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1. Can I apply even though I have not yet finished my master’s degree?

If you will have your master's degree in hand by the time you would start the scholarship, i.e. October of the current academic year, you can apply by submitting an official, current (!) transcript of records/mark sheet and a letter by your department confirming your probable graduation date.

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2. Is there an age limit?

No, there is no age limit for applicants to the GPTS.

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3. How does the application process work?

In the first stage, you submit a written application and a variety of documents through our online application system.

Based on these application portfolios, the selection committee shortlists the most promising candidates and invites them to present their projects in Heidelberg at the so-called Job Market. At the Job Market, candidates will present their doctoral projects in a conference-style setting and have one-on-one interviews with members of the selection committee.

The selection committee makes its final decision after the Job Market.

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4. What documents will I have to upload exactly and how does it work?

You will enter your personal information, a letter of motivation, information on your previous studies and employment/research experience as well as the proposal for your doctoral project directly into the online application system. All of this has to be submitted in English.

Other documents (certificates and transcripts of records for all university studies, proof of English) must be uploaded as PDFs. University and language certificates must be submitted in English, German, French or Italian. Documents in other languages must be submitted as certified translations into English or German.

For the two required letters of recommendation you enter the contact details of the referees (full name, institution, email address) into the system. Your referees will then receive an automated email asking them to enter their letter directly into the online application system.

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5. When will I be notified of the result?

Applicants will be notified about the result of the shortlisting by the beginning of May. The shortlisted candidates will be notified of the result of the final decision approx. one week after the Job Market.

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6. I found a mistake in my application after I submitted – can I correct it?

Once you have submitted your application and/or the deadline has expired, you can make no further changes. Exceptions might be possible for submitting English language and degree certificates that could not be procured in time. However, there is no guarantee that the committee will be able to take them under consideration. If you expect such a delay, please make sure to contact the Graduate Programme Manager as early as possible.

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7. Who can serve as supervisor for my project?

In the German academic system, generally only "Hochschullehrer" (Prof.") and "Privatdozenten" ("PD Dr."), i.e. senior scholars with habilitation or equivalent, may serve as doctoral supervisor. By exception, also junior research group leaders may supervise doctoral candidates. Please be advised that your supervisor must be a full member of Heidelberg University. To learn more about the requirements, please refer to the website of Heidelberg University's Graduate Academy.

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8. How do I find a supervisor?

You find all professors working at and with the Cluster/HCTS in our listing of academic staff. Please make sure to carefully read the profiles to ensure that the professor in question is actually at Heidelberg University. Alternatively, you can search at the department most interesting to you. Here you find links to all faculties at Heidelberg University.

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9. Do I have to contact a supervisor before I submit my application?

In the first stage of the application process, we only ask you to name a potential supervisor in your portfolio. You do not need to contact them. Shortlisted applicants who have been invited to Heidelberg are then welcome to contact the supervisor mentioned before they present their project at the Job Market.
On the other hand, if you are already in contact with a professor prior to your application or maybe even have started your doctoral project under the supervision of a professor at Heidelberg University, please indicate so in your application.

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Letter of Motivation/Proposal

10. Do I have to write my letter of motivation and my proposal in English?

Yes. As the language of instruction in the GPTS is English, your letter of intention, your proposal and all other parts of the application that you write yourself need to be in English.

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11. How long should the letter of motivation be? Should I mention something specific?

The letter of motivation should be approx. 600 words long. In your letter, you should explain why you want to pursue your doctoral studies within the GPTS and how your research project and interests specifically connect to the programme and the Cluster/HCTS research framework.

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12. How long should the proposal be?

You enter the proposal directly into the online application system. The subpage is pre-structured into fields for

  • working title
  • summary
  • significance, hypotheses and expected results
  • state of the art
  • methods and sources
  • work plan and
  • bibliography

You have space for approx. 400-600 words for each field. Although the system will not cut off longer sections, please be aware that being able to adhere to a word limit is a skill that will be taken into consideration in the selection.

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13. Whom should I contact as referee?

Referees should be experienced scholars who can judge your performance and potential in your chosen field of research. Many applicants choose their advisors from their MA and/or BA programmes.

A superior in the company you are currently working in will most likely not be a good choice, as they will not be able to judge your academic potential.

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14. How do the referees submit their letters of recommendation?

In the online application system you will be asked to enter the contact details of your referees, including full name, institutional address and their official email address. They will receive an automated email asking them to provide a letter of recommendation. The email will include more detailed information on how to procede.

Please make sure to ask for permission to name them as referee and inform them about the process and deadlines well in advance. As they will not have access to your application portfolio, also inquire whether you should send them your proposal and possibly other information beforehand.

You will not be able to read the letter of recommendation yourself but you will be able to check the status in your application portfolio.

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15. Must the referees submit their letters of recommendation in English?

Letters of the recommendation should be in English or in German to ensure that all members of the selection committee can consider them.

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16. When must the letters of reference be submitted?

The deadline for the letters of recommendation is approx. 4-5 days after the deadline for the applicants. The referee will receive the exact date in the email. Please ensure that your referees are aware of the task and timing well in advance and will be expecting an email.

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17. One of my referees did not yet receive the automated email – what can I do?

Please check whether you have inserted the correct email address in the system. If you have, please ask your referee to check the spam folder of their email account. If they still cannot find the email or encounter any technical problems, they are welcome to contact the GPTS coordinator at for more detailed assistance.

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English Certificate

18. Are there exemptions for the English certificate?

Native speakers and applicants who received their complete high school and/or university education in an English speaking country are exempt from further proof. All other applicants must provide a certificate.

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19. I have neither a TOEFL nor an IELTS – what other certificates would be acceptable to prove my knowledge of English?

We accept a wide range of certificates. They must be issued by an institution authorized to test language skills (e.g. a university language centre) and explicitly confirm your knowledge of English at a level of at least level C1 according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

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20. I took some seminars in English during my MA, would that be proof enough?

No. You still need to provide some kind of certificate confirming your skill level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

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21. Can I submit my English certificate later?

In exceptional cases, it may be possible that you submit your English certificate up to two weeks after the application deadline. However, there is no guarantee that the committee will be able to take them under consideration. If you expect such a delay, please make sure to contact the Graduate Programme Manager as early as possible. 

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Dr. Jule Nowoitnick
Graduate Programme Manager
T: +49-6221-54-4009
F: +49-6221-54-4012

Please arrange an appointment for consultation via email or phone.