Formal steps for beginning your doctorate
Doctoral studies in Heidelberg – administrative procedures
Each of the twelve academic faculties of Heidelberg University independently regulates and governs doctoral training and is responsible for admitting and registering its own doctoral candidates. The formal procedures that you must carry out depend on whether you choose individual doctoral training or a structured doctoral program.
How to begin your doctoral studies – step by step
Hints for contacting a supervisor
Every doctoral candidate at Heidelberg University must have an academic supervisor who provides advice and support in the following areas:
- choosing a topic and methodology,
- planning the project,
- writing and revising the dissertation,
- pursuing additional professional skills and qualifications.
Your academic supervisor can be a professor, associate professor or a junior group leader in your subject area. In order to find a supervisor the first step is to identify the department or institute in which your intended research field is located.
We recommend that you allow yourself plenty of time to find a doctoral supervisor. You can start with the list of University faculties. You may also search for research groups and professors in:
- the University’s various central research institutions;
- at external research institutes that cooperate with the University;
- or in interdisciplinary research alliances.
The websites of some faculties and institutes are available only in German. In such cases, you can use the following terms to search for more information about professors and research fields:
- Research groups (Forschungsgruppen or Lehrstühle),
- Research areas (Forschungsgebiete),
- Research (Forschung),
- Faculty, Staff, Members (Mitarbeiter, Mitglieder, Personen),
- Publications (Publikationen).
When you have located professors or research groups that match your research interests, you can contact them to introduce yourself and your planned project. It is also helpful to have a short description of your project available. The individual websites of the University’s research groups and professors provide information about their current research topics as well as their contact information.
The doctoral agreement
In the doctoral agreement, the doctoral supervisor and the doctoral candidate set down the framework of the doctoral project including the duration of the project, the reporting schedule, the resources that are to be made available, any additional qualifications the doctoral candidate should attain etc. The doctoral agreement form can be found on the website of your Faculty.
The doctoral agreement is the first step towards applying for admission as a doctoral candidate in your Faculty. You must submit the complete application for admission to your Faculty within six weeks of completing the doctoral agreement with your supervisor.
Further information is available from the Dean‘s Office of your faculty as well as the Doctoral Students‘ Office:
Doctoral Students‘ Office
Phone: +49 (0) 6221 54 - 12204/12205
Office hours: Mon 10 am–12 pm
Deadlines for applying for admission to a University faculty
There are no centralized, formal deadlines for submitting an application for admission to a Faculty. However, you should apply for admission to your Faculty soon after completing the doctoral agreement with your supervisor. Please be aware that some Faculties do set their own internal deadlines for the submission of an application for admission; therefore, you should inquire directly at the Dean’s Office or Doctoral Studies Office of your Faculty. Additionally, you will receive access to many university facilities and services (such as the central library and computer center) only after you have been admitted to your Faculty.
Further information: Step 4: Admission to the faculty.
Structured doctoral programmes often advertise their doctoral positions (both paid and unpaid) online and in academic journals. Applicants take part in a multilevel selection process that may include contact with possible supervisors and the discussion of possible doctoral topics. If you have been accepted by a structured doctoral program, the doctoral agreement may have been completed during the application and acceptance process. You should ask the coordinator of your program if this is true in your case
heiDOCS: Your Online Doctoral File
The University has developed a web portal for doctoral candidates (heiDOCS) with which you begin the registration process and which will accompany you throughout your doctoral studies. The portal also helps you to stay informed about services for doctoral candidates at the University. Before submitting your application to the faculty, you must register in the heiDOCS portal and create your online doctoral file. You will also receive your Uni ID via the portal.
► heiDOCS web portal
► Doctoral Students' Office
Doctoral Students‘ Office
Phone: +49 (0) 6221 54 - 12204/12205
Office hours: Mon 10 am–12 pm
Application for admission as a doctoral candidate to the faculty
After finding a doctoral supervisor, being admitted to the appropriate faculty at the University is the second necessary step towards beginning your doctoral studies. During the admission process, the doctoral committee will review your previous university degrees and your doctoral project to ensure that they fulfil the faculty’s prerequisites.
If your previous university degree is not equivalent to a German degree or if you are doing your doctoral studies in a subject area that differs from your previous studies, the doctoral committee may require you to do some additional coursework or pass an examination before granting you admission to the faculty.
