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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

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FAQ on the degree programme

Frequently asked questions on:



Which requirements must I meet in order to apply for a BGHS doctoral position?

You must hold a masters' degree in the social sciences or humanities, preferably in history, sociology, anthropology, or political science. Since courses in the degree programme may be conducted in either English or German, you must be fluent in one of these two languages.

When is the application deadline?
Applications for the Summer Term (start: 1 April every year) must be sent in by 15 January. Applications for the Winter Term (start: 1 October every year) must be sent in by 15 June. Applications that arrive later than these dates will not be accepted. Applications must be submitted online via the online application form or they will not be considered.
Please note: Online applications can only be uploaded for a two-month period (between 15 November and 15 January for the Summer Term; between 15 April and 15 June for the Winter Term).

Application documents

Which documents do I need to submit with my online application?

You will find a list of all required documents here.

In which languages may I submit my application documents?
All application documents should be either in German or in English. Documents written in another language will not be considered.

Which foreign languages do I have to be proficient in as a historian; which level of proficiency is required; and how is foreign language proficiency to be proven?
Ideally, historians can prove their proficiency in Latin, English and French. They may substitute other languages for two of these three if they are suitable for the historian's particular specialisation and for work on his/her dissertation.

Foreign language proficiency should be assessed and certified by a relevant person or authority. The Abitur certificate, academic degrees and transcripts, or language certificates may serve as certified proof.

Are there guidelines for the project description?
Yes, please read the project description guidelines carefully for all information on the expected form and content. Project descriptions which do not follow the formal guidelines will not be considered.

Will I be assigned a supervisor if I have not included a statement of consent by a prospective supervisor in my application documents?
No. In this case, your application documents are incomplete and will not be considered. Applicants must themselves find a prospective supervisor before applying to the BGHS. You will find more information about prospective supervisors and searching for a supervisor here.

How should I submit my transcripts in my online application?
Your transcripts should be scanned and uploaded as PDF files for your online application. If your documents are not in German or English, you must also include a translation into one of these languages. If you are admitted to our degree programme, you will need to submit officially certified/notarised copies of your secondary school leaving certificate and university transcripts at admissions.

I am currently working on my Master's thesis or have handed my Master's thesis in but have not yet received my Master's certificate. Can I apply as well?
By the end of the deadline (which is 15 Jan. 2013) we need either your Master's certificate or a statement of your responsible examination office that you have successfully completed your Master's studies. All your marks, including the one of your Master's thesis, have to be displayed in that statement. Please also state the exact name of the degree you will obtain. Applications without these marks can unfortunately not be processed.


Do I need to find a supervisor for my project before applying to the degree programme?

Yes. Confirmation of supervision of your project by a university professor is a precondition for applications to the BGHS. The professor fills in and signs the form "Statement of Consent": Application documents are incomplete if they do not include a statement of consent by a prospective supervisor. Incomplete applications will not be considered. A list of prospective supervisors can be found on our website under areas of research.

How can I find a supervisor and how do I initiate supervision?
You will find helpful hints regarding supervision in the Guidelines for the supervision of Doctoral Dissertations. Please read these guidelines carefully before contacting a potential supervisor. An overview of potential supervisors - sorted by the areas of research in which supervision is available - can be found on our website under areas of research.

Will the BGHS refer me to potential supervisors?
No, the BGHS does not refer candidates to potential supervisors. Applicants are themselves responsible for making contact with potential supervisors.

Can I choose a supervisor from another faculty or another university?
BGHS doctoral researchers are supervised by two professors. The first supervisor must be a member of one of the participating BGHS faculties: the Faculty of Sociology or the Department of History in the Faculty of History, Philosophy and Theology. This supervisor will be your primary advisor and must have sufficient knowledge of the dissertation topic as well as enough time to supervise your project.
The second supervisor can however be from another faculty or another university. A second supervisor from another academic discipline is often chosen for interdisciplinary doctoral projects. The second supervisor may be located at another university within or outside of Germany. Supervisors from foreign universities are often chosen by doctoral researchers whose work has an international dimension. You should choose your second supervisor by the second degree programme year at the latest.

