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Information for Supervisors of a Doctoral Project

You have been asked to supervise a doctoral project?

If you are not sure what kind of commitment this might involve or which regulations you need to observe in the Department of Political and Social Sciences, you will find information on the role of a supervisor in a doctoral procedure, the resulting appointment as first reviewer and possibly chair of the doctoral commission, the function of the respective Committee for Doctoral Examinations and the requirements defined by the regulations for the conduct of doctoral examinations on this page. Should you have any further questions the team of the Early Career Support will be glad to help.

Role of the Supervisor

The supervisors are expected to advise their doctoral candidates when working out the theoretical and methodological frame for their doctoral projects, to be in regular consultation with them about the course of their project, their progress and any problems that might arise.

Supervisors commit themselves to comment on interim reports, drafts or finalized parts of the thesis they have been presented with by the doctoral candidates within a short period of time and to monitor their meeting of the time frame and work plan. The mutual obligations of a doctoral candidate and her/his supervisor are established in a supervisory agreement that has to be signed by both parties as well as by the Chair of the Committee for Doctoral Examinations.

Supervision and Support of a Doctoral Project

Every doctoral project has to be supervised by a qualified expert in the respective field. If you are a member of our faculty (tenured, adjunct, associate or honorary professor, or senior lecturer) or have been granted the right to supervise doctoral projects in accordance with § 6(3) of the regulations for the conduct of doctoral examinations, the competent Committee for Doctoral Examinations can appoint you as supervisor of a doctoral project. In well founded individual cases the Committee for Doctoral Examinations may also entrust a tenured professor who is not a member of our faculty with this task.

In addition to that the regulations for the conduct of doctoral examinations demand that every doctoral project has to be supported by a full professor in the Department of Political and Social Sciences. If you are a tenured member of our faculty yourself, the signed supervisory agreement will suffice. But in case you are not employed as professor in our department, your confirmation alone will not do. Someone who is a full professor in our department will have to support the doctoral project and declare her/his willingness to act as second reviewer of the doctoral thesis. If an applicant meets all prerequisites for the admission, the Committee for Doctoral Examinations will grant the admission as doctoral candidate and simultaneously appoint the supervisor.

Change of Conditions, Conflict

In case either the doctoral candidate or you wish to change the conditions that have been previously agreed upon (extension of the working period, alteration of the project´s topic, etc.), the Committee for Doctoral Examinations must be involved. Should tensions or an open conflict arise in your relationship with the candidate you are welcome to enlist the help of the department´s Conflict Counselling. Four professors have agreed to act as liaisons and will provide assistance if need be.

Instalment of the Doctoral Commission

After the doctoral thesis has been completed, the Committee for Doctoral Examinations will open the doctoral procedure. The committee will install a doctoral commission consisting of two reviewers – yourself and a second reviewer – and three further members who need not submit a written assessment. And the committee will ask one of the commission members, who has to be a full professor in our department, to chair the commission. Whenever possible, the supervisor will be asked to take the chair. The doctoral candidates are expected to approach and propose their prospective commission members, the Committee for Doctoral Examinations will appoint the members of the commission in consideration of both the formal requirements and their expertise in the respective field.

At this point a temporal discrepancy may lead to problems: while doctoral candidates understandably wish to involve the second reviewer at the earliest possible time during their writing process, the formal appointment by the Committee for Doctoral Examinations will follow at a much later point in the doctoral procedure. And according to the regulations for the conduct of doctoral examinations at least one of the reviewers in an individual doctoral procedure must be a full professor in our department at the time of her/his appointment. In the resulting time gap between the admission of the doctoral candidate and the instalment of the doctoral commission the status of the supervisor or the prospective second reviewer may have changed, thus rendering a desired combination of reviewers unfeasible.

Assessment and Period of Stasis

After the doctoral commission has been installed, the Early Career Support will provide you with a letter confirming your appointment as first reviewer and your copy of the doctoral thesis.

In your report you should evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the doctoral thesis, assess the relevance of the candidate´s findings for the broader context of the subject and point out any flaws. In your overall appraisal you need to propose that the thesis be either accepted, returned to the candidate for revisions or rejected. If you recommend its acceptance you´ll have to include your proposal for a grade according to § 10 of the regulations (summa cum laude, magna cum laude, cum laude or rite). You will have to submit your signed report per letter or mail attachment to the Early Career Support within an assessment period of 10 weeks and put it at the disposal of both your fellow commission members and the doctoral candidate who will need it in order to prepare for the oral examination.

As soon as both reviews have been submitted to the Early Career Support, a period of stasis will begin during which all professors and post docs in our faculty may read the thesis, be informed of the grades that have been proposed by the reviewers and submit their own statements which in turn have to be included in the doctoral file. 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.

Oral Examination, Agreement on the Grades

Once the period of stasis has ended the oral examination can take place and the doctoral commission can agree on the grades for the candidate´s performance (doctoral thesis, oral examination and overall grade).

The chair of the doctoral commission will make arrangements for the defense date and invite the doctoral candidate as well as the members of the commission to the defense.

In the oral examination the candidate is expected to prove his/her ability to present and discuss scientific problems. In a half-hour lecture the results of the thesis shall be presented and integrated into the broader context of the subject. During a following discussion with a length of 30 to 60 minutes the candidate is expected to defend the thesis against critique and answer the questions of the commission members.

Decisions on the respective grades shall be taken with a simple majority, all members of the commission share the same right to vote. Every member´s thorough knowledge of the thesis and its scientific context as well as the soundness of their considerations may prove decisive for the vote of the commission.