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Karlsruhe House of Young Scientists (KHYS)

Straße am Forum 3
76131 Karlsruhe

Tel:  +49 (0)721 608-46185
Fax: +49 (0)721 608-46222

Geb. 30.96
June 2020
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  KHYS-Handbuch Promovieren am KIT

Doing a doctorate at KIT

First steps: 

KIT with its outstanding integration of a research-oriented university and a national research center of the Helmholtz Association provides extensive working opportunities and far-reaching career prospects. Research is conducted at around 130 institutes and ranges from basic research to application in the form of products and processes.


KIT offers:

Visit KHYS web pages to get an overview of e.g. important formalities and contact persons. The guide “Promovieren am Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)” (German only) provides additional comprehensive information and guidance. If you have further questions regarding the doctorate at KIT, please send an e-mail to info∂khys.kit.edu.


Forms of doing a doctorate

At KIT, there are many ways to do a doctorate. The so-called individual doctorate is the classic form of pursuing a doctorate in Germany. It is characterized in particular by the one-to-one supervision of doctoral researchers by a university member who can serve as supervisor. As a rule, the doctoral researchers themselves find a supervisor and agree with this person on the research topic. The doctoral researchers at KIT are usually involved in a working group and / or research groups and industrial projects. Funding is often provided via third-party funded projects from industry and research or individual scholarships.


KIT’s more than 20 doctoral programs (graduate schools, research training groups etc.) offer the opportunity for doing a doctorate as part of a research program and within the framework of a structured training and supervision concept. The focus of the doctoral programs is to train of doctoral researchers in promising research topics and to support their personal career development and scientific independence.

This video explains the difference between the individual doctorate and the doctorate in a structured program.


Another option are binational doctoral degrees (the so-called cotutelle de thèse). In this form, you receive your doctorate from two universities in different countries, which means that you obtain a doctorate awarded by two universities. In principle, doing a binational doctorate is possible at all KIT Departments and with all foreign universities worldwide, provided that the legal framework of the countries and universities involved permit it.


At KIT you can do your doctorate in the following disciplines:

  • Natural sciences 
  • Engineering 
  • Economics 
  • The humanities 
  • Social sciences


You can pursue your doctorate at one of eleven KIT Departments:

In general, one can say that the duration of the doctorate is between three and five years – depending on the form of the doctorate and the subject. Apart from the first steps for starting the doctorate mentioned above, further steps at the end of your doctoral research period would be submitting a request for starting the doctoral examination process to the KIT Department. You then will have to pass an oral examination. Depending on the respective KIT Department and the topic of your doctorate you can obtain the academic degree Dr. rer. nat., Dr.-Ing., Dr. phil. or Dr. rer. pol. However, you can only hold the title once you have published the doctoral thesis.


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Finding a supervisor

For the individual doctorate there is no central office where you can apply as a doctoral candidate. This means on the one hand that there is no specific application deadline. On the other hand, you will have to take matters into your own hands. Usually you will have to find a KIT professor who agrees to supervise your PhD (in general, lecturers with the title Professor, Juniorprofessor or private lecturer (Priv.-Doz./PD) can function as supervisors of the doctorate; please refer to the doctoral ordinance of the respective KIT Department for more information). If you have not approached a KIT professor yet, please have a look at the relevant KIT Department website and contact an appropriate supervisor via e-mail. Remember to attach your CV and a research proposal. It is important that you make clear in your e-mail that you have actually looked into the research the professor is doing. Do not send general e-mails. Instead, please make sure that the e-mail is specifically tailored to the one professor you are addressing. Please note that in most cases it is a prerequisite that you have graduated in the same field or a related field in which you plan to do your PhD.

Due to a busy schedule professors sometimes do not answer your query immediately. If you have not heard from them within two weeks, do not hesitate to get in contact again. It may also be useful to contact the corresponding secretary/administrative assistant or the group leader for the topic you are interested in (if applicable).

Alternatively, you can have a look at open PhD positions that may have been posted on the KIT job websites  (under "Academic staff" and/or "PhD students (m/f/d)").

