The Faculty confers the degree of Dr.rer.nat. (Doctor of Natural Sciences) to candidates upon submission of a dissertation (doctoral thesis), an oral examination, and publication of the thesis work in the fields of Mathematics or Computer Science. Both allow an interdisciplinary option with a related field. The degree attests to the ability to carry out independent research in the chosen subject area.
Tips for doctoral candidates
- PhD Registration and Submission of Thesis are possible only during office hours and are processed with a complete set of required documents only.
- The Doctoral Students Convention (Doktorandenkonvent) is a forum and representative body of all doctoral students at Heidelberg University with the purpose of advising and informing faculties and the University administration in matters related to doctoral regulations.
- The Graduate Academy offers additional information and advice on both administrative and practical matters related to life as a Doctoral student in Heidelberg.
- Courses and learning resources to information retrieval and information management are mentioned here.
- Detecting plagiarism is explained here.
Before you begin
Please read carefully the information provided on this page before submitting your application, and ensure that you understand the details of the procedure, which involves, in particular (and in this order):
- Finding an advisor, possibly in the framework of a structured doctoral program (graduate school)
- Acceptance to the faculty as a doctoral candidate (PhD student)
- Registration as a doctoral student at the University
- Carrying out your research, and writing your dissertation (doctoral thesis)
- The doctoral examination (thesis defense)
- Publication of your thesis (deposition at the University library)
The heiDOCS information system holds an online file of all doctoral students at the University. You must register in time and update your data at each step.
The following guide is based on the regulations for the Doctoral degree at the Combined Faculty of Mathematics, Engineering and Natural Sciences at Heidelberg University and summarizes common practice followed in the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science. Please be advised that in case of conflict, the provisions of the German version of the regulations shall prevail.
This version of September 29, 2021 applies immediately to all current and prospective doctoral candidates.
2017 flyer on how to get involved in the representation of doctoral students.
Finding a doctoral advisor and jointly filling and signing this form is the first mandatory step in the process.
Please make sure you understand the details of the procedure before submitting this form.
Acceptance as a doctoral candidate depends on proof of sufficient theoretical and practical knowledge in the designated field of study, and may be subject to additional course requirements. The typical applicant holds a Master degree (or Diploma) in Mathematics or Computer Science from a German University or foreign equivalent with a minimum of four years of prescribed university studies (including any previous degree such as Bachelor). Prospective applicants may consult the (partial) lists below if your degree is eligible for acceptance in the designated field of study and whether it has conditions attached to it. You may also pre-check your qualifications on the Anabin Website maintained by the Federal Education Ministries' Office for International Education. (deutsch: (Kultusministerkonferenz – Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen)
The acceptance decisions are made by the respective Doctoral Committee in Mathematics or Computer Science. Applicants are advised that this decision is independent from the supervision agreement or any funding arrangements. In particular, admission to a structured doctoral program (graduate school) does not guarantee acceptance at the faculty. Any additional courses must be completed under the conditions stipulated in the acceptance letter and independently from the requirements of your specific program.
The status as doctoral candidate is usually granted for four years and may be extended upon substantiated request and support of the doctoral advisor. In case conditions are attached to your acceptance as a doctoral candidate, you have to successfully complete them within two years. Otherwise, the acceptance as doctoral candidate will be withdrawn!
If your degree is not listed below, or in other exceptional circumstances, please inquire with the doctoral office.
