• If you are interested to join the GIGA Doctoral Programme but still have questions on how to do so or are not sure about the application procedure, the list of frequently asked questions below is your first place to turn to. You will find answers to general questions, more specific details on questions related to applying as a self-funded doctoral researcher as well as information on queries regarding a stay as a visting doctoral researcher.

    Should you have additional questions that are not answered in the FAQs, please address them to dpgiga@giga-hamburg.de. We will get back to you with an answer as soon as possible.

    General Questions

    1. How can I join the Doctoral Programme?

    You can join our programme either as a self-funded doctoral researcher or as a doctoral researcher working in a third-party funded project at the GIGA. As an external doctoral researcher you are welcome to apply for a stay as a visiting doctoral researcher. Further details on the application procedures are provided here.

    2. Does the GIGA provide funding for doctoral researchers?

    No, the GIGA does not provide funding for doctoral researchers. If you want to join the programme as a self-funded doctoral researcher, you are expected to apply for external funding, for example from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) or from other foundations (a list of foundations and institutions that offer scholarships is provided here). Doctoral researchers who are working in a third-party funded project are financed by the respective project.

    3. How do I know whether my research topic fits to the GIGA?

    It is crucial that your research proposal fits within the GIGA’s research agenda. Please familiarise yourself here with our research structure and the individual regional institutes and research programmes in order to assess how your research would integrate and contribute to our research agenda.

    4. Who is awarding the doctoral degree?

    As a non-university research institute, the GIGA cannot award the doctoral degree but cooperates closely with different universities. Doctoral degrees will be awarded by one of our partner universities, dependent upon the affiliation of the sdoctoral researcher’s first supervisor. This means, you will enroll at the university your first supervisor is affiliated with.

    Questions Related to Applying as a Self-funded Doctoral Researcher

    1. I need an admission letter for my scholarship application – what should I do?

    We know that the foundations and institutions that offer scholarships often require an acceptance letter to process your application. Please note that the GIGA DP itself will not be able to provide you with such a letter before you have gone through the entire application process and the selection commission has recommended your admission to the programme. For this reason, our application deadline has been set to a date early enough to, first, go through our process, and then apply to scholarships. In your application to the GIGA, please indicate the name(s) of the institution(s) to which you have applied or will apply. If we were to admit you to our programme, we would give you a conditional acceptance letter that you can then use for your scholarship applications. The final admission to our programme is conditional upon your ability to provide proof of funding (e.g. a scholarship) by the starting date (1 October).

    2. What is the statement about funding plans?

    The statement about funding plans is a statement that should explain how you plan to finance your doctoral research in Germany. This could be through a scholarship or another source of income. You should also state whether you have already applied to a foundation or even reached the second round in an application procedure; what are your alternatives if you do not get the scholarship; etc. Alternatives often include funding through private resources. We calculate an annual funding need of 15.000 Euro. Any statement about private resources should encompass sufficient funding for three years of studies. Please note: You do NOT need to have secured a scholarship before you apply to the GIGA (see above), this letter is about making clear to the selection committee your credible intentions about funding.

    3. Do I need to contact a supervisor prior to my application?

    No, it is not a requirement to contact a potential supervisor, but you may do so. The most important aspect is that your research proposal fits into the GIGA’s research agenda. You are also welcome to have a look at the list of potential supervisors on our website and state in your motivation letter who you think would be a good fit to supervise your project. Supervisors will be allocated during the selection process related to the proposed topics and availabilities. In general, you need to have at least one supervisor at the GIGA. This means, if you already have an external supervisor it is still possible to apply to our programme given that your supervisor agrees to this endeavor and is open to co-supervise with one of the supervisors at the GIGA.

    4. Is the bibliography considered part of the max. 2000 words of the research proposal?

    The 2,000 words refer to the text only.

    5. What should I hand in as proof of English language skills?

    We are quite flexible regarding the proof of language skills. You can hand in an official language test (even if it is not a current one) or provide a letter from the administrative office of your university certifying that your study programme was taught in English. If you have any publications, term papers, thesis, etc. in English, they could also serve as a proof of English language skills. Please note that our programme language is English.

    6. What should I hand in as an academic writing sample?

    You can hand in e.g. an article that has been published in a scientific Journal, a term/seminar paper you have written at university, or a chapter of your MA thesis (please do not submit the whole thesis). The writing sample should preferably be in English.

    7. Can I apply even if I have not received my master degree yet?

    You are eligible to apply for the Doctoral Programme when you receive your MA degree latest by the starting date of the programme (1 October). If you have not received your MA degree yet you can still apply and hand in your transcript or records so far. If we were to admit you to our programme, the admission would then be made conditional upon your ability to provide proof of your master degree (certificate/transcript) by the starting date.

    8. Whom should I name as reference persons and what do they need to do?

    The reference persons should be persons that know you well and are willing to provide information about you (e.g. professors or lecturers from your university). You need to state the contact details of two such reference persons in your application. We do not require reference letters, but might call your reference contacts instead, so please advise any referee that you do mention them in your application to the GIGA Doctoral Programme.

    9. Due to other commitments I could join the programme only a few months later – can I still apply?

    In general, doctoral researchers are expected to be in Hamburg as of the starting date of the programme. You can describe your situation regarding a still ongoing internship or work in your motivation letter. Should the commission decide to admit you to our programme, we will strive – but cannot guarantee – to find a reasonable solution.

    10. Where can I find the application form and what documents do I need to send?

    The call for application states all required documents. Both the call as well as the application form can be downloaded on our website here where you can also find further information regarding the application process.

    11. Can I also apply independently of the yearly call?

    Our yearly call for applications is our regular process of selecting doctoral researchers and admitting them to our programme. In exceptional cases, for example when deadlines for scholarship applications do not match up with the deadline of our yearly call or funding has already been successfully secured, candidates with outstanding qualifications and profile as well as a high GIGA fit may submit applications to the DP academic director between calls throughout the year. Please note that only complete applications will be considered.

    Questions Related to Applying as a Visiting Doctoral Researcher

    1. How much in advance should I submit my application?

    There is a high demand for visiting stays as well as a very strict limit on the number of visiting doctoral researchers the GIGA can host at once. Please apply well in advance, at least six months before the start of the period of your prospective stay.

    2. Are there any funding possibilities for visiting doctoral researchers?

    No, we are unable to provide any financial assistance for the stays of visiting doctoral researchers. You need to acquire your own funding for the stay, for example, by applying for a scholarship or other funding opportunities for such purposes. Should we invite you for a stay as a visiting doctoral researcher, this invitation is thus subject to your securing of relevant funding from your home institution or third parties.

    3. Do I have a supervisor during my stay?

    No, visiting doctoral researchers are not allocated a GIGA supervisor for their thesis during their stay. However, they are fully integrated into the GIGA’s research structure, being affiliated with the Doctoral Programme, one of the regional institutes, and one research programme. Within these units, visiting doctoral researchers have plenty of opportunity to exchange with GIGA researchers at all career levels and present and discuss their research projects in respective research meetings.


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