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FAQ - summary of questions

How do I prepare my doctoral studies the best way?

To obtain a doctoral degree in law the candidate needs to show initiative, autonomy and motivation. The earlier your preparations begin the better.

It pays off to already connect yourself during your studies with professors and other doctoral candidates and to inform yourself about doctoral programmes offered in your home country or abroad. To get in touch early with judicial  science and research shows to be very beneficial for future doctoral candidates. Ambitious students who work as scientific assistant get to collect valueable experiences with regard to working scientifically, make connections and leave a positive impression.

It also helps to specialize in a certain topic serving your interests during your time as a student. Therefore you can attend immersing lectures and research the topic for its latest state of research: What are the current, scientific focal points? Which questions are still to be answered? The ideal case would be for you to already work on sections of your doctoral topic to-be within the scope of term papers or seminar papers. By doing so you have the chance to proove that you can work on that topic on an excellent scientifical level.

The preparation for writing a thesis also contains bureaucratic questions - social insurance, tax declaration etc. . For the most important information about this concern please click here.

How do I find a doctoral supervisor?

The Graduate School of Law does not interfere with the individual search for a doctoral supervisor. To find one initiative needs to be shown by the future doctoral candidate.

Before engaging in the search for a doctoral supervisor it is advisable to develop definite ideas for your doctoral studies. There are lots of possible research fields in every scientific department. In order to preserve clarity it helps to select a topic that serves your interests the most. It is useful to remind yourself that you will have to deal with that content for three to four years. Maybe you already got a deeper insight in a certain topic through working on it in terms of a seminar paper, a presentation or practical experiences.

If you found your research topic you should make a time schedule for your doctoral studies. Collect your ideas and plans in a conclusive summary.

Now go on to inform yourself about the professors who are specialists in your favored research field. Visiting expert conferences devoted to your research field also comes in handy for gathering information and making contacts - or even finding a doctoral supervisor.

If you found a professor that suits your doctoral studies do not hesitate to contact him or her per mail to ask for a meeting in person. Usually, professors value doctoral candidates who already made specific plans for their doctoral studies. When talking to your possible doctoral supervisor make clear why you wish for him or her to maintain your studies and what advantages he or she will have from working with you.

Simultaneously you should stay flexible when it comes to develop the details of your doctoral studies. Considering this your search for a doctoral supervisor should succeed more easily.

How do I find a research field for my doctoral studies?

Generally speaking these following tips should be considered:

Present topics are often fitting, even if there remains a risk for a following final judgement through a high court or a legislative change that offsets  the topic to be obsolete. Still, such legislative changes can be foreseen easily. Additionally, a research field even can deal with this future legislative change itself. If you choose a classic research field it is clear that the pressure to find new results is way higher than in an untreated scientifc area. Working on a classic research field is always connected to the requirement of scientific profound which contains the risk of the comparison to excellent studies of that field. Still, it should be considered that an analysis of the current scientific situation can contribute a new perspective to the topic.

Experience shows that most doctoral candidates do hesitate to choose topics that were already worked on. However, this scepsis is often unfounded: even if the research field or the topic is named the same it is clear that one dissertation does not resemble the other with regard to each ones train of thought.

The Graduate School of Law organizes an Introduction week two times a year for doctoral candidates to give them an overview about questions that occure throughout the process of writing doctoral studies. For more information please click here.

Internal vs. External Doctorate: advantages and disadvantages


Internal graduations are connected to a paid employment at a chair. Next to disposing of a secure income the internal graduations offer the advantage of a shorter communication path to the doctorate supervisor. The contact to colleagues at the chair can also be of help, especially when it seems that you "got on the wrong track".

Still, an internal doctorate uses to take a bit longer since the doctorate candidate is included in the daily work of the chair.

External doctorates only consist of the supervisory relationship. This relationship is far more limber compared to the supervision in terms of an internal doctorate: The doctorate supervisor accepts the doctorate candidate who then works on his/her dissertation at home or at the library on his/her own to a great extent. The funding of the doctorate studies remains the doctorate candidate's task.

The lack of shorter communication paths to the doctorate supervisor as the lack of contact to colleagues at the chair is a clear disadvantage of the external graduation since there will have to be organized a personal meeting with the doctorate supervisor for every single clarifying conversation.

The institutes and Graduate School of Law try to compensate these disadvantages by organizing regular colloquia, workshops and networks. Additionally, there is also the possibility to establish contacts while working in the library or attending seminars.

External graduations might not be well received by every professor for the doctorate supervisor also wants to be in close touch with his/her doctorate candidate.


Are abroad graduated students allowed to do one's doctorate at the Faculty of Law?

Students who graduated abroad can write their dissertation at the Faculty of Law of the Universität zu Köln. To inform yourself about the admission requirements please click here .

General information about the terms of applications and enrolment can be found here.


Collaborative doctorates

It is possible to obtain the doctoral degree of law of the Universität zu Köln in parallel with the doctoral degree of law of a foreign partner university. For more information please click here


How long do the doctorate studies at the Faculty of Law take on average?

The survey shows that average doctorate studies take three to four years. Independently of the type of promotion or the scientific area the doctorate candidates require about a half to a whole additional year to finish their studies in comparison to their planned completion.


Are there scholarships or funding opportunities for doctorate candidates?

Mainly foundations from the area of political parties and the economy but also from other sectors offer scholarships for doctoral candidates. Next to individual support, for example as monthly paid funding, there can be offered printing subsidies or scholarships especially for the final stage of doctoral studies.

For more information please click here.

What mandatory events organized by the Graduate School of Law are there?

Attendance at the Introduction week (Einführungswoche) is a mandatory admission requirement for doctoral studies in accordance with § 3 Absatz 1 Satz 1 Buchstabe c PromO. The application has to be made not later than one year before the request for admission to the doctoral studies (Antrag auf Zulassung zur Promotion) is made.

Does the Graduate School of Law financially support doctoral studies under certain circumstances?

The Graduate School of Law does not dispose of individual scholarship programmes. However, the Graduate School of law financially supports the doctoral candidate networks that can use this support for seminars or to invite experts for a presentation. Additionally, costs for an individual participation in specialist events can be refunded.

Is it possible for the Graduate School of Law to be a doctoral supervisor?

No. The Graduate School of Law can not be a doctoral supervisor.

Does the Graduate School of Law evaluate dissertations?

No. The Graduate School of Law does not grade dissertations or any other doctoral candidate's performances.