PhD in Germany: Fees & Funding

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Overview of fees

There are normally no tuition fees since the PhD programmes at universities and research institutions are publicly funded. At some universities, doctoral students have to pay an administrative fee per semester (Semesterbeitrag) which covers student services, public transport etc. Other than that, you will have to cover your living expenses including rent, food, clothing, telephone etc.

Breakdown of funding

Germany is keen to attract international PhD students in all disciplines and there is a wealth of funding opportunities available. As well as universities, there are also numerous funding programmes for highly talented students to carry out German doctoral studies within external research institutes.

More than 32,000 (source: Research In international PhD students are currently in receipt of funding in Germany, from a variety of sources. German industry and private companies make the largest contribution to funding PhD candidates and nurture talent through dual study programmes and internships. There are also a number of funding opportunities offered by non-university research organisations and over 20,000 foundations (source: DAAD) committed to promoting research also provide their own scholarships, bursaries and loans. You can find an overview of studying for a PhD in Germany.

What funding is available?

Funding for doctoral studies in Germany is available through universities, public and private funding bodies as well as numerous research foundations, charities, companies and European Union initiatives. Funding is provided for basic and specific research in virtually all areas, whether you are looking to follow a ‘traditional’ individual PhD route or through a structured doctoral programme route. In general, doctoral students in Germany either work on a research project (paid PhD position) or receive a scholarship. A scholarship is granted for a limited time - as a rule for two to three years - and students usually have to reapply every year.

Germany offers numerous funding sources for international doctoral candidates. The largest scholarship provider in Germany (and the world) is the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) which focuses on promoting the internationalisation of German learning and research activities in all areas. The DAAD website features a vast database which can help doctoral candidates search all the scholarships, grants, bursaries and loans available.

The second largest funding body in Germany is the state-backed German Research Foundation (DFG) which brings together higher education institutions and other research organisations. The DFG funds research in all disciplines and provided support for over 14,000 individual doctoral projects in 2014.

Some non-university organisations such as the Max Planck Society, Helmholtz Association and Fraunhofer Society, although not able to award doctorates themselves, collaborate with universities to offer doctoral scholarships and paid positions through their own research agendas and programmes. There are a multitude of further opportunities for PhD candidates to apply for funding, through public, private and EU-wide organisations. See below for more information.

Funding organisations

Here you will find a list of Germany’s major funding organisations, both public and private. Most organisations have searchable databases where you can input your research interests to find tailored information about grants, scholarships and loans.

  1. DAAD: Germany’s largest scholarship provider
  2. DFG: Science and research organisation funded by the German Federal Government, providing grants and scholarships to students around the world.
  3. Research in Germany website: Funding programme database for PhD candidates.
  4. Stipendien Lotse: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) scholarship database, providing information about funding opportunities in German companies such as Airbus and Bayer. In German.
  5. Horizon Initiative 2020: European Union Framework Programme for Research and Information.
  6. Max Planck Society: Non-university research organisation which funds doctoral studies through its International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS).
  7. Fraunhofer Society: Non-university research organisation offering scholarships and paid positions.
  8. Helmholtz Association: Non-university research organisation offering scholarships and paid positions through its 18 Helmholtz Centres.
  9. Marie-Sklodowska-Curie European Fellowships: Grants and scholarships across all disciplines.