|M. Sc./Diploma in Mathematics from a German university||Yes|
|Biennial M. Sc.-Course in Mathematics in the Bologna-Region||Yes|
|One-year M. Sc.-Course in Mathematics in the Bologna-Region||Yes; completion of 2 courses at M. Sc.-level required|
|M. Sc./Diploma Mathematical Economics, Technical Mathematics, Statistics at a German university||Yes; possibly completion of 2 courses at M. Sc.-level required|
|Foreign degrees similar to any of the above cases||Refer to comparable degrees above|
|All other degrees||Decision on an individual basis|
|M. Sc./Diploma in Mathematics from a German university||Yes|
|Biennial M. Sc.-Course in Mathematics in the Bologna-Region||Yes|
|One-year M. Sc.-Course in Mathematics in the Bologna-Region||Yes|
|M. Sc./Diploma Mathematical Economics, Technical Mathematics, Statistics at a German university||Yes|
|M. Sc./Diploma in Physics||Yes|
|M. Sc. Scientific Computing (with B. Sc. Mathematics)||Yes; 3 elective modules from the B. Sc. or M. Sc. mathematics required|
|Engineering programs with a mathematics component at the abstraction level of ‘Höhere Mathematik I – III’||Yes; 3 elective modules from the B. Sc. or M. Sc. mathematics required|
|Foreign degrees similar to any of the above cases||Refer to comparable degrees above|
|All other degrees||Decision on an individual basis|
For acceptance as doctoral student without further requirements, an applicant must prove that he/she has accomplished the basics of computer science in the previous studies. Normally, this can be done by having completed three lectures out of at least of two of the areas of Theoretical Computer Science, Applied Computer Science, Computer Engineering; each with a grade 2,0 or better.
If you do not hold a degree in computer science, or intend to pursue an interdisciplinary research project with a strong computer science component, you must demonstrate proficiency in the basics of computer science or complete additional courses in the first two years after initial acceptance.
For assessing your qualifications, we ask that you submit a list summarizing courses and exams in computer science together with your application.
Submitting your application
Before applying to the faculty, you must:
- Find a doctoral advisor and jointly complete and sign the supervision agreement, and
- Register in the heiDOCS system.
The doctoral advisor must be a faculty member with the qualifications necessary to supervise research in the designated field of study. This includes professors, junior professors, senior scientists with habilitation (Privatdozenten), and some independent research group leaders. A complete list of admissible advisors is available at the doctoral office.
If you intend to carry out interdisciplinary research, you must also agree with a co-advisor to supervise the aspects of your project related to the field of application. Joint supervision within mathematics or computer science is possible, with the understanding that the academic responsibility rests with the primary advisor. The co-advisor need not be a faculty member, but both the advisor and co-advisor must have the necessary qualifications to supervise doctoral theses.
The advisor(s) will normally write review(s) of the dissertation, and chair the oral defense committee. The external reviewers, and other members of the defense committee are only identified at the time of thesis submission. However, applicants are advised to read the relevant sections below in anticipation of the doctoral examination.
Prepare all of the following items as paper hardcopies and pdf document, and submit them in a single pdf-file by email to the doctoral office. (The Master thesis, if required, should please be sent in a separate file.) If admitted, you will be asked to submit the hardcopies with original signatures on all relevant certificates and transcripts, personally during office hours for doctoral affairs or by letter post. We require:
- The completed and signed application form
- A filled-out supervision agreement signed by the doctoral advisor and any co-advisor
- Certified copies of all degree certificates including transcripts of records
- Certified copies of your school leaving certificate
- Curriculum vitae (dated and signed)
- Copy of photo ID, clearly indicating your first and last name as well as your place of birth
- In case of foreign degree and/or if the previous qualification is not in the field chosen for the doctoral studies:
- Statement of the advisor about the qualification of the applicant
- Proof of course achievements in the designated field of study
- Computer science applicants only:
Summary of courses and exams in computer science
- Final (master level) thesis (as a separate pdf document)
If you have not done so (you should!), register online in the heiDOCS system. Only once you have entered all the required information will the office for doctoral studies be notified and able to subsequently process your application.
If complete your application will be submitted to the Doctoral Committee in Mathematics or Computer Science, which will decide about your acceptance at the Faculty. Your acceptance may be subject to additional course requirements to complement your background knowledge in the designated field of study.
You will have noticed that there are no deadlines for application to the Faculty. Concurrently, the Doctoral Committees do not meet at predetermined intervals, and admission decisions may take anywhere between 1 week to 2 months, longer outside of the academic term. We ask you to refrain from follow-up inquiries during this time.
The doctoral office will inform you about the decision of the Doctoral Committee, and issue an acceptance letter. For first-time acceptance without course requirements, the status as doctoral candidate is granted for 4 years. Any course requirements must be successfully completed within the first 2 years, at which point the acceptance is automatically extended for another 2 years. If you have not completed your research and dissertation after those 4 years, you need to apply for an extension of your status as doctoral candidate. There will be no reminder regarding the expiry date. An extension is usually granted for 12 months.
