Application period, process and eligibility

When is the application period? 

The PhD journey begins on 1 September of each year.

The application portal for the Hertie Doctoral Programme in Governance (with a Hertie stipend) opens at the end of Fall, check our website closer to the time for more information on this. There are three ways to apply for admission to the Hertie PhD programme, each with different application deadlines. 

1) Apply for a Hertie PhD Stipend: In case you want to apply for one of the PhD stipends, you will have to submit your complete application by 31 January. The link to apply will be available as of end November on the Page 'Apply to the Doctoral Programme in Governance'. Information on the required application documents – including a research proposal – is available on this page.

2) If you intend to secure external funding through the DAAD or a German foundation, you may apply to the programme on a rolling basis. Please make sure you submit your application in time to allow us at least six to eight weeks to review your application. 

3) If you successfully apply to become a Research Associate at the Hertie School, you can subsequently apply to our Doctoral Programme in Governance. Find out more about this funding option here

Information on the required application documents – including a research proposal – is available on our How to apply page.


What is the application process?

All applications are processed centrally and therefore must be submitted via our application portal.  We have a central selection committee, which evaluates each application according to a set of academic criteria. You can find more information on our 'How to Apply to the Doctoral Programme in Governance' page. Individual professors cannot decide on admission to our programme. Hence, we ask you to kindly refrain from contacting potential supervisors directly for your application. 


Can I be admitted to the PhD programme if I am self-funded?

We do not admit PhD candidates who are self-funded. You can find more information on funding your PhD here.


Is a minimum grade or GPA required for admission?

No, we do not have a minimum grade or GPA requirement. However, we look for candidates with a strong academic background.


Based on my academic background, am I eligible to apply? 

Our programmes are targeted at candidates with a masters degree and a strong foundation in economics, law, political science, sociology, public administration, management or related fields. If your previous degrees are in a different discipline, your application must demonstrate sufficient knowledge in one of these fields. Further, it is essential for you to identify a suitable faculty member to supervise your dissertation project. Each application will be evaluated along academic criteria by our central admission committee. 


I am currently a PhD candidate at another university. Can I apply for an exchange to study part of my studies at The Hertie School?

It is possible to come to the Hertie School as a visiting PhD researcher. More information can be found here


I cannot find my area of research represented at the Hertie School. Can I still apply?

If your area of research is not covered by one of our supervisors or one of our Centres of Competence, this means that none of our current faculty members can provide supervision in the current academic year. Please refrain from sending an application in this case. You are welcome to apply at a later stage. We recommend checking our website on a regular basis to stay informed about the school and its growing faculty. 


Can I apply if I have not completed my master's degree at the time of application?

Yes, you can apply while your master's programme is still ongoing. Please submit all transcripts and certificates you have acquired by the time of your application. The final master's degree transcript and certificate must be submitted at the latest upon matriculation (i.e., by 1 August).


Should I contact potential supervisors or send them my proposal prior to my application?

No. Please refrain from asking Hertie School faculty members about acceptance prior to your online application, since they are not allowed to accept PhD candidates on their own before the involvement of the PhD Board of the Hertie School. We have a centralised application process: All applications are sent through our online application portal. In the second step, they are forwarded to potential supervisors. After the evaluation of an application, the PhD Board decides whether the applicant will be invited for an interview. Please consult the list of potential supervisors to find out if your research proposal is in line with the research of one of our faculty members and our guidelines for proposal writing to fulfil our proposal requirements. 


How should the letters of reference be submitted?

We require two academic letters of reference. When you submit your application via our application portal, you also indicate two referees. The referees will receive an email from the system asking them to upload their reference letters via the application portal. Letters of reference must be on university letterhead and signed by the referee.


Can I submit non-academic references in my application?

It is strongly advised to submit academic references where possible due to the nature of a PhD research positon. Non-academic references will still be taken into consideration if submitted with your application, however, please try to ensure they are relevant to the necessary academic skills and experience required for a PhD. 


Can I waive the English test?