Must supervisors be university professors?
The first supervisor must almost always be a professorial member of one of the participating BGHS faculties: the Faculty of Sociology or the Department of History in the Faculty of History, Philosophy and Theology. In exceptional cases, doctoral researchers may put in a request for a research associate who has completed his or her doctorate to supervise their project. The respective faculty's doctoral committee will decide whether an exception is granted.
The second supervisor should also be a university professor; however, secondary supervision may also be provided by people who have completed their doctorate or habilitation as long as they have the right to administer examinations at their university or research institute.

Degree programme environment

Are grants and other financial support available within the Graduate School programme, for example support for research trips or participation in conferences? Will I have my own office space at the Graduate School?

The BGHS has only a very limited number of workstations for doctoral researchers who do not have access to other offices within the university. Free workstations are assigned anew each semester by lottery.

Are there required courses within the BGHS degree programme?
Yes. Parallel to your work on your own research project you will follow the BGHS course of study, a curriculum of research-oriented and skills-building courses. All information on our degree programme can be found on our website under curriculum.

Selection and admissions

Who decides about the admissions allocation process?

After you have submitted your application documents, the BGHS office checks whether they are complete and fulfil all formal requirements. Complete applications are passed on to and assessed by the doctoral committee of the Faculty of Sociology (Promotionsausschuss) or the Department of History in the Faculty for History, Philosophy and Theology (Kommission für Promotionen). Decisions about admissions are made based on the expert evaluations and the applications documents.

How and when will I know whether my application for admission was successful?
The participating BGHS faculties send out letters of acceptance to the degree programme by eight weeks after the application deadline at the latest. You will then also receive information on admissions to the Graduate School and an invitation to Welcome Day, usually the first Monday after the term is in session.

Do I have to enrol as a doctoral student in a degree programme?
Yes. After you have received a letter of acceptance, you should enrol promptly in the degree programme in Sociology or History. You will find more information on the enrolment process on the Bielefeld University Registrar's Office website (in German).

How much will it cost to enrol in the degree programme?
After you have enrolled, you will receive an invoice for the fee for the upcoming semester (292,10 EUR in Summer Term 2019). After you have paid the fee you will receive a student ID which, among other privileges, also allows you to ride on public transportation in North Rhine-Westphalia. A semester fee is due each semester.

Do I automatically become a member of the BGHS when I enrol as a student in the degree programme?
No. You do not become a member of the BGHS until a Supervision Agreement has been signed by yourself as doctoral researcher, your primary supervisor, and the Graduate School. With their signatures, doctoral researchers and supervisors pledge, among other things, to ensure good scientific practice, to meet regularly to discuss the project, and to send in annual reports to the Graduate School.

Degree Programme

Are there required courses within the BGHS degree programme?

Yes. Alongside your work on your own research project, you will follow a structured curriculum. The BGHS research training programme is comprised of both mandatory courses and electives. The mandatory courses include research classes, theory and methods seminars, and courses for building key skills. You will find more information on the degree programme on our website under the heading Degree programme. Courses currently on offer can be viewed in the online course catalogue (ekvv). Degree programme requirements are stipulated in the doctoral regulations .

Are there other requirements I must fulfil besides participation in the degree programme?
Yes. When you sign your Supervision Agreement, you agree to present a report to the BGHS within six months of acceptance including an up-to-date work schedule and time frame, a list of references, and your supervisor's recommendation. After the first report, doctoral researchers are expected to hand in annual reports on the progress of their project. Further obligations such as the requirement to notify the BGHS of changes of address or to follow the rules of good scientific practice can be found in the Supervision Agreement.

Work and family life balance

Do doctoral researchers with children receive special support?

BGHS support services: The Graduate School offers a variety of services to support the compatibility of academic work and raising children. For example the parent-child room at the BGHS floor. You will find more information on our website under work and life .

Family services: Bielefeld University believes in the compatibility of working/studying and family life. Comprehensive counselling and support services are available for students and employees of the university who must care for children or other family members. More information is available (in German) on the website of Bielefeld University family services.

Childcare: Bielefeld University offers diverse childcare services for doctoral researchers with children. Bielefeld University family services will help you find childcare that meets your needs.

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