Application period, process and eligibility

When is the application period? 

You may find information on the required documents on our How to Apply page throughout the year. You will be able to submit your application material, including a research outline between mid-November until mid-January. Please check our website regularly for updates and for the application portal to open.


What is the application process?

All applications are processed centrally and thereofre must be submitted via our applications portal.  We have a central selection committee, which evaluates each application. Individual professors cannot decide about admission to our programme. Hence, we request that you refrain from contacting potential supervisors directly for your application. 


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

In general, our programmes are targeted at PhD candidates with a strong foundation in economics, law, political science, sociology, public administration, management or related fields. However, the success of an individual application depends on the availability of a suitable supervisor at the School. If you have specific concerns about your eligibility, please contact us at 


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

If you cannot find your area of research being 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. As a second step, they are forwarded to potential supervisors. After the evaluation of an application, the PhD Board decides whether the applicant is 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, you also indicate two referees. The referees will receive an email from the system asking them to upload their reference letters via the applications portal. Letters of reference must have a university letterhead and be signed by the referee.


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.

We do not waive the English test 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.


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 between March and 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, scholarships and financial aid

Do I have to pay tuition costs?

No. There are no tuition costs for the programme. 


Once I have submitted my application, do I have to apply for a scholarship separately?

No. By applying for our doctoral programme you automatically apply for a PhD scholarship that covers your living costs in Berlin.


What kind of scholarships or funding opportunities are available?

Funding is available through PhD scholarships. It is also possible to enter the PhD programme as a Research Associate of the Hertie School, conditional on acceptance of the application to the PhD programme by the Hertie School’s PhD Board. 


The deadline for an external scholarship (e.g. DAAD) is before the Hertie application portal is open. How can I apply for external funding?

For your application to the DAAD, we are happy to provide you with a Letter of Eligibility, i.e. stating that you are eligible to enter the programme in case of successful application. 


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, there are no existing joint PhD agreements with universities abroad. We therefore need to check each agreement individually. In the case that the Hertie School should be the home university, you would have to successfully apply to our doctoral programme first.

Should the partner university be the home university, you would need to find a Hertie School faculty member who would be willing to co-supervise your thesis.


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 Services 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 Services team will offer support in 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.


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.