The final admission to the faculty is issued in writing – the so-called “Annahme als Doktorand” (letter of admission). With this document, the faculty is committed to supporting your doctoral project until its completion and will assist you, for example, if you need to find a new supervisor.
- application form “Antrag auf Annahme als Doktorand” (this form is available in the Dean’s Office of the faculty or on many of the faculties’ websites),
- letter of acceptance from the doctoral supervisor and/or doctoral agreement (see step 2),
- proof of a completed university degree (as a rule, certified copies of the university diploma),
- topic and short summary of the doctoral project,
- curriculum vitae,
- declaration regarding past or current doctoral studies,
- if applicable, proof of language proficiency.
The letter of admission (Annahme als Doktorand) grants you official status at the University and gives you access to University services. It also allows you to apply to the University and to enroll as a doctoral candidate.
Even if you have been admitted to a structured doctoral program, you must nevertheless be granted admission to the appropriate University faculty. In many but certainly not all cases, this application is taken care of by your chosen program. Therefore, you should ask your program coordinator ahead of time about the procedures applicable to your program.
Contact persons at the Dean's Offices
The staff members responsible for doctoral studies in the Dean’s Offices of the faculties are listed here:
► Contact persons at the Dean's Offices
Important: Changes in your project
You are obligated to promptly report any fundamental changes in your doctoral project to the Dean’s Office of your faculty.
Such changes could be:
- change of topic,
- change of supervisor,
- discontinuation of your doctoral studies,
- extension of your doctoral studies
Admission as an international doctoral candidate at Heidelberg University
After you have received the letter of admission (Annahme als Doktorand) from your faculty, you must complete two more steps - you must apply for admission to the university and then enroll as a doctoral candidate. Enrollment is mandatory for doctoral candidates who were admitted to their faculty after April 1, 2018. See further information about this under the next tab "General Infos about Enrollment". Doctoral candidates have to pay a semester fee.
Admission is possible during the following periods:
- from the beginning of December to mid-June for the summer semester,
- from the beginning of May to mid-December for the winter semester.
In some cases, it is possible for international doctoral candidates to apply outside of the above time periods.
The first step towards enrollment is to apply for and be granted admission to the university. The following is a list of the documents necessary to apply for admission. The application form is found in the download center on the university website under “International students > Information, forms and fact sheets”.
If you are a dual citizen of Germany and another country, the enrollment regulations for German citizens apply to you. In this case, please consult the Heidelberg University website "Einschreibung in die Promotion".
- form “Application form for admission as a PhD student”, as an original, not a photocopy or scan, bearing your original signature on page 3
- admission form specifically for enrollment, issued by your faculty (Annahme als Doktorand), as an original, not a photocopy or scan.
- The form issued by your faculty must bear an original signature and the seal of the faculty.
- The admission form cannot be older than 6 months.
- Some faculties (such as Bioscience, Physics and Astronomy, Modern Languages and Philosophy) may use a different admission form specifically for enrollment. If you have questions, please contact our office.
- A scan of the "Annahme als Doktorand" will be accepted only from the Faculty of Behavioral and Cultural Studies.
- your Uni ID. Please write your Uni ID clearly either on the application form or on the admission form from your faculty. If you do not know your Uni ID, please contact our office.
- certified copies of your secondary school leaving certificate (e.g. Abitur, high school diploma, Attestat, Matura etc.) including transcripts of records (lists of courses and grades) and certified translations of these documents into either German or English if they were not originally issued in German or English
- if applicable, certified copy of your university entrance examination results and certified translation of this document into either German or English if it was not originally issued in German or English
- certified copies of all of your university diplomas (Bachelor, Master), including transcripts of records (lists of courses and grades) for each semester or year of study, and certified translations of all of these documents into either German or English if they were not originally issued in German or English
Applicants from China: Please note! For all school and university diplomas and transcripts, applicants from China must submit certified copies and translations that are issued by an official notary whose office is affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Justice. Other certified copies and translations will not be accepted unless the applicant also submits an original APS certificate.
- proof of sufficient financial resources (a concrete job offer, a copy of your work contract, your scholarship award notice, a blocked bank account etc.). This does not apply to EU citizens.
