written work by the candidate can be taken into account.
  • If the doctoral subject was neither a major nor a minor subject of the applicant’s preceding degree, the candidate must demonstrate his or her knowledge of the doctoral subject to the doctoral committee by submitting publications or other similar written work and by taking a colloquium.

The colloquium is an oral exam which takes approximately one hour. It is conducted by two examiners who are professors or associate professors (Privatdozenten) in the Faculty of Philosophy and who have been appointed by the doctoral committee. In the colloquium, the applicant has to demonstrate that he or she has the same level of knowledge in the doctoral subject as would be required to pass a Master's degree examination in accordance with the applicable examination rules and regulations of Heidelberg University. The candidate has to pass the colloquium with an overall mark of “good”.

3. Completing the dissertation

The dissertation has to be written in consultation with the supervisor. As a rule, it has to be written in German, Latin, English or French. Other languages must be requested in writing at the Dean’s Office (Promotionsbüro).

The university offers numerous training, counselling and funding opportunities through the Graduate Academy as well as through the HGGS, which can be attended during the preparation of the dissertation. The faculty also offers a funding opportunity with the Geschwister Supp Foundation.

4. Submission of the dissertation and application to defend the dissertation

The application for admission to doctoral studies is made simultaneously with the submission of the dissertation. For this purpose, the following must be submitted to the doctoral office:

  • three hard copies of the dissertation and a digital copy in a common file format  (one copy for the office, two for the evaluators)
  • an affidavit pursuant to Appendix 2 to these doctoral regulations  (see download center)
  • a signed copy of the affidavit instructions provided by the university on the meaning of the affidavit and the potential legal ramifications in case of false or incomplete statements (see download center)
  • a curriculum vitae (the CV should not contain a list of courses attended. Please put your CV with your documents separately and do not embed it inside your dissertation)
  • where applicable, evidence of compliance with the language requirements as set down by the examination rules and regulations of Heidelberg University for the corresponding Bachelor's, Master's, Magister, Diplom or teaching degree programme in the respective valid version
  • a statement by the doctoral student indicating whether he or she has previously used the dissertation or an amended version thereof as part of an examination, or submitted it to another faculty as a dissertation
  • a declaration of consent stating that the dissertation may be checked for compliance with general academic standards using electronic data processing applications
  • University degree certificates
  • the application form for admission and the questionnaire

Withdrawal of the application for admission is possible as long as the expert reports are not available.

The front page of the dissertation must be formatted as follows:

Title „xy“, Inauguraldissertation zur Erlangung der Doktorwürde der Philosophischen Fakultät der Universität Heidelberg, vorgelegt von: N.N., Erstgutachter: N.N., Zweitgutachter: N.N., Date: dd.mm.yyyy. (English: Title “xy”, Inaugural dissertation for attaining a doctorate from the Faculty of Philosophy of Heidelberg University. Submitted by: N.N., first evaluator: N.N., second evaluator: N.N., Date: dd.mm.yyyy )

You are not allowed to use the seal of Heidelberg University on the front page of your dissertation.

5. Evaluation and display of the Dissertation

After the doctoral committee receives the evaluations, the dissertation and the evaluations are available in the Dean’s Office to the professors and associate professors (Privatdozenten) of the faculty for two weeks for inspection.

6. Oral Defense (Disputation)

You will be informed when the display period is over. The doctoral committee will then appoint an examination committee, which is made up of the two evaluators and one further professor or associate professor (Privatdozent) who will act as chair of the committee. Please make a suggestion in consultation with the evaluators who should take on this task. Please report the desired composition of the examination committee to the doctoral office.

You should come to an agreement about the date and location of the oral defense with the chair of the commitee and the supervisors and communicate this information to the Dean’s Office far enough ahead of time so that the documents necessary for the examination can be prepared and sent to the chair.

The oral defense takes about 75 minutes. It consists of the candidate’s presentation of the dissertation (no longer than 15 minutes) and a question and answer session (60 minutes). The topics of the oral defense are taken from the research fields of the dissertation and the broader doctoral subject.

Awarding of results

The performance in the dissertation and disputation can be marked summa cum laude (outstanding) (0), magna cum laude (very good) (1), cum laude (good) (2), or rite (adequate) (3). Half marks cannot be awarded.

The evaluators must unanimously propose a mark for the dissertation to the doctoral committee. If the evaluators cannot agree upon this mark, a third evaluation will be necessary. The mark for the oral defense is awarded by the examination committee. The overall mark for the doctorate is the average of the marks of the dissertation and the oral defense. If this result is halfway between two grades, the mark of the dissertation is decisive.

A few days after the oral defense, you will receive a provisional confirmation of the successful completion of your doctoral studies, indicating the mark of the dissertation, the mark of the oral defense and the overall mark.

The doctoral studies are deemed to have been completed on the date of the oral defense. The right to use the title of “Doktor ” is acquired only upon receipt of the official doctoral certificate after the publication of the dissertation. The use of titles such as “Dr. des.” previous to the publication of the dissertation is not permitted.

7. Publication

When you receive the provisional confirmation of your doctoral degree, you will also receive copies of the evaluations and the imprimatur forms. When your dissertation is ready for publication, you have to send the imprimatur forms to your evaluators, who will fill out the forms and submit them to the Dean’s Office. This indicates to the publisher or the university library that the evaluators agree to the publication of the amended version of your dissertation.

Please mention in the print version (in the preface, the acknowledgements and the foreword) that the publication was submitted to Heidelberg University as a doctoral dissertation.

You may change the title according to prior agreement with the evaluators. In this case, please mention that the publication was submitted to Heidelberg University as a doctoral dissertation with the title “xy”.

The publication deadline may be extended by one year at a time upon reasoned request. Do not neglect to submit such a request. Please report in each case on the status of the preparations for publication and give reasons for your request for an extension of the deadline.

Accepted methods of publication

  • by a publishing company as part of a publication series or as a self-contained monograph, if proof of a minimum print-run of 100 copies is provided. In this case, 3 copies must be submitted to the university library (via the Dean's Office). Fewer copies may be accepted if the publisher offers a print-on-demand process to fulfil additional orders. It is the responsibility of the doctoral candidate to provide evidence of this.
  • in an academic journal published in print or electronic format. In this case, 3 copies of the thesis submitted as part of the doctoral degree procedure must be provided to the university library (via the Dean's Office). Publication in a scientific journal is only possible if the thesis is published there in its entirety.
  • by digital open access publication in the university repository operated by the university library. Additionally, one printed copy containing the same text must be submitted to the university library (via the Dean's Office). Any other electronic publication formats must be agreed upon with the university library. The doctoral committee reserves the right to decide which series, publishing houses, academic journals or compilations are suitable for publication.

The doctoral committee reserves the right to decide which series, publishing houses, scientific journals or collective works are suitable for publication.

If you want to publish parts of your doctoral research before the submission of your dissertation or before publication of the dissertation, you have to obtain the consent of your supervisor first.