An extension beyond 5 years requires two separate forms by the candidate and the advisor detailing the special circumstances of the delay and the plans for the timely completion of the research project.
It is your responsibility to maintain your status as doctoral candidate at the faculty from the beginning of your research project until the date of the doctoral examination. The faculty will not accept candidates
for graduation only. This applies in particular in case of additional course requirements.
Your acceptance as a doctoral student does not imply any promise of an employment relationship with the faculty or Heidelberg University.
Supplemental application documents
A partial list of degrees and conditions necessary or sufficient for acceptance as a doctoral candidate
Required from Computer Science applicants whose degree and background is in a different field
Submit if your project extends beyond 4 years of initial acceptance
Enrollment at the university
After you have received the acceptance as a doctoral student from the faculty, you must register as a doctoral student at the university. This is a mandatory two-step process:
- Application as a doctoral student
- Enrollment (matriculation)
The status as a doctoral student gives you certain rights for representation at the faculty and university level, and can lead to benefits with transportation and health-care providers. Enrollment is only possible by the semester and subject to a small administrative fee. If you are employed at Heidelberg University with a contract of at least 50% during your doctorate, you can apply for exemption from the matriculation.
The specifics for application and enrollment depend on your immigration status and a number of other factors. For detailed explanations and all required forms and documents, please consult the general university website on the enrollment in a doctoral program. The doctoral office will only provide the documents related to
Acceptance as a doctoral candidate at the faculty.
Also be aware that, just like all other steps leading to a Doctorate in Heidelberg, the registration process has to be recorded in the heiDOCS system.
Typical registration documents
- Photocopy of your acceptance letter from the faculty
- Certified copy of your university entrance qualification (e.g. German ‘Abitur’)
- Certified copy of your degree certificate
- Comprehensive certificate(s) of exmatriculation, stating the degree program and duration of study
Admission and Matriculation at Heidelberg University, filled out and signed, original
Acceptance as a doctoral candidatesigned by the dean’s office
- Copy of your identity card/passport
- Passport photo
- Insurance certificate
- Completed and signed SEPA mandate for the semester fees
Preparing you dissertation
We are proud to have you as a doctoral member at our faculty. We hope that you find the academic community enriching and that you benefit from the exceptional scientific environment at Heidelberg University. You research will typically be carried out in a research group at one of our institutes, within a structured doctoral program or in cooperation with a neighboring research institution, at which you or your doctoral advisor may be employed.
After satisfying any course requirements, and progressing in your research, you may feel ready to prepare your dissertation for submission to the faculty. We require:
- 3 hardback or paperback copies of the dissertation. No spiral binding
- Title page and front matter following the template provided below
- No emblem or University Seal on the front page
- Title and full name of the advisor(s)
- You may print in the words
Date of the oral examinationon the front page, but DO NOT print in the date itself!!
- German and English abstract at the beginning of the thesis. The thesis itself may be written in either language.
- Filled out and signed Statutory Declaration (Affidavit) of independence and originality.
- An identical pdf-version of the complete dissertation sent via email to the doctoral office
The thesis should document your research results and contributions, and adhere to the principle of good scientific practice in the given field of research.
Cumulative theses are not permitted in the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science.
In order to verify the formal correctness, it is advisable to send a pdf version of the first pages including the acknowledgements, if any, via email to the doctoral office before printing the 3 copies.
In case of interdisciplinary projects in Mathematics, the doctoral committee recommends that an accompanying text is provided stating what the new mathematical contributions are. This has also to be made explicit in the reviews submitted by the thesis’ reviewers.
The doctoral advisor(s) and external reviewers may require additional printed copies of your thesis.
Thesis preparation and examination
Please be aware that you must not use the University Seal on any page of your (doctoral) theses. Currently, the German template is to be used for both the German and English version and available as docx-file and TeX-file.
Includes statement of originality and consent to electronic verification of good scientific practice
Includes a list of possible examiners from the Faculty
to be filled and signed by the University Library or an external publisher
With the submission of the dissertation, the candidate is required to apply for admission to the doctoral examination. Please do so by filling out and signing the form
Application for Admission to the Doctoral Examination at the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science. We also require
- A Criminal Records Bureau certificate (or valid work contract in the German public service)
- An updated Curriculum Vitae et Studiorum
- Proof of fulfillment of any additional course requirements
The doctoral examination comprises the evaluation of the thesis and an oral examination. Doctoral candidates are advised to read carefully the rules specified below, as their input and collaboration is required in scheduling the examination process.