- passport photo (4 cm x 5 cm) (optional)
- copy of your passport (if applicable with study visa). This is for internal processing purposes only. You will be required to submit a certified copy of your passport/national ID card and, where applicable, of your valid visa or residence permit later for identification purposes when you complete your enrollment.
- proof of German language proficiency or confirmation from your faculty that proficiency in German is not required (This does not apply to doctoral candidates in the faculties of Medicine, Bioscience, Physics and Astronomy, Mathematics and Computer Science, or Chemistry and Geoscience.)
- if applicable, proof of any time spent at a German university as well as proof that you are no longer registered at that university (Exmatrikulationsbescheinigung).
You can submit the complete application by regular postal mail to our office, the Graduate Academy Service Center, at:
Im Neuenheimer Feld 370
Incomplete applications and applications sent by email will not be accepted.
The application cannot be submitted to us by email or in person at the admissions office (Studentensekretariat für ausländische Studierende). We will check your application documents and forward them to the admissions office, where the application will be processed for admission. If there are any problems, we will contact you directly. Please make sure to write your email address and your full and exact postal mailing address clearly on the application form.
After a processing period of approximately three to four weeks, your letter of admission (Zulassungsbescheid) will be sent out by the admissions and enrollment office by regular mail. In the summer, especially between July and September, the processing can take much longer due to the increased workload in the admissions office.
The admissions office sends the letters of admission directly to the applicants by regular postal mail. They do not send the letters by express courier or by email. This letter gives you permission to enroll at the University and informs you about:
- the time period during which you can enrol and
- any additional documents you must submit for enrollment, such as proof of German language proficiency
You will also receive an information sheet that explains how to finalize your enrollment by postal mail. You can find this same information on this webpage under the tab "Enrollment" and on this university website. Because you must submit further documents to complete your enrollment, we strongly recommend that you read this information carefully in advance to ensure that the process goes smoothly.
Please note that the letter of admission (Zulassungsbescheid) is only valid for the semester for which it is issued. If you wish to enroll during a later semester, you will first have to re-apply for admission.
If you have not yet received the letter of admission from your faculty (Annahme als Doktorand), you may apply and enroll with the status "in preparation for doctoral studies”.
You may remain enrolled with this status for a maximum of two semesters. Within the two semesters, you are expected to obtain the admission to your faculty (Annahme als Doktorand) and then you must change your enrollment status (see below).
How to apply: Submit the documents as outlined in the section above entitled (in red) Applying for admission to the University but substitute a recent (issued within the past 3-4 months) and original letter of acceptance from your supervisor for the letter of admission from the faculty. This letter should be on the letterhead of the university or the university hospital and should:
- confirm that you will be pursuing doctoral studies at Heidelberg University and indicate the research group in which you will be working,
- indicate which professor at Heidelberg University will be acting as your doctoral supervisor,
- indicate the approximate time period of your doctoral studies.
If your supervisor works primarily at an external organization such as the DKFZ and does not have university letterhead, he or she should confirm in the letter which university faculty he or she belongs to.
If you are not yet admitted to your faculty, you do not need to indicate your Uni ID, unless you have already received one, for example, through an employment contract. In most cases, your Uni ID will be issued when you enroll.
Enrollment as a doctoral candidate at Heidelberg University
After you have been admitted to your faculty as a doctoral candidate, you must apply for admission and enroll at the university. Due to recent changes in the Baden-Württemberg state law governing higher education, the following rules apply to enrollment as of April 1, 2018:
- All doctoral candidates who were admitted to their faculties on or after April 1, 2018 must enroll at the university.
- Doctoral candidate admitted to their faculties before April 1, 2018 are not obligated to enroll. These doctoral candidates can choose whether or not they wish to enroll.
- Enrolled doctoral candidates now make up an own status group as members of the university and as such have voting rights in certain university committees.
- Doctoral candidates who have an employment contract of 50% or more of the regular working hours with the university or the university hospital can choose to be exempted from mandatory enrollment. In this case, for voting purposes, they belong only to the status group of academic employees. Doctoral candidates who wish to exempt themselves from enrollment should send this form to the Zentrales Doktorandenbüro to request an exemption. For information about applying for exemption from mandatory enrollment, please contact the Zentrales Doktorandenbüro (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Doctoral candidates can now enroll at any time during the year although it is recommended that enrollment take place before the end of the re-registration period (July 15 for the summer semester and February 15 for the winter semester).
