Deciding to purse a doctoral degree
Every doctorate is a journey. Over several years, doctoral students immerse themselves in a specific subject. The path to the finish line is almost always a bit rocky - but at the end is the doctoral degree! And the great feeling of having created new knowledge.
What is a (cooperative) doctorate?
A doctorate can be described as the awarding of the doctoral degree, i.e., an academic degree.
Since universities of applied sciences in North Rhine-Westphalia do not have the right to award doctoral degrees, doctoral studies at Fachhochschule Dortmund can only be pursued in cooperation with a university. Doctoral students choose a supervisor (usually the first supervisor) at the cooperating university and a second supervisor at Fachhochschule Dortmund. The examination procedure will take place at the university and the university will also award the title.
The cooperation should be recorded in writing. The strongest form is an official cooperation agreement between the university, Fachhochschule Dortmund and the doctoral student.
Before making the decision to pursue a doctorate, you should seek information and consultation. Why? First, because you are choosing a path that is long (4 to 5 years on average) and rocky.
Secondly, because it is not easy to start.
We, at Fachhochschule Dortmund, offer you support. Four times a year, the information event "Der Weg zur Promotion” (“The path to a doctoral degree”) gives you an overview of the topic and an insight into the life of doctoral students. Once a year, we organize an information event on doctoral funding at Fachhochschule Dortmund. And the monthly “consultation afternoons” offer an individual consultation hour. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need advice on your decision to pursue a doctorate, financing options, or finding a supervisor.
We also recommend that you read information guides on doctoral studies, such as the brochure "Promotion - bewusst entscheiden und gut starten" () published by the Qualitätszirkel Promotion.
Can I pursue doctoral studies on a part-time basis while working full-time?
Yes, you can work on a doctorate while working full-time. In such a case, you even have a great advantage when starting your doctoral studies: because you can finance your livelihood. However, we recommend that you weigh up in advance whether you will have enough time for the doctoral project. Because this can affect both the duration and the success of the doctorate.
It can also be helpful to discuss the desire to pursue doctoral studies with your employer. It can be an advantage if you will receive support on this path - e.g., getting time off for important conferences or in the final phase of the doctorate. It is often also possible to reduce the working time for a limited period.
If you decide to pursue an “industrial doctorate”, you often need additional contracts and agreements. If you are using your company's data for your project or work on your doctorate also during working hours, the company will acquire the rights to the generated knowledge. This can become particularly problematic with regard to the obligation to publish the dissertation, for example.
Pursuing doctoral studies with a child - is this possible?
It is definitely possible to pursue a doctorate while being a parent - around 17 percent of all doctoral students are or become parents in the course of their doctoral studies. The double burden is a challenge, especially during peak periods, such as the final phase. But there are also many flexibilities possible during the doctoral studies that can be helpful in balancing these two responsibilities.
If you are thinking about pursuing a doctorate, feel free to contact the team of the Graduate Center if you have any questions regarding the compatibility of doctoral studies and work. We are happy to share the information on the advantages of fixed-term contracts in accordance with the German Academic Fixed-Term Contract Act (WissZeitVG) for parents pursuing their doctoral studies as well as on the support offers at universities.
For example, the Graduate Center regularly offers events for parents working on a doctorate. And we were able to set up grands and hire a research assistant who supports mothers pursuing a doctorate by assisting them with the tasks during their doctoral studies by using funds from the equal opportunities office (Gleichstellung).
The path to the doctoral degree
If you are considering pursuing doctoral studies, you need the following four things in particular: a doctoral advisor, a research topic, funding and enough time for your research. Getting started is not always easy - we are happy to support you.
How to find a supervisor?
The first thing to do before starting doctoral studies, is finding a doctoral advisor. Usually, doctoral students already know them from the time of their studies. Often, they either supervised the Master's thesis, or worked jointly in the context of assistantships or tutorships.
In the case of a cooperative doctorate, doctoral students usually first get to know a supervising professor at Fachhochschule Dortmund. Together, they look for a suitable supervisor at a university by using their personal networks.
Even if personal relationships and shared previous experience in academic work are a particularly good starting point, it is also possible to win over professors through one's own motivation, professional expertise and the scope of the doctoral project.
In some cases, such as when applying for advertised doctoral positions, e.g., at graduate centers, it is also possible that a supervisory relationship is established as part of the job placement.
How is a cooperation with a university established?
In many cases, the supervisor at Fachhochschule Dortmund supports the search for a professor at a university, who will supervise the doctoral project. Often, a cooperation is established on such an individual level.
Generally, the option of a cooperative doctorate (with a professor of Fachhochschule Dortmund being the second supervisor, often with a supplementary function as reviewer and/or examiner) is already stipulated in the doctoral regulations of universities.
The form how a cooperative doctorate is stipulated in writing may vary. If a doctorate will be funded by Fachhochschule Dortmund, a cooperation agreement must be submitted and signed by the University Management, the supervising professors and the doctoral student. In some cases - if framework contracts exist, e.g., as these between Fachhochschule Dortmund and TU Dortmund University - the cooperation agreements may differ in form.
