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Individual Doctorate

It is possible to carry out an individual doctorate (“Individualpromotion”) in any subject that Freie Universität Berlin offers in the form of a degree program or set of academic modules and that is represented by at least one full member of the corresponding department teaching faculty.

Those wishing to carry out an individual doctorate in the Department of Philosophy and Humanities are required to have completed a university degree with a final grade of “good” (gut”) or higher.

You are responsible for finding your own doctoral studies supervisor; one is not allocated to you by the doctoral board. Doctoral studies supervisors should preferably be professors within the Department of Philosophy and Humanities. These can be either professors whose main employment is with the university (university professors) or professors who work for the university on a part-time basis (honorary professors, irregular professors, private tutors). However, it is also possible to arrange doctoral studies supervision from selected representatives of institutions with which Freie Universität has concluded a cooperation agreement.

Where a justified case for their appointment can be made, professors from other departments may also be engaged as doctoral studies supervisors. Please see the doctoral regulations for more information.

Once you have found a supervisor, they must sign a supervision agreement. You must attach this signed agreement to your application for admission to doctoral study.

Each doctoral studies project must be approved by a professor within the Department of Philosophy and Humanities whose main employment is with the university. If your supervisor fulfills these criteria, the doctoral studies project is considered approved with the submission of their supervision agreement. If your supervisor does not fulfill these criteria, you must submit additional approval from a professor who does meet these criteria.

You may submit your application for admission to doctoral study at any time. Applications are not bound to any specific deadlines.

After you have submitted all documents to the person in the examination office who is responsible for the subject of your doctoral studies, the applicable doctoral board will evaluate whether the conditions are met for your admission to doctoral study in their next meeting. If the conditions are considered to be met, your application will be approved. Admission to doctoral study may be tied to professional requirements. You will be notified of the doctoral board’s decision by post.

If you are not employed at Freie Universität Berlin, you must enroll as a student in your doctoral degree program through the Student Records and Registration Office within one month of receiving your confirmation of admission. During this process, you must also submit the admission letter you have received from the doctoral board to the Student Records and Registration Office. If you fail to apply for enrollment within this time, your admission to doctoral study will be revoked. Employees of Freie Universität Berlin are requested to enroll, but this is not a requirement.

According to the regulations, doctoral candidates have three years to complete and submit their dissertation. The regular doctoral study period is four years (three years for completion and submission of the dissertation plus two semesters for completion of the doctoral procedure as a whole). As such, doctoral candidates are enrolled for a limited period of time only.



Should it become apparent that you will require an extension of the doctoral study period, please submit a statement in writing, requesting an extension of the doctoral study period, to the Department of Philosophy and Humanities doctoral board. This statement must provide information on the current status of the dissertation and an estimate of the time required until completion. Your supervisor must approve the request to extend the doctoral study period.

Please note that you must be enrolled as a doctoral student at the university until you have completed your defense. Please take this into account when requesting an extension of the doctoral study period.

If the doctoral board grants you an extension, you can also extend your period of enrollment.

You must submit six printed and bound copies of your dissertation. All copies must include a title page containing the following information: your name, the department, an indication that the dissertation is being submitted to Freie Universität Berlin, and the year of submission. All copies must also include a cover page with the names of the examiners. The appendices should include a short summary of the dissertation in German and English, as well as a declaration of authorship.

Additionally, they should include a list of any previous publications that are the result of your work on the doctoral studies project, as well as any previously published works.

You may also submit a copy of your CV.

If the written part of your doctoral studies project is based on cumulative work rather than a single dissertation, your submission should contain the same information as a monograph. Additionally, it should consist of a list of the titles of the individual works, as well as an introduction and text which brings these works together, interpreting, evaluating, and discussing the individual works in a comprehensive manner.

Candidates must submit one sample copy of their dissertation together with the form for the proposal of the doctoral committee. In addition to a printed copy, the dissertation must also be submitted in electronic form (sent via email as a PDF file).

The doctoral committee usually consists of five members:

  • both examiners
  • at least two additional professors
  • one member of academic staff employed by Freie Universität Berlin who holds a doctoral degree.
    • The chairperson and the deputy chairperson must be professors who are full members of the teaching faculty at Freie Universität Berlin, professors emeriti, or retired professors of Freie Universität Berlin.
    • At least one examiner must be a professor who is a full member of the Department of Philosophy and Humanities teaching faculty.
    • At least one examiner must be from a department relevant to the subject of the dissertation.
    • The committee should not contain more than one professor who has been released or retired from their position.


The doctoral board is not legally obligated to implement your proposal; however, your suggestions are usually taken into account when assembling the doctoral committee. The doctoral board opens the proceedings and officially appoints the members of the doctoral committee. The doctoral supervisor is usually the chairperson of the doctoral committee.

Once the doctoral board has confirmed the members of the doctoral committee, you and all members of the committee will be informed of their decision in writing (usually via email). Examiners have ten weeks in which to submit their evaluations. Both you and the members of the doctoral committee will be informed of this deadline.

Once you have received confirmation of the doctoral committee, please send or present your dissertation to the members of the committee.

Once the examiners have submitted their reports, these will be made available to all committee members as well as the doctoral candidate.

A viewing period takes place once both examiners’ reports have been received. During this time, all professors and members of the department who hold a doctoral degree may view your dissertation and the proposed grades. During the lecture period, the viewing period is two weeks. During the period in which courses are not held, the viewing period is extended to four weeks.

The beginning and end of the viewing period will be announced by means of a notice. The viewing period is to be strictly observed.

Before the oral examination takes place, the doctoral committee meets to decide on the following:

  • whether the dissertation is to be accepted, rejected, or returned to the candidate for revision
  • whether to admit the candidate to the oral defense
  • the final grade to be awarded for the dissertation.

This meeting is not open to the public.

Unless you expressly object to this, the oral defense may be attended by any member of Freie Universität Berlin. Should you object, you must declare your objection when submitting your dissertation at the latest.

The oral defense begins with a 30-minute presentation in which you describe the findings of your dissertation and their significance within the relevant field of research. Following this, you must defend your dissertation against criticism and answer questions posed by members of the doctoral committee. These questions will be aimed at locating the significance of the dissertation and any problems within the wider academic context. Following this, the chairperson of the doctoral committee may allow members of the public to ask questions regarding the subject of the oral defense. The presentation must be between thirty and sixty minutes in duration.

Please note that the oral defense may only take place once the viewing period has finished! As you must coordinate the date for your oral defense with the chairperson and other members of the doctoral committee, please take formalities such as these into account when organizing the date for your defense.

The examination office issues the invitation to the oral defense on behalf of the chairperson of the doctoral committee. As such, it is important that you inform the person in the examination office responsible for the subject of your doctoral studies of the date, time, and place of your oral defense in good time.

All members of the doctoral committee must take part in the oral defense and the doctoral committee meeting. If a member is indisposed, a new date must be organized or an application must be submitted to the doctoral board requesting a replacement member.
The grade for the oral defense and the final grade will be announced following completion of the oral defense.

Shortly after the record of your oral defense has been submitted to the examination office, you will receive an interim certificate confirming the successful completion of your doctoral studies. We will notify you as soon as the interim certificate has been issued.
This certificate does not confer you with a doctoral degree, nor are you permitted to bear the title “Dr. des.” upon receiving it.

Once you have passed the oral examination you can send in your request to withdraw from University, at the latest you should withdraw at the end of the current semester.

You can request a certain point in time in your application for Withdrawal. Please submit your application to the Student Records and Registration Office.

You are obligated to publish your dissertation after completing your doctoral studies. You must do so within two years, a deadline which may be extended following an application to the doctoral board. Before publishing your work, you must first obtain permission to print your dissertation from the doctoral board. You must also submit a statement from your examiners confirming the version of the text that is to be published to the doctoral board. Following this, the doctoral board will send you written confirmation with permission to print your dissertation.

You may choose from four publication formats:

You demonstrate that you have fulfilled your obligation to print your dissertation by submitting a certain number of deposit copies (the exact number is stated in the doctoral regulations) to Freie Universität Berlin’s Dissertations Department (“Hochschulschriftenstelle”), which forms part of the University Library. Please familiarize yourself with the requirements of the Dissertations Department beforehand to ensure that your deposit copies will be accepted. You can find the most recent information on the number of deposit copies that are to be submitted on the Dissertations Department’s website under “Doctoral Graduation Regulations.”

Please present the doctoral board’s permission to print your dissertation when submitting your deposit copies to the Dissertations Department. Deposit copies will only be accepted when this permission is provided.

Once you provide the examination office with confirmation from the Dissertations Department that you have submitted your deposit copies, you will be presented with your doctoral certificate. Receipt of the certificate automatically confers you with the academic title of Doctor of Philosophy.