FAQ for PhD stu­dents

On this page, we have compiled the frequently asked questions and answers for you. These are arranged chronologically and are oriented towards the course of your doctoral studies.

Be­fore the doc­tor­ate

Please take a look at our websites for those interested in a PhD and schedule an individual advising appointment with Dr. Anda-Lisa Harmening.

There are different ways to find a supervisor. Sometimes professors will talk to you directly, but you can contact them just as well. Supervision should always be arranged according to topic, so that the topic of the dissertation and the research focus of the supervisor match.

You are subject to the doctoral regulations that are current at the time you submit your thesis to the doctoral committee.

There are many possibilities for financial aid – these range from employment to scholarships. Since the offers are far and wide: come and talk to us during our office hours!

Yes. You can find information about the compensation options here (website only available in German).

You have to submit proof that you accomplished additional requirements (credit points) regarding the subject you are completing your PhD in.

For example: If you are a PhD student in Educational Science but completed your BA and MA degree in a different subject, you may have to acquire additional credit points as a requirement before completing your PhD.

You need to hand in proof of completion of these credit points to your supervisor, who will send an informal confirmation to the Promotionsausschuss (PhD board) that all required achievements have been fulfilled. Alternatively, you can use this form (form only available in German).

  • Your research question(s);
  • Current state of research reg. the research tradition(s);
  • Contribution to the field(s) of research;
  • Research methodology;
  • Bibliography.


A 1-2 page synopsis is a requirement to be accepted as a doctoral candidate by the Promotionsausschuss (PhD board).

The writing center Kompetenzzentrum Schreiben offers a workshop for the preparation of exposés. Further information can be found here (website only available in German).

Contact the writing center Kompetenzzentrum Schreiben for writing consultations.

Doc­tor­al stud­ies

You need to be enrolled as a PhD student in order to enter the final phase of your PhD process (Promotionsverfahren).

Further information about formalities.

You receive

  • the Semesterticket, which is the public transit ticket (semester-long validity) for students to travel in North Rhine-Westphalia free of charge (please be mindful of certain restrictions that apply);
  • the local student ID that allows you to receive many discounts throughout the university (e.g. on meals at the Mensa or Cafeteria) as well as the city (e.g. at movie theaters, bakeries, etc.);
  • the local library card (Bibliotheksausweis; currently only available in German) that you can use to borrow books at the university library.
  • In addition, you can plan a stay abroad at one of our partner universities, if they offer so called 3rd cycle mobility for PhD students. Further information on partner universities.

You are also eligible to receive a discounted student rate that many health insurance companies offer (depending on the health insurance company this may not apply for scholarship holders).

You can always hand in your documents and apply to become a PhD student at UPB. There are no periods or deadlines! Please allow approximately two weeks processing time.

You need to apply only via PAUL (our course management system).

If you are an international student/candidate without a German passport or if you have received your university entrance qualification or university degrees outside of Germany, you have to contact the International Office.

Steps to follow the above-mentioned procedures, if you are a graduate student or just graduated with an M.A. (or equivalent) degree at/from UPB:

  • Apply to the PhD board to be accepted as a PhD student (see “Phase I” of formalities);
  • Hand in: 
    • (1) conformation of said application,
    • (2) copy of your university degree(s)
    • (3) application to switch your enrollment status from student to PhD student.

Steps to follow the above-mentioned procedures, if you are not enrolled as a student at UPB:

  • Apply to the PhD board to be accepted as a PhD student (see “Phase I” of formalities);
  • Hand in: 
    • (1) Copy of ID card,
    • (2) proof of health insurance or certificate of exemption (if you are insured through private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherung); see  Studierendenkrankenversicherungs-Meldeverordnung (only available in German))
    • (3) officially certified/attested copy of your university degree(s),
    • (4) certificate of de-registration from last university attended.

See further information to enroll as a PhD student.

The doctoral regulations do not specify a maximum duration for the completion of a dissertation at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. If you are employed at a university, your employment contract specifies a maximum duration of six years in a fixed-term employment relationship.

The Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG - German law on fixed-term contracts in academia) generally allows the fixed-term employment of academic and artistic staff for qualification purposes for a period of 12 years, six years before and six years after the completion of the doctorate. There are possibilities for extension, for instance when taking care of children under the age of 18 and/or caring for a close relative. Few people know that a disability or chronic illness also extends the maximum period of fixed-term employment permitted under the WissZeitVG by two years. To qualify for a disability, the employee must present a corresponding certificate in accordance with the provisions of the Sozialgesetzbuch (German Social Security Code). Similarly, a serious chronic illness must be proven, and a medical certificate is required. Generally, when assessing if a person has a severe chronic illness, HR departments follow the so-called „Chroniker-Richtlinie“ ("Chronic Illness Guideline") of the gemeinsamer Bundesausschuss (Federal Joint Committee). Even if the maximum fixed-term period permitted under the WissZeitVGis extended due to disability or chronic illness, employees are not legally entitled to employment by the university for all of the maximum period. Whether a further employment contract is offered is the discretion of the university.