Yes, in the following cases:

  • If you are a native English speaker;
  • If you received a university degree in a full-time study programme (of at least 4 semesters) which was exclusively taught in English. In this case, please submit a statement from the respective programme administration.

An English test is required in all other cases. Short-term study abroad, au-pair home-stays or language school certificates will not be accepted as test replacements.


Which English tests does the Hertie School accept?

We accept the following tests (with minimum test scores):

  • TOEFL | PBT 600 | CBT 250 | ibT 100
  • Cambridge ESOL | CPE C | CAE B
  • IELTS | Overall = 7.0 | Writing 0 7,0

Our TOEFL test school code is 8874. Test results may not be more than two years old. If your result is not available when you submit your application, please indicate the date when you will take one of the tests mentioned above on your application form.


Do I need to submit GRE/GMAT test scores to apply?

No, we do not require GRE/GMAT test scores. 


Is there any age requirement/restriction for admission?

No, there is no age requirement for PhD admission.


Is it possible to schedule a tour and/or call to ask questions?

Unfortunately no, we do not have the capacity at this time to organise individual calls or campus tours with potential candidates. During the application period we do however offer live online information sessions, during which you can ask questions that you may have about the programme and/or application process. Other than this, please read our FAQs carefully and if you still have a question that is not answered then send us an email with your question to and we will do our best to help you.


When will I be informed if I have been accepted into the programme?

If you received a confirmation email after submitting, your application is currently under review. The evaluation process takes several weeks as we receive a lot of applications. Applicants will be informed about the results by early April of the respective year of application, depending on the doctoral programme. For this reason, please refrain from emailing us regarding the status of your application. Thank you for your understanding. 


Tuition, stipends and financial aid

Do I have to pay tuition costs?

No. There are no tuition costs for the programme. 


What are the funding options available for a PhD at the Hertie School?

You may be admitted to the Doctoral Programme in Governance only if: 
1) Successfully apply and are awarded a Hertie stipend. 
2) Secure external funding via the DAAD or one of the 13 foundations funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education (“Begabtenförderungswerke”). You must first apply to the Hertie School. If your application is successful, you will receive a conditional offer. You must then apply to the DAAD or the Begabtenförderungswerke for funding. You will be enrolled in the programme if your funding application is successful.  
3) Apply for a research associate position. If your application for an open position is successful, you may apply to the Doctoral Programme in Governance. 
Please note that we do not accept external funding from any other organisation or government. Self-funding your PhD is not possible. More information on funding your PhD can be found here.


Doctoral programme

What kind of doctoral degree will I receive from the Hertie School?

Upon successful completion of your doctoral programme, you can choose to receive either the degree "PhD" or "Dr. rer. pol.". The Hertie School does not confer the degree "Dr. iur." or "Dr. jur.".


Can I pursue a joint PhD degree at the Hertie School?

A joint degree process (or cotutelle) is generally possible. At the moment, we have a joint PhD agreement with our CIVICA partner, Sciences Po. For a cotutelle with a different university, we would need to check the agreement on a case by case basis.



Is distance learning possible?

No, all PhD programmes at the Hertie School are taught in-person.


Do I have to participate in one of the doctoral programmes or can I work individually with a professor?

You must participate in one of the doctoral programmes we offer in order to receive a doctoral degree from the Hertie School. Our faculty members cannot support candidates working independently.


What is the difference between doing a PhD within a structured PhD programme and pursuing an individual PhD?

Doing a PhD within a structured PhD programme (such as those the Hertie School offers) means that apart from writing your doctoral thesis, you must complete the curriculum of the respective PhD programme. For instance, within the Doctoral Programme in Governance (DocGov), you must follow the DocGov curriculum (programme description) and obtain 180 ECTS in total: this includes a certain amount of methods and skills credits as well as credits for independent dissertation research and colloquium attendance & presentation. Only once you have obtained all necessary credits can your doctoral degree procedure (review process and dissertation defence) be started by the PhD Team. All structured doctoral programmes on offer at the Hertie School are taught and conducted entirely in English.


