Getting a PhD in Bielefeld

This is an informal guide with no warranties. The formal and binding regulations can be found on the pages of the Faculty of Technology.

There are also some pages of the International Office with special information for international PhD candidates.

The LaTeX templates attached to this page require the TechBrief Style.


Apart from research and writing things up, there are a few but vital organizational matters to be considered for getting your PhD. Here is an outline of the major steps:

  1. Get the admission for the PhD procedure (up to five years before 3.)
  2. Decide on your reviewers and your committee (one month before 3.)
  3. Hand in the thesis
  4. Defend your thesis
  5. Publish your thesis

Please verify the statements below by reading the Examination Regulations (Rahmenpromotionsordnung, Promotionsordnung) of the Department of Technology (German page or English page). If you are enrolled in a graduate program (Bioinformatics and Genome Research, Intelligent Systems, or similar), several additional regulations apply for getting the GS Certificate, see their web pages.

1. Admission to PhD Procedure

To hand in your thesis, you have to get admitted to the PhD procedure in Bielefeld. In order to get admitted, write a letter to the Dean of the Faculty of Technology, stating that you want to get admitted, whether you have been in a PhD procedure anywhere before and acknowledge the examination regulations. In addition, you have to hand in the following documents:

  1. A copy of your Master/Diploma certificate. It does not have to be sealed.
  2. A current curriculum vitae
  3. A current list of publications
  4. A Betreuungsvereinbarung between you and your main thesis advisor

You can hand in all these documents at the examination office (Prüfungsamt, currently: Christian Haupt, office C3-142, phone 3462, open Monday to Friday 8-12 and 14-15.

Since 01.03.2011, new regulations are valid. To get an admission you will additionally have to state a preliminary title of your work.

The admission is valid for at least five years, so try to get this done way before you plan to finish your thesis.

A checklist for the admission process (in German) can be found here: Admission Instructions

A LaTeX skeleton of the letter to the Dean including parts for the CV and publication list (in German) can be found here: AdmissionPhD.tex

2. Reviewers and Committee

You need two reviewers for your thesis. One of them must be a professor of the Faculty of Technology, where usually a group leader counts as professor in this sense. Your committee has four members: The two reviewers, one member of the level of postdoc/group leader and one chair person who is a professor of the Faculty of Technology and none of your reviewers.

When handing in your thesis, you have to propose both the reviewers and the committee members. However, this is only a proposal, and the ultimate decision is made by the Faculty Conference. Nevertheless, they will usually agree with your proposal.

3. Handing in the Thesis

You can hand in your thesis at the examination office (see above). You need the following items/statements:

  1. A proposal for the reviewers
  2. A proposal for the committee
  3. A statement which degree you wish to achieve (e.g. Dr. rer. nat. or Dr.-Ing.)
  4. A declaration that you did everything on your own and did not use other material than stated in the thesis (some people print this this statement inside the thesis, but it can also be written on a separate sheet). If you got your admission after 01.03.2011, then you need to provide some additional information. Review this in theRahmenpromotionsordnung §8 g)
  5. A declaration whether you allow your defense to be open to the public
  6. At least five printed and bound copies of your thesis
  7. A signed CV and an updated list of publications
  8. A letter from one professor of the Faculty of Technology that he/she is willing to review your thesis

The examination office is happy to receive the above information combined. For example 1.-5. and 7. can be stated in one letter. The following LaTeX skeleton (in German) contains also the letter from your professor (8.):

A checklist for the required steps for opening of your thesis (in German) can be found here: Opening Instructions

If you want to reach the next Fakultätskonferenz in which your PhD procedure should be opened, make sure that you hand in all letters at least 15 working days before the conference at the examination office. If you do this exactly two weeks before, this has to be before noon since it will be presented in the Hochschullehrerbesprechung on that day. Please note that you can only hand in your stuff when you are admitted to the PhD procedure!

The whole procedure gets started in the next Faculty Conference (FaKo). Almost on every agenda of the Faculty Conference is the item “Promotionen” where one of your supervisors briefly outlines your work. After that the members of the faculty conference decide if the procedure will be continued. The decision is usually not a big problem but you have to make sure that you are on the agenda. Firstly, your Professor has to announce you on the Hochschullehrerbesprechung which is always one week before the FaKo. Then he has to add you to the agenda of the FaKo and take care that he or another supervisor will introduce your work to the Members of the FaKo. If everything worked out you will receive a letter confirming the procedure shortly after the FaKo.

Please note that the faculty conference only takes place 3-4 times each semester and usually not in the semester breaks. The dates are given on the faculty homepage. If you are not sure, talk to the examination office. Because of the fixed dates, it can happen that you hand in your thesis in August but your procedure has to wait until October. Nevertheless, there is a small chance to start your procedure during semester breaks in a so-called “Umlauf-FaKo”. Your supervisor has to announce you on the last regular FaKo before the semester break, even if you did not yet hand in the thesis, and the decision will be made not in a meeting but on paper.

After the procedure has been continued, the reviewers have 8 weeks to write their reviews and hand them in to the examination office. Afterwards, you have two weeks to acknowledge the reviews and you also have the right to hand in comments on the reviews, for example if you do not agree with them. To save time, you can acknowledge on the first day.

After this, the reviews and your comments are then made public for two weeks, and every faculty member has the right to make a formal objection on either your thesis or one of the reviews.

Assuming no one objects, you can then announce the defense of your thesis. The examination office will also officially announce the defense. This can only be deone after the two weeks mentioned above and at least one week before the defense.

4. Defense

Please note that the defense has to be officially announced to the Faculty, otherwise the defense has to be repeated which actually happened a few times. Usually, the examination office does the announcement, but you have to provide at least 2 weeks prior to the defense the date and time, as well as the room.

The defense consists of a 45 minutes presentation by you and a discussion of your thesis of at least 60 minutes (well, in fact it is often much less). Usually, the public is also allowed to ask questions, although these are not taken into account when grading your defense. The committee members are not restricted to questions on your thesis but may also ask about related topics. Immediately after the (successful) defense, your are given your grade for the defense. You are still not a PhD, you may only use the doctoral degree after your thesis has been published. (There are rumors that at least you may legally choose not to object if someone calls you Dr.) So, the only thing left to do is the publication of your thesis.

5. Publication

Basically, you have a few choices: If you wrote a brillant thesis with overwhelmingly exiting results, you may want to publish it as a book. Most others will publish online via the university library. In any case, you have one year after your defense to get your thesis published. The university's online publication service is called PubTheses (in German). On the webpage, you find additional instructions for publishing a PhD thesis. (The pdf-filename will not be changed by the system, so better name it something meaningful.) Basically, together with the pdf-file you have to deliver 3 printed copies of the thesis identical to the pdf version. They must be printed on alterungsbeständigem, holz- und säurefreiem Papier nach DIN-ISO 9706 and must also declare this in the thesis. After you got through the web form on BieSOn, a declaration will be shown (in html) that you have to print out and sign, stating that you transfer the publication rights to the library etc. After that bring the signed form and the 3 copies of your thesis (1 for the Faculty of Technology and 2 for the library) to the examination office where the necessary parts are forwarded to the library. Usually you don't have to go to the library yourself. You also need to declare that your reviewers accept this final version.

Now, you wait for approximately 3 days for the library to check your submitted thesis. Then, you will get a mail saying you can get your PhD certificate (“Urkunde”) at the examination office.

The deadline for submission is 12 months after your defense.

Congratulations, you are done!