The topic of the doctoral dissertation can be changed even after admission to the doctoral programme. A new synopsis is only required if this involves a change of supervisor.


As a scholarship holder, you are generally required to take out insurance yourself. Some health insurance companies still classify scholarship holders as students, while other health insurance companies consider scholarship holders to be employees. 

The 6-year-rule does not necessarily apply to scholarship holders, because they usually are only allowed to work a maximum amount of 10 hours per week and therefore less than 25 percent. If a scholarship holder is allowed to work more than the aforementioned 25 percent, the 6-year-rule applies to them as well. Please always refer to your individual scholarship regulations in order to confirm which rules apply to your case.

However, if one obtains further qualifications after completing the doctorate, then the years "saved" in the first qualification phase (which resulted from the form of employment outlined above) are not added to the new six years.

Work dur­ing the doc­tor­al phase

In general:

In accordance with the WissZeitVG (German law on fixed-term contracts in academia) (only available in German), no PhD student employed at a German university may be under short-term contract for longer than 6 years.

It is possible to apply for a personal study room at UPB library (Universitätsbibliothek; currently only available in German). There are eleven individual study rooms available that can be applied for through the UPB library’s application form (currently only available in German).

Doc­tor­al dis­ser­ta­tion and dis­pu­ta­tion

The Promotionsausschuss (PhD board) does not prescribe any guidelines for the design of dissertations. Please refer to the guidelines of your subject and contact your supervisor if you have any questions.

The dissertation/PhD theses can also be written in English, French or Spanish without a special application. Dissertations written in English no longer need to be accompanied by German abstracts.

The PhD-committee usually consists of four members: the two supervisors, the chairperson and one other member. Only professors (in accordance with § 11 Para. 1 No. 1 HG), außerplanmäßige Professor*innen (adjunct professors), private lecturers (PDs), honorary professors, postdoctoral lecturers and at most one research assistant holding a doctorate degree may be members of the PhD-committee. The chairperson must not be a supervisor at the same time.

In most subjects, the dissertation still takes the form of a monograph. In Educational Sciences and Psychology, a kumulative Promotion (article-based dissertation) is also possible. For further information, please refer to the PhD regulations (only available in German).

Once the oral thesis defense is passed, the PhD Committee determines the overall grade for the PhD immediately following the evaluation of the thesis defense; this is done in accordance with § 16, Para. 5. Generally, the grades of the dissertation and the thesis defense have a bearing of 2 : 1 on the overall grade. Only if the dissertation and the thesis defense have been graded with distinction, an overall grade with distinction can be awarded. The chairperson of the Promotionsauschuss (PhD Board) informs the doctoral candidate of the overall grade immediately.

The doctoral regulations state that a dissertation will not be accepted if it has already been published in its entirety. In exceptional cases, the Promotionsausschuss (PhD board) may, upon recommendation of the Promotionskommission (PhD committee), accept already published parts as part of the dissertation.

Furthermore, the following applies: Content of your dissertation that has already been published may not be included in the dissertation in the same wording. If you publish findings that are also relevant to your dissertation in advance and elsewhere, indicate the additional publication in a footnote within the dissertation and refer to the emerging dissertation within the publication. This will help you avoid self-plagiarism. The key is to avoid using the same wording.

The members of the Clearing House at the Graduate Center are your first point of contact in cases of conflict. In case of conflicts concerning formalities, the members of the PhD board are also there to help you.

The members of the PhD board are available to you in these situations. Furthermore, you and your supervisor could determine at an early stage who else might be available to help you if issues arise.

According to § 21 of the Promotionsordnung, the doctoral title may be used after the dean has issued the certificate. The prerequisite for the award of the certificate is the submission of a publishing contract with a minimum print run of 150 copies or electronic publication via the university library (see § 20 of the doctoral regulations).

Pub­lic­a­tion of the doc­tor­al dis­ser­ta­tion

You can publish your dissertation online via the university library and/or with an academic publisher.

Find more information on the publication of your dissertation.

Yes, this is possible. It is possible to then publish it in another online format as well as with a publishing house.

Find more information on the publication of your dissertation.

In paragraph 20 of the doctoral regulations there are hints and possibilities for the publication of the dissertation. One hint refers to the mention within the published work that the work is a dissertation and was supervised in Paderborn. This can be implemented as follows: Submitted as a dissertation, Paderborn

The PhD Regulations (paragraph 19 page 15) state the following requirements:

1. If the publication is distributed via the book market by a commercial publisher with a minimum print run of 150 copies (and the publication is marked as a dissertation, indicating the dissertation location on the back of the title page), two voucher copies must be submitted to the university library.

2. If an electronic version (including an abstract in German and English; max. 1500 characters each) is submitted, for which the data format will be approved by the university library, one print voucher copy needs be sent to the university library. This copy must be in the same format as the copy for the examination file, with the exception of the declarations of § 12 para. 3