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Structured Doctorate

The Freie Universität Berlin offers the opportunity to attain a Structured Doctorate, i.e. to complete a three-year doctoral programme in one of the Graduate Schools of the Dahlem Research School in addition to writing your doctoral thesis. 

The programmes are designated to initiate a regular exchange of ideas with other doctoral students as well as stable contact with a supervisory team of at least two mentors. The doctoral students are encouraged to attend conferences and publish their findings with a view to help establishing ties to the “academic community” early on.

While doctoral students in structured programmes are mostly supported by grants, some are by means of employment. The programmes are designed for a period of three years.

Prerequisites for a Structured Doctorate are the competion of a master´s programme (or equivalent) with good or very good grades, and the successful application for admission into one of the Graduate Schools.


If you wish to complete the doctoral programme in one of the Graduate Schools, you will have to direct your application to the respective Graduate School.  

Supervision of the Doctoral Procedure

The Graduate School will assign a supervisory team of at least two mentors for your doctoral project. As a rule, at least one member of the supervisory team will be a professor or senior lecturer (Privatdozent*in) of the Department of Political and Social Sciences. Your supervisor(s) and you will sign a supervisory agreement, a copy of which you will have to submit as attachment to your application for the admission as doctoral candidate (see below). 

Admission as Doctoral Candidate

The regulations for the conduct of doctoral examinations do not oblige you to apply for admission as doctoral candidate at a specific point in time. But your Graduate School might do.

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 via an online application 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 students, 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 alloted 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 need to state an estimate for the time you still need to finish your thesis and a supporting statement fron your Graduate School. For any further extension you will have to submit these documents as well as 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 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 Committe for Doctoral Examinations.   

Opening of the Doctoral Procedure

A number of copies of your doctoral thesis which is determined by the respective regulations for the conduct of doctoral procedures

  • Dr. rer. pol.: six printed and bound copies of your doctoral thesis, one digital copy on a data carrier; if applicable prior publications of parts of the thesis in the same numbers 
  • PromO Dr. phil.: one digital copy, at least one printed and bound copy (members of your doctoral commission have the right to request one additional printed copy each); if applicable prior publications of parts of the thesis in the same numbers

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

Period of Stasis

As soon as the reviews 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 reviewers.

Length of the period of stasis according to the regulations for the

  • Dr. rer. pol.: two weeks during the lecture period, extended to four weeks during the lecture-free period 
  • Dr. phil.: two weeks 

Beginning and end of all periods of stasis are being announced per mail to all authorized members of the staff. 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 reviewers 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 four different forms of publication, specifically publishing your work at your own expense, via a professional publishing house, having microfiche copies made or per online publication on the server of the university library. Once your work is published, you have to submit a specific number of mandatory copies to the Dissertations Department (Hochschulschriftenstelle) of the Freie Universtität Berlin, a division of the university library. Please always observe the requirements explained on the web pages of the library or your mandatory copies will not be accepted. Likewise please 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. An information leaflet of the Dissertations Department is provided as download. After you have met your publication duties the Dissertations Department will provide you with a receipt. 

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 immediately. 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

Daphne Stelter