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  • Application & Advice

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FAQ on the degree programme

Frequently asked questions on:

  •     Applications
  •     Application documents
  •     Supervision
  •     Conditions of the PhD programme
  •     Selection and admissions
  •     Degree programme
  •     Work and family life balance



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.

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.

Application documents

1. Letter of motivation (400 words maximum):Please specify in your letter whether you are applying for a place on the taught Doctoral Programme in History or Sociology at the BGHS or for doctoral studies independent of a programme
2. CV in tabular form
3. Abitur certificate (final school certificate; German university entrance qualification)
4. Certificates of all college and/or university degree(s) including transcripts (BA + MA): Please enclose copies of the originals and a translation if certificates are not written in English or German
5. Dissertation proposal including a bibliography, work schedule and time frame (4,000 words maximum): Please note our guidelines on how to write a dissertation proposal.
6. Statement of consent to act as your supervisor by a professor from the Faculty of History, Philosophy and Theology, or the Faculty of Sociology: you can upload this statement of consent via the BGHS application portal or send it directly to the BGHS via E-mail
7. Names of two referees
8. Statement about current or previous attempts to earn a doctorate
9. Application for admission: Please complete, print, sign and scan the document
10. Proof of foreign language proficiency (historians only)


All application documents should be either in German or in English. Documents written in another language will not be considered.

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 (secondary school leaving exam) certificate, academic degrees and transcripts, or language certificates may serve as certified proof.

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.


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.

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.

At the time of the deadline (i.e. by January 15 or June 15 of the respective year), we need either your Master's degree certificate or a preliminary certificate from the responsible examination office. This must include all of your academic credits as well as your overall grade, including the grade of your master's thesis. You cannot apply for a Master's degree without a graded Master's thesis and a completed Master's program. If you will receive a certificate from a university outside Germany, please be sure to indicate in the respective language of the country which degree you are obtaining.


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 here.


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 here.


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

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 and across disciplinary boundaries.

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 senior research associate 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.

Conditions of the PhD 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

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.

Letters of acceptance to the degree programme will be sent out no later than eight weeks after the application deadline.

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.

After you have enrolled, you will receive an invoice for the fee for the upcoming semester (about 300 EUR). 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.


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 BGHS. 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 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 classes, and courses for building key skills. You will find more information on the degree programme on our website under the heading Curriculum. Courses currently on offer can be viewed in the online course catalogue (eKVV). Degree programme requirements are stipulated in the doctoral regulations.



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. You also send this report to the supervisor, who in turn sends a statement to the BGHS. After the first report, doctoral researchers are expected to hand in annual reports on the progress of their project. Further obligations can be found in the Supervision Agreement.

Work and family life balance

Yes, the BGHS offers services to support the compatibility of academic work and raising children. For example, by part-time regulation of the doctorate and the allocation of a parent-child room at the BGHS floor. Further information can be found on the website under the heading Programs and support services for families.

In general, Bielefeld University strives to make it easier to combine family life with studies or a career. With its family service, it offers comprehensive counselling and support services 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.

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