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Research Funding While Working Towards a Doctorate

By Julia Becker

You've finally finished your studies and now it's time to take your scientific career a step further with a doctorate. But what happens if your bank balance isn't up to the job? Thankfully help is at hand in the form of scholarship programmes offered by various institutions. Here is a selection of what's available.

Research funding while working towards a doctorate© Suprijono Suharjoto - iStockphoto.com

Scholarships for the best and brightest: The German National Academic Foundation

The German National Academic Foundation was established in Dresden in 1925 and provides sponsorship to the most academically gifted in Germany. The Foundation receives its funding from the federal government, from regional governments and municipal authorities as well as from other foundations, companies and more than 6,000 private donors. Since its inception the Foundation has sponsored more than 50,000 highly gifted students and doctoral researchers, and each year it accepts around 3,000 scholars into its programmes. The Foundation sponsors both German and foreign scholars. The maximum age for applicants is 30 years of age. Students hoping to receive a scholarship from the Foundation must first be nominated by their dissertation supervisor. The first round of selections is made on the basis of these nominations and applicants who make it through this round are invited to take part in the second round which will involve face-to-face interviews.

Scholarships for doctoral students consist of a monthly stipend of €1,050 plus an additional €100 research supplement. In addition the Foundation also provides conceptual support for students by organising doctoral forums and conferences. The usual duration of scholarships is two years.

Scholarships for those interested in socio-political research: Funding provided by political parties and trade unions

Numerous social and political foundations offer doctoral scholarships which provide monthly allowances of around €1,000 as well as funding for research-related travel and materials. Additionally, seminar programmes are also frequently offered to scholars as a way of furthering their training.

The biggest and most famous foundations in this area are the Hans Böckler Foundation (trade union), Friedrich Ebert Foundation (SPD, political party), Heinrich Böll Foundation (Bündnis90/The Green Party), Konrad Adenauer Foundation (CDU, political party), Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (The Left, political party), Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FDP, political party) and the Hanns Seidel Foundation (CSU, political party).

Prospective applicants for a doctoral scholarship need to agree with the political and social values of the relevant party or organisation. In addition to good grades in final examinations, the majority of these foundations expect social commitment on the part of their scholars. For most of these scholarships there is a maximum age limit for applicants.

Scholarships for the religious: Catholic and Protestant foundations

Just like political parties and trade unions, the two main churches in Germany also have their own foundations which provide funding for research. The German Protestant Church's scholarship programme (Evangelisches Studienwerk) and the Catholic Church's Cusanuswerk both provide scholarships for students and doctoral researchers. To be eligible for these scholarships you need to be a member of the relevant church, have above average grades and you must have recently completed your undergraduate studies. There is also a maximum age limit for applicants. The scholarship consists of a monthly allowance of €1,050 and a research supplement of €100. Recipients are also able to participate in a seminar programme which accompanies the scholarships. These scholarships are normally limited to a maximum of four years.

Scholarships for women: The German Women's Academic Society (DAB)

The DAB awards scholarships for doctoral research on specific topics at specific universities. The majority of these scholarships are awarded to female doctoral students who are taking part in a structured doctoral programme. The application requirements for these scholarships depend on the individual project and specific university. The DAB provides scholarships irrespective of nationality or age.

Funding for foreign research travel: Support from the Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz Foundation

In addition to political and