Enrollment as a doctoral candidate at Heidelberg University
After you have received the letter of admission (Annahme als Doktorand) from your faculty, you must complete two more steps - you must apply for admission to the University (see on this website "Step 5: Admission to the University") and then enroll as a doctoral candidate. Enrollment is obligatory for doctoral candidates. Doctoral candidates are not required to pay tuition fees. However, in order to enroll, you will have to pay a semester fee that covers the following costs:
|70.00 euros||Administrative costs|
|10.00 euros||Fee for the constituted student body|
Social contribution for student services:
|54.00 euros||Student services fees|
|35.30 euros||Complementary financing of regional transit pass (Semesterticket)|
|2.50 euros||Levy for the use of nextbike|
- access to services provided by the student services organisation Studierendenwerk, such as housing in the student dormitories, the multifunctional student ID card, child care services, legal and psychological counselling etc.,
- discounted use of public transportation: Semesterticket or Student ID Card(evenings, weekends and holidays),
- complete accident insurance coverage (for more information about insurances see our website).
After you have completed the procedure in Step 5 and received the letter of admission from the University (Zulassungsbescheid - this is not the Annahme als Doktorand, which you received from your Faculty), you can enroll by postal mail at the admissions and enrollment office, not at the Graduate Academy. The process of enrolling by postal mail will be explained in an information sheet that is sent to you with the Zulassungsbescheid.
The necessary enrollment documents include
- a normal photocopy of your letter of admission to the University (Zulassungsbescheid),
- the original of the enrollment form “Admission and Immatriculation at the University of Heidelberg”, filled out and signed. Have a look at this guide for help in filling out the form.
- a certified photocopy of your passport and a certified copy of your valid visa or residence permit (EU/EEA nationals only require a certified copy of their identity card/passport). Regular photocopies will not be accepted.
- If you have German public health insurance, the original of the health insurance certificate issued specifically for enrollment by your public German health insurance provider (Krankenkasse). Please do not simply submit the general confirmation of health insurance coverage. OR, if you have private health insurance, the certificate of exemption from public health insurance that you must obtain for enrollment purposes from a public German health insurance provider (Krankenkasse). You can obtain the certificate of exemption by presenting proof of your private health insurance coverage at the Krankenkasse and requesting the certificate. Please do not simply submit a copy of your private health insurance coverage.
- one passport size photo (min. 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm and max. 4 cm x 5 cm),
- any other documents listed on the “Zulassungsbescheid”.
These documents should be sent to the following address:
Please be aware that doctoral candidates are permitted to enroll after the deadline indicated in the letter of admission if they have not yet arrived in the country. In this case, we recommend that you contact your admissions advisor listed on your letter of admission so that your admission status will remain active even after the deadline. Enrollment must be completed by the end of the re-enrollment period in the relevant semester ( ie for the winter semester - mid-February; for the summer semester - mid-July).
After receiving and processing your enrollment documents, the enrollment office will send you, by postal mail, your multifunctional student identification card, proof of successful enrollment and other important information about paying the semester fee and about setting up an online student account in LSF to manage your enrollment.
The university will send you reminders about the payment of your semester fees to the university email address that you receive through enrollment. Therefore, please remember to check this email regularly. Additionally, the university will send notifications to you by postal mail to the mailing address that is in the enrollment system. You are responsible for keeping this address current in the LSF student account system.
Doctoral candidates are not required to pay tuition fees at Heidelberg University. However, in order to enroll at the University, you will have to pay a semester fee that covers administrative costs, costs for student services and student representatives. The total fee is currently 171.80 euros per semester (as per winter semester 2021/2022).
In order to remain enrolled at the University, you must re-register each semester by paying the fee described above. The time periods for re-registration are as follows:
- June 15 to July 15 for the winter semester,
- January 15 to February 15 for the summer semester.
Detailed information about re-registration at the university is available on the university website "Re-Registration".
Language requirements for international doctoral candidates
The doctoral regulations of each faculty determine the languages in which a dissertation may be written. If you would like to write in a language not specified in the doctoral regulations, you must receive the permission of both your supervisor and the Dean of your faculty.
► Language requirements for international doctoral candidates