Can dissertations only be written in the field of social sciences or is a dissertation with a legal focus possible as well?

It is possible to write a dissertation with a legal focus. We recommend that you check out the research of our faculty members working within the legal discipline to get a better understanding of the research approach and disciplinary focus. You may also want to check out dissertations that have been published in the public online repository of the Hertie School.


Does the topic of my dissertation have to be fixed upon application to the PhD programme or can I come up with a topic later on, when working with my main supervisor?

As part of your application, you already need to submit a comprehensive and complete research proposal, outlining the research topic you wish to work on during your PhD studies at the School. Admission is majorly based on the quality of the research proposal and its fit with the research agenda of the Hertie School and its faculty. Of course you will keep working on and improving your topic and work once you have been admitted to the PhD programme. Your supervisors will aid and advise you in this process.


Do I have to write my dissertation in English or are other languages also possible?

All dissertations need to be written in English. You need to provide proof of your English language proficiency as part of your application. 


Are research stays at universities abroad part of pursuing a PhD at the Hertie School?

Going on a research stay for one or more semesters as part of your PhD studies is definitely recommended, in order to build and strengthen academic networks and to find second and third supervisors from other universities. Limited funding for research stays is available. We have connections with renowned universities in different European and other countries, and can support you in finding the best option for you. Your main supervisor will also aid you in this process. 


Can I work while doing the doctoral programme during the academic semester?

If you receive a scholarship from the Hertie School, employment is limited to 10 hours a week. Furthermore, there is a salary limit. Candidates with part-time positions (limited to 20h/week max.) at the Hertie School may adjust their PhD study plan in accordance with their professional obligations. The respective arrangements must be agreed upon with the PhD Board.


Can I enrol in the programme on a part-time basis?

No, all our PhD researchers must be enrolled full-time. 



Living in Germany and Berlin

Do I have to move to Berlin?

Yes. The doctoral programme is a structured programme, with coursework during the first year of study and a requirement to attend research colloquia later. You are expected to take residence in Berlin for the full duration of the programme. After the first year, you may leave for shorter periods of time if made necessary by your research.


Will accommodation be provided? Who can I contact should I need help in looking for a place to live?

The Hertie School is located at the center of Berlin and does not have a campus providing student housing. However, the city of Berlin offers ample opportunity for accommodation at relatively reasonable rates. Our Student Life Team provides information on housing and other relevant topics for incoming students on their website


Will I be supported in dealing with the German authorities if necessary (questions concerning visas, residence permits, etc.)?

Yes. Our Student Life Team will offer support with administrative issues such as visa, residence permits, health insurance, etc. Please visit their website or write an e-mail to



Other questions

Which networks can I access at the Hertie School?

The Hertie School has an international network that spans academic and professional realms. In Berlin, the Hertie School has close ties with institutions such as the Freie Universität Berlin, the WZB - Berlin Social Science Center, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and the DIW Berlin, among many others. The Hertie School closely collaborates with a number of universities on doctoral education in the context of the EU-funded project CIVICA: Bocconi University (Italy), Central European University (Hungary), European University Institute (Italy), Sciences Po (France), the Stockholm School of Economics (Sweden), London School of Economics and Political Science (UK), and National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (RO).

The School has excellent networks with governments and many national and international agencies, NGOs and corporations. Leading experts regularly come to the Hertie School to participate in events.


What career options do I have with a doctoral degree from the Hertie School?

Our doctoral programmes provide the knowledge and skills required for an academic university career at leading social science departments and schools of public policy. They also equip PhD researchers for positions in research institutes, organisations, think-tanks, or research-oriented positions in the public sector, private enterprises, or civil society. The Hertie School has an excellent academic and professional network that supports our PhD graduates in finding a job. You can take a look at the current positions of past Hertie doctoral researchers on our Graduates webpage.


Can I come to the Hertie School as a visiting PhD researcher?

Yes, we can accommodate a limited number of visiting PhD researchers each semester. If you are interested in a research stay of three months or longer, find out more about our application procedure here.