The thesis is evaluated by (at least) two reviewers, one of which is the (principal) doctoral advisor, and one of which must provide an independent assessment of the scientific quality and originality of the research results. For interdisciplinary research projects, the co-advisor will write an additional review to evaluate the aspects of the thesis related to the field of application. If the candidate was otherwise jointly supervised, the co-advisor may (but does not have to) provide an additional evaluation. In either case, we require an independent, preferably external, evaluation of the thesis from within the field.
The independent reviewer may be nominated by the candidate and the advisor but must be confirmed and contacted by the Dean for their written report. All reviewers must be professors or scientists with habilitation at the Faculty, or hold an equivalent position at an external institution. The independent reviewer should be a specialist on the subject of the thesis, and must not be in any conflict of interest with the doctoral advisor or the candidate, as stipulated in the relevant guidelines. In particular, a direct financial interest, an advisor/advisee or mentor/mentee relationship between the reviewers within the last 7 years, or a low-degree personal relationship, marriage or partnership are examples of circumstances that will be perceived as conflict of interest. The reports must be prepared independently from each other.
The written reports recommend acceptance or rejection of the thesis, and (in case of acceptance) grade it with a mark in the range of 1 (very good) to 4 (adequate) in steps of 0.5. Special rules apply if any reviewer rejects the thesis, or if all recommend a
summa cum laude distinction.
The reports are confidential until after the oral examination, at which point the candidate may request a viewing permission.
We ask that the reviews be submitted within a month's time. The doctoral office will follow up with the reviewers, but cannot guarantee that the deadline is respected. Once all reviews have been received, faculty members have access to the dissertation and the reviews via a web-based system for four weeks during lecture period and up to six weeks during semester break. The termination of this timespan is communicated to the doctoral candidate via email, and he or she can arrange for date, time and place of the oral examination after contacting all anticipated examiners. This date has to be after the termination of the above circulation time, but there is no formal guarantee of any kind that it can be respected.
The oral examination is formally scheduled only after receipt of the written reports and circulation of the thesis amongst the faculty. The examination committee is appointed by the Dean, and composed of the doctoral advisor, and up to three further examiners representing diverse specializations within the given field of research. The requirements for Mathematics and Computer Science, and their interdisciplinary variants, are specified below. The co-advisor and the external reviewers may (but do not have to) be members of the examination committee. The candidate can propose the composition of the committee, but is not entitled to any particular choice.
It is the responsibility of the candidate to arrange a time and location for the oral exam. The candidate is advised to send out a reminder of the oral exam shortly before the date of examination.The anticipated date of the oral examination should be communicated in writing (email) to the doctoral office as early as possible.
The oral examination lasts between 1 and 1.5 hours. It begins with a brief presentation of the thesis (maximum 20 minutes), and is followed by questions from the examiners about the thesis, and questions about their field of specialization (minimum of 10 minutes per field). The examination may be attended by other doctoral candidates, and by the Chair of the doctoral committee.
The grading scheme for the oral examination is the same as for the thesis itself. The final grade is calculated as an average of both, dissertation and oral examination. The degree will be conferred
magna cum laude for an average grade up to 1.5,
cum laude for an average grade up to 2.5, and
rite for an average grade up to 4.0. The exceptional honor
summa cum laude requires, in addition to a perfect score of 1.0, that this recommendation be made by all reviewers, an additional supporting external report, and unanimous confirmation by the oral examination committee.
It is the candidate's responsibility that the sealed envelope (containing the examination papers and complete documentation of all documents and correspondences concerning the individual's procedure at this faculty) for the examination is collected at the doctoral office on the day of the defense (or before on request) and resealed and returned after the examination as soon as possible.
Field specific examination requirements
Specific requirements for a degree in Mathematics
The reviewers should be professors or scientists with habilitation at the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Sciences or hold an equivalent position at an external institution.
