Every doctoral project requires academic supervision, which is provided by either a doctoral supervisor or a supervisory team. By agreeing to supervise a doctoral candidate, the supervisor undertakes to provide him or her with methodical and technical advice and support. The same support is provided by a supervisory team, which also serves as the point of contact for other aspects of doctoral supervision (for example the choice of qualification options).

Who may supervise a doctoral project?

The faculties and departments define in their doctoral regulations which persons are entitled to supervise doctoral candidates. As a general rule, professors, junior professors, Privatdozenten, Hochschuldozenten and Universitätsdozenten are available to act as supervisors. In a cooperative doctoral process, professors at universities of applied sciences who hold a doctorate may also be involved in the supervision of a dissertation.

Search for a supervisor

It is important that your supervisor is a specialist in the area in which you intend to write your dissertation. As well as subject specialism, the importance of a good interpersonal relationship to a successful doctoral degree should also not be underestimated.

    The following resources may be helpful in the search for a supervisor:

  • Websites of faculties / departments and also of individual professors
  • Universities' own web pages on the subject of doctoral degrees
  • Relevant academic publications and their authors
  • Ongoing or completed research projects and participating researchers
  • Key research areas of graduate schools and Research Training Groups
  • Networks and forums for doctoral candidates
  • Announcements in national newspapers and journals.

Finding a suitable supervisor

You can usually find a suitable supervisor by consulting several sources of information. In most cases you will find several researchers who might be potential supervisors for your doctoral project. It is therefore necessary to speak to potential supervisors personally to find out who is willing to supervise you and who you would like to be your supervisor. You can make contact with them by first contacting the dean's office of the faculty or department or by contacting the professor directly.

Whichever option you choose, you should be very well prepared for a meeting with a potential supervisor. As well as asking questions about the content of your project, it is advisable to find out about the organisational aspect of supervision, for example the scope and regularity of meetings with your supervisor. The scope and regularity of meetings with supervisors and other formalities should be defined in a supervision agreement, which in many cases is required by the doctoral regulations.

Supervision by a professor at a university of applied sciences

In connection with the admission of graduates of universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen) to doctoral programmes, universities and institutions of equivalent status are increasingly enabling professors of Fachhochschulen to be actively involved in the doctoral process. They can co-supervise a doctoral candidate and also be appointed as reviewers. This form of participation has come to be termed a 'cooperative doctoral process'.