Alternatively, you can pursue your PhD within the framework of a PhD program. The KIT PhD programs offer the opportunity to acquire a doctoral degree within a research program and a structured qualification concept. The PhD programs focus on the training of PhD students in seminal research topics and on the support of their individual career development and scientific self-reliance. Furthermore, the programs assist early networking, internationalization and interdisciplinary cooperation of postgraduates. KIT offers young scientists a variety of PhD programs in several disciplines: Graduate Schools, Research Training Groups and other programs.

The different programs have distinct application deadlines and prerequisites to participate. Please check out the corresponding website or contact the respective person in charge (you can find the contact details on the respective website).

Admission requirements

It is important that you check early on whether your academic degree complies with the admission requirements to pursue a PhD in Germany. These are usually:

  • Completed German Diploma, Magister, Master’s or Staatsexamen ('German State Examination')
  • Foreign Diplomas or Master’s Degrees have to be equivalent to German Diplomas or Master’s. To obtain the approval of foreign diplomas or master’s degrees your future supervisor can contact the International Students Office (IStO) of KIT and ask for assistance in this matter.

In addition, you may want to check which regulations are listed in the so-called “Promotionsordnung” (‘doctoral ordinance’) of your KIT Department. This document provides the legal framework for pursuing a PhD at the respective department. For legal reasons, these documents are available in German only.

Please note that, the doctoral research committee of the respective KIT Department will also check your documents when you apply for acceptance as a doctoral researcher later on (see Step 5). The committee may decide that you are obliged to take some additional classes during the doctorate.

Please note that you will have to clarify language requirements with your supervising professor, because sometimes it is necessary to prove a good proficiency of English. However, it will usually not be necessary to provide proof of a specific language test score.

Financing your doctorate

Usually a PhD is financed with a job as a scientific researcher/research assistant at KIT or a scholarship. There are no tuition fees for pursuing your PhD at KIT.

  1. Open positions for doctoral candidates at KIT are posted here (under "Academic staff" and/or "PhD students (m/f/d)"). However, please note that not many positions are listed there. If there is no suitable job ad, please contact a potential supervisor directly (s. step 1).

  2. KIT supports PhD projects under the “Landesgraduiertenförderungsgesetz” (Graduate Funding from the German States) with full scholarships. However, you will have to be accepted as a doctoral researcher at the respective KIT Department to be eligible to apply.

  3. Here you will find a list of scholarships by external sponsors. If you have any questions about a particular scholarship or the application process, please contact the respective sponsor directly.

  4. The main institution for scholarships for foreign young researchers is the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). Please use the DAAD database to look for a suitable scholarship. If you have any questions about the DAAD services please contact the DAAD directly. However, please note that for some countries of origin (such as China) DAAD does not offer scholarship programs for the full PhD.

Visa (if applicable)

Doctoral researchers from abroad might need help with alien law and related topics – such as visa, residence permit, residents' registration, health insurance, taxation, opening a bank account, accompanying spouses and so forth. With all of this, the International Scholars & Welcome Office (IScO) will be able to support you further. Their e-mail address is scholars∂intl.kit.edu.

Please make sure you contact them as soon as possible once it is certain that you will come to KIT.

Acceptance at the KIT Department

At KIT the conclusion of a doctoral agreement and subsequent central registration of doctoral candidates with Karlsruhe House of Young Scientists (KHYS) are mandatory for an acceptance by a KIT Department.


  1. The doctoral agreement is concluded between the supervisor and the doctoral candidate. The doctoral agreement is designed to establish a transparent relationship between the doctoral candidate and the supervisor with respect to contents and time.

    KIT provides a template of a doctoral agreement and a guidance for the doctoral agreement. Please note that you can access these pages only within the KIT network. If you cannot access them, please inquire with your supervisor regarding the content of the agreement. Some KIT Departments have their own version of the doctoral agreement. Please pay attention to the information given on your department’s website or get in touch with the responsible contact. Here, you will find links to the individual department websites as well as the contact details of the responsible contact persons.
  2. The second mandatory step before acceptance is the registration with KHYS via the central web portal Docata.
  3. Once you have followed these steps (and at the latest six months after you have signed the doctoral agreement) you need to apply for acceptance to the KIT Department. A letter of acceptance is the department’s official statement that you are a doctoral candidate at KIT. To receive this letter of acceptance you have to submit a written application to the doctoral research committee of the respective KIT Department. This application has to include information on your dissertation topic, copies of your graduation certificates, the doctoral agreement and the registration confirmation of KHYS.

    Depending on the KIT Department in question, the acceptance will be issued for a period of three to five years. An extension is usually possible. For the acceptance, the doctoral research committee of the respective KIT Department will check your degree documents. The committee may decide that you are obliged to take some additional classes during the doctorate. For further information please read the doctoral ordinances of the respective KIT Department (for legal reasons, these documents are available in German only).

    Please note that the letter of acceptance is also a prerequisite for enrolling as a registered PhD student and in many cases for scholarship applications.

Enrollment as a doctoral researcher (optional)

After you have found a supervisor and received your letter of acceptance, you can choose to enroll as a doctoral student at KIT. However, only doctoral researchers whose employment contract at KIT is not more than 49%, can be enrolled at KIT. Doctoral researchers accepted by a KIT Department who are employed full-time outside KIT can enroll. The length of enrollment depends on the maximum duration of the doctoral research phase laid down in the doctoral ordinance (between three and five years; an extension is basically possible). The enrollment fee is about EUR 150 per semester. Doctoral researchers can enroll at any time. From a legal point of view, enrolled doctoral researchers belong to the group of students. However, please note that enrolled doctoral researchers in general cannot profit from a reduction in health insurance contributions.

With enrollment at KIT you get:

  • a KIT card;
  • the right to free travel in the public transportation network of the Karlsruhe Transport Authority (KVV) on weekdays between 6 p.m.- 5 a.m. as well as full time on weekends and public holidays;
  • the option to buy the extended KVV “Studikarte” offer for use of public transport during weekdays as well (ca. EUR 160 for 6 months);
  • the use of the offers of Studierendenwerk Karlsruhe, e.g. the student discount in the dining halls and cafeterias as well as access to the university sports facilites;
  • free participation in a language course per semester;
  • if applicable further student benefits (e.g. first-year rucksack, free of charge use of Badische Landesbibliothek)

With enrollment you have

liability and accident insurance (for stays at KIT and routes to and from KIT).

If you don’t have an employment contract with KIT enrollment is recommended for insurance reasons. For more information on accident and liability insurance, please visit Studierendenwerk Karlsruhe.


Enrollment for German doctoral researchers

German doctoral researchers apply for enrollment at the Studierendenservice. Please print the “Antrag auf Einschreibung als Doktorand/-in” and send it with the following documents to the Studierendenservice by post or deliver it there in person. In addition to the filled-in form for the "Antrag" please hand in the following documents:

  • copies of the secondary school leaving certificate and the bachelor and master certificates, or, if applicable, the diploma or state examination certificate;
  • confirmation of acceptance as a doctoral researcher by the respective KIT Department;
  • confirmation of health insurance coverage (confirmation of coverage including company registration number as well as reporting forms for enrollment at a university);
  • if applicable, proof of scholarship or of the employment relationship at KIT;
  • if an employment relationship at KIT exists: a confirmation of the “Personalservice” unit (PSE) that the employment is not a main occupation in accordance with § 9 subsection 1 LHG (see application form);
  • proof of withdrawal from register of students (“Exmatrikulation”) (bachelor and master's degree program or diploma program);
  • If applicable, submit a contract for a binational doctorate (in the case of enrollment at a foreign university, you will be exempted from the administrative fee at KIT (not from the student union fee and not from the student body contribution).


Doctoral researchers from abroad

Doctoral researchers from abroad apply for enrollment using the online application system by the International Students Office. There, you first have to create a user account and then start the application process. Apart from the online application form, you will need to hand in the following documents:

  • copies of your bachelor and master’s degree certificates in the original language as well as certified translations in German or English;
  • copies of the transcript of records in the original language as well as certified translations in German or English;
  • copy of the letter of acceptance by the KIT Department;
  • confirmation of financing for the doctorate;
  • copy of the registration confirmation issued by KHYS;
  • language test results etc. (if applicable);
  • If applicable, submit a contract for a binational doctorate (in the case of enrollment at a foreign university, you will be exempted from the administrative fee at KIT (not from the student union fee and not from the student body contribution).

International doctoral researchers please contact the International Students Office staff for further information about enrollment at KIT.

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