For non-interdisciplinary work, the doctoral examination is held by three examiners who have to represent the two specializations
- applied mathematics
- pure mathematics
The third examiner can be chosen from either subfield. The doctoral advisor is one of the examiners, but the second reviewer need not. Two of the examiners have to be members of the faculty. The exam is chaired by a member of the faculty.
For interdisciplinary work, one, or even two, other fields of specialization can be subject of the examination, which then has to cover three subfields represented by four examiners. These fields of specialization have to have a reasonable relation to Mathematics (see Promotionsordnung Appendix § 10). It is then not required that both pure and applied mathematics be represented by the examiners. The main subjects of the interdisciplinary project should be covered by the reviewers of the dissertation.
Specific requirements for a degree in Computer Science
The reviewers of the thesis should be professors or scientists with habilitation at the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science or the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy representing the field of Computer Science or hold an equivalent position at an external institution.
For non interdisciplinary work, the doctoral examination is held by four examiners who have to represent three of the following four fields of specialization:
- practical and applied computer science
- machine learning and image processing
- computer engineering
- theoretical computer science
The fourth examiner can be chosen from any of the above fields. Two examiners should be the reviewers of the dissertation. At least two of the examiners should be members of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science or the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy. The exam is chaired by a member of the faculty.
For interdisciplinary work, and upon the candidate's request, an alternative field of specialization can be subject of the examination. Again, the doctoral examination is held by four examiners representing three different fields that have to have a reasonable relation to Computer Science. It is only required that at least two fields of Computer Science are represented by the examiners. Two examiners should be the reviewers of the dissertation, one reviewer has to be a member of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science or the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy. At least two of the examiners should be members of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science or the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy. The main subjects should be covered by the reviewers of the dissertation.
The doctoral degree is only conferred after proof of publication of the thesis within two years of the successful defense. The minimum requirement is the deposition of the thesis at the central University library. The published version must match the examination copy. Minor issues that might have arisen during the evaluation process can be addressed by the inclusion of an erratum.
To accomplish this task, the general procedure requires the following steps:
- Publication has to be confirmed within two years after the oral examination. If this is not complied with, the rights of the doctoral procedure will expire and the doctoral degree cannot be conferred on the basis of the dissertation that has been handed in.
- Upload the electronic version of the dissertation, please see the information of the library: Library forms and Publications at HeiDOK and Electronic Publishing at HeiDOK.
- Collect one copy of the submitted dissertations (not corrected or improved versions), which will be sealed and signed by the Dean.
- Together with the form
proof of thesis depositionand the copyright agreement (obtained from the Website of the library before uploading - see above) this copy of the dissertation has to be delivered to the university library in building INF 368 (weekdays 9:00am to 3:30pm).
- The form
thesis depositionhas to be filled in and signed by yourself and returned to the doctoral office after confirmation by the university library.
Should small corrections be requested for the published version of the thesis, the following procedure will be accepted as of December 6th, 2017:
- based on the version handed in for review, an erratum can be prepared containing corrections of the reviewers or the candidate.
- the contents of this erratum is to be approved by the committee in the defense
- for online publication through the university library a pdf-version can be added to the text as a prefix or an appendix; changes of the text itself are not permitted
- the hard copies of the dissertation for the University archive have to include a supplementary sheet securely fixed (pegged) into the three copies.
Congratulations! After proof of publication, the doctorate can be conferred. The original certificates are issued by the
Combined Faculty of Mathematics, Engineering and Natural Sciences (comprising Bio Sciences, Chemistry & Earth Sciences, Engineering Sciences, Physics & Astronomy, and Mathematics & Computer Science), and may take up to 6 weeks to process.
You may receive the original certificates at the formal graduation ceremony of the combined faculty or by collecting them at the doctoral office.
The graduation ceremony is held in May or June for doctorates completed in the Winter term and in November or December for the Summer term. The Deans show up in gowns. If you decide to attend, the doctoral office may issue and mail out certified copies of the doctoral certificate ahead of time.
If you are unable to pick up the original certificate yourself, you can entrust someone else to do so on your behalf. This requires a written and signed authorization and photo ID.
In any case, you have to register or de-register your preference at the Combined Faculty for the doctoral office to receive the originals or issue the certified copies. Only after receipt of the certificate are you entitled to use the title
Doctor of Natural Sciences / Doktor der Naturwissenschaften (Dr. rer. nat.).