Individual Doctorate

An Individual Doctorate can be attained in every subject in which the Department of Political and Social Sciences has established a BA or MA programme in and which is represented by at least one tenured professor in the department. The completion of a master´s programme (or equivalent) in a field that is relevant to your doctoral subject with good or very good grades is the standard requirement for admission to an Individual Doctorate.

If you wish to pursue an Individual Doctorate you will not be integrated into a previously structured programme consisting of courses and workshops in order to broaden your qualifications or further your career. But you are welcome to participate in any lectures or courses which you would find interesting or useful, provided you have the prior consent of the respective lecturer. And usually your supervisor will ask you to attend his/her colloquium for doctoral candidates on a regular basis. Detailed information on seminars and lectures can be found in the annotated lecture time table for the MA and BA programmes. 


You do not have to compete with other prospective doctoral candidates for a limited number of places. If you meet the prerequisites for admission as doctoral candidate and have found a supervisor for your doctoral project, you may apply for the admission at any given time.  

Supervision and Support of the Doctoral Procedure

The supervisor for your doctoral project will not be assigned, you will have to find her or him yourself. As a rule the supervisor will need to be a professor or senior lecturer (PrivatdozentIn) of the Department of Political and Social Sciences. But there are a few exceptions: select members of institutions our department have a cooperation with are authorized to supervise doctoral projects. And in well-founded cases professors who are not or no longer members of the faculty (eg. retired professors) can act as supervisors as well. You will find detailed information in the regulations for the conduct of doctoral examinations as well as on the homepages of the institutes and Central Institutes. 

Please keep in mind that every doctoral project has to be supported by at least one of the full professors in our department. If your supervisor is a full professor her- or himself, no further action is necessary. If not, you will have to submit a letter of support from someone who is in addition to the letter of confirmation from your  supervisor.

Admission as Doctoral Candidate

You do not have to observe application periods or deadlines and may submit your application for the admission as  doctoral candidate (pdf) at any given time.

After you have submitted the complete set of documents to the Early Career Support, the Committee for Doctoral Examinations which is in charge of your doctoral subject will determine whether you meet the relevant criteria in their next meeting. If this is the case, admission will be granted. Depending on your qualifications the admission can either be unconditional or prior to the condition that you broaden your knowledge in the chosen field by attending specific courses. In any case you will receive a letter by the Committee for Doctoral Examinations informing you of their decision.

If you are not employed by the Freie Universität Berlin, you are obliged to register in the Student Records and Registration Office of the Freie Universität Berlin within a period of four weeks after having been admitted as doctoral candidate. If you fail to register, the admission is void and you will have to re-apply for admission. Employees of the Freie Universität Berlin are being asked to register, but are under no obligation to do so.

Writing Period for the Doctoral Thesis

The regulations for the conduct of doctoral examinations define a core period of three years in which you are expected to write your doctoral thesis. Quite a few doctoral candidates, however, find themselves unable to meet the three-year-deadline due to their professional duties. Should it become apparent that you will not be able to finish the work on your doctoral thesis within the allotted time, please apply to the Committee for Doctoral Examinations to extend the working period of your doctoral thesis. If it is the first extension you are applying for you just need to state an estimate for the time you still need to finish your thesis. For any further extension you will have to submit proof of the status of your work and a supporting statement from your supervisor.

Please remember that the Student Records and Registration Office have limited your registration period to eight semesters (writing period plus two semesters for the assessment of your thesis and its defense) and that you will not be able to re-register for any higher semester unless you submit proof that your writing period has been extended by the Committee for Doctoral Examinations.

Opening of the Doctoral Procedure

Six copies of your doctoral thesis as well as the filled-in application form for the Opening of the Doctoral Procedure (pdf) are to be submitted to the Early Career Support.

Please use the chance to make proposals for your prospective second assessor and the three further members of your doctoral commission. While your suggestions are not legally binding to the Committee for Doctoral Examinations, they will nevertheless try and take them into account. Please consult the instructions for the constitution of doctoral commissions you will find in the regulations for the conduct of doctoral examinations before recommending your prospective commission members.

The Committee for Doctoral Examinations will open the doctoral procedure and appoint a doctoral commission which consists of five members and is usually headed by the supervisor.

Assessment of your Doctoral Thesis

The assessors of your doctoral thesis are entitled to an assessment period of ten weeks. They will submit their assessments to the Early Career Support. Since the Committee for Doctoral Examinations always request that the assessments be made available to the doctoral candidates and the other members of the doctoral commission, you should receive the assessments directly from your assessors. Please make sure that you acknowledge your assessors´ critique and deal with it in your defense.

Period of Stasis

Aa soon as the assessments have been submitted to the Early Career Support, a period of stasis will begin, during which all members of the faculty who have attained at least a doctorate themselves, may peruse your doctoral thesis and be informed of the grades that have been suggested by your assessors. During the lecture period the period of stasis has a length of two weeks, during the lecture-free period it is extended to four weeks.  

Beginning and end of all periods of stasis are being announced on the notice board of the Early Career Support. The period of stasis has to be observed at all events.  


In the defense you will have to present your findings, defend your thesis against the critique your assessors have stated in their evaluation, and elaborate on how it fits into the greater context of the scientific field.

The disputation may not take place before the period of stasis has run out. Your doctoral commission and its chair person in particular is expected to make mutual arrangements for the defense date and invite the doctoral candidate as well as the members of the commission to the defense. It is mandatory that every single member of the commission attends the defence and participates in the decision on the grades. Should a commission member be foreseeably unable to attend,  either a new defense date must be agreed upon or an application filed with the Committee for Doctoral Examinations to appoint a substitute member.

The doctoral commission will ask one of the members to chair the discussion; this position can be filled either by the chair of the commission or any other member.

Prior to the actual defense the doctoral commission will determine the grade for the doctoral thesis in a brief meeting and immediately afterwards the grade for the defense and the overall grade will be agreed upon.   

Preliminary Certificate

As soon as possible after the defense proceedings have been closed and your file returned to the Early Career Support a preliminary certificate confirming the successful completion of your doctoral procedure will be handed over or sent to you. 

Publication of the Doctoral Thesis

Having successfully completed your doctoral procedure you are obliged to publish your dissertation within a period of two years. The publication period can be extended by the Committee for Doctoral Examinations upon request. Currently you have a choice between five different forms of publication. Once your work is published, you have to submit a specific number of mandatory copies to the Hochschulschriftenstelle of the Freie Universtität Berlin, a division of the university library. Please always consult the library´s web page on Doctoral Degree Regulations, you will find the latest information on the number of mandatory copies for your form of publication there. The Hochschulschriftenstelle will provide you with a receipt confirming you have met your publication duties. 

Doctoral Certificate

As soon as you produce the receipt issued by the Hochschulschriftenstelle in the Early Career Support, your doctoral certificate will either be handed over or sent to you. Simultaneously the academic grade (Dr. phil., Dr. rer. pol. or PhD) will be conferred. Please keep in mind that presenting the receipt is indispensable, the Legal Department of the Freie Universität Berlin have strictly prohibited to confer a doctoral certificate on the mere basis of a contract with a publishing house. 

Your Contact in the Early Career Support

Janis-Marie Paul, Daphne Stelter