In other cases, e.g., joint supervision agreements are signed, the cooperative doctorate is included in the university supervision agreement and / or this is confirmed by the doctoral committee (e.g., in the acceptance letter).
What funding options are available?
Typically, there are three types of funding options: 1) doctoral candidates can be employed at a university, 2) 13 “Begabtenwerke” funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) offer scholarships and 3) a part-time doctorate is also possible. Candidates must decide in advance which option is the most suitable one.
A position at the university offers good social security, involvement at the university, and experience in areas that can be useful for a future in research and teaching. However, the time needed for doctoral studies may be very limited, and there may be conflicts between work bound by directives and independent research.
Scholarships, on the other hand, do not qualify as income and do not contribute financially to compulsory social insurance. Therefore, doctoral students who receive a scholarship, must take out their own health insurance. It is possible to pursue a parallel employment only to a very limited extent. However, scholarships offer maximum freedom to conduct research and a great deal of personal flexibility. In addition, doctoral students benefit from intrinsic support and strong networks.
A part-time doctorate can be particularly challenging. At the same time, parallel employment ensures that doctoral students find their place in the working world, and the years of practical experience required for appointments at universities of applied sciences can also be accumulated, for example, parallel to the doctoral studies.
A special form of funding at Fachhochschule Dortmund are the . Working in a part-time position for 2 years + 2 years extension, doctoral candidates can focus entirely on their doctoral project.
What is an abstract (Exposé)?
Abstracts are used to plan academic research projects. In the context of doctoral projects, it is also common to prepare an abstract in advance to structure the research project, to convince potential supervisors or to secure funding.
There are no standard rules regarding the structure, length (usually 5 - 15 pages excluding bibliography) or the layout of an abstract. However, typical elements that should be included in an abstract are:
- Problem formulation
- State of research
- Objective/research question/research gap
- Methodical procedure
- (Preliminary outline)
- Time and work schedule
- Literature used
Should you prepare an abstract because you would like to apply for funding or a scholarship, be sure to follow the requirements from the respective foundations, graduate centers, or institutions for drafting the abstract.
The (last) steps to the doctoral title
Bureaucratically, too, every doctorate - and a cooperative one even more so - is a challenge. From the application for admission to dual enrollment to the initiation of the doctoral procedure.
Step by step to a doctoral degree.
What is the admission to the doctorate?
In order to obtain the official status of a doctoral candidate, you first must submit an application for admission to doctoral studies at the cooperating university. For this purpose, you must fulfill the respective admission requirements, which are specified in the doctoral regulations of the supervising faculties.
At some universities, the letter of admission is only issued for a limited period of time (e.g., 5 years). If you need more time to complete your doctoral studies, you must submit an appropriate application for an extension in advance.
It may happen that you will be admitted on so-called "conditions", meaning that you can be obliged to take individual Master's courses and certificates you have not completed in the past. This may particularly be the case - but not only - when you change your field of research for your doctoral studies. Since the work required to fulfill the conditions can be quite extensive, you should apply for admission at the beginning of your doctoral studies even if you could formally apply at a later date.
What are the advantages of enrolling as a doctoral student?
Doctoral students are not obliged to enroll for the entire doctoral period. Please refer to the relevant doctoral regulations to find out if you need to enroll.
In general, you can enroll both at the university and at Fachhochschule Dortmund. In the case of cooperative doctorates, this is a permissible form of dual enrollment. You will be enrolled as a cross-registeres student at the FH Dortmund if you are already enrolled as a full-time student at a university in Germany. If you are not enrolled as a full-time student at a university in Germany, you will be enrolled as a full-time student at the FH Dortmund (you can find more information on enrollment ).
Enrolling at both institutions allows you to use the infrastructure at the respective universities. You will also have advantages, e.g., with regard to an existing accident insurance at both universities. Enrollment is partly a prerequisite for certain funding options at Fachhochschule Dortmund or at the university.
What happens after you submit your dissertation?
Submitting the written thesis is a big step, but not the last one. It is important to keep this in mind when planning your time.
After you submit your dissertation, it will be reviewed and graded. This can easily take three to six months. Subsequently, you may be able to view the assessments (without seeing the grades). Before you then defend your doctoral thesis in a disputation or viva voce, there are also obligatory display periods at the universities.
After the defense of your doctoral thesis, the examination committee will set the oral and also the overall grade. The day of the disputation is the day that will ultimately appear on the doctoral certificate. However, you will not receive your certificate until your doctoral thesis has been published.
When can you use the doctoral title?
You can only use the doctoral title once your dissertation has been published and you have received the doctoral certificate because you have the obligation to publish your thesis. While it is common in some disciplines to publish a dissertation online quite promptly, in others it is necessary to find a (preferably renowned) publisher. Especially in such a case, it may be necessary to make significant revisions and adjustments prior to publication, or time may pass while obtaining funding for the printing grant. There may then even be a gap of several years between the defense of the doctoral thesis and its publication. Usually, deadlines for publication are set in the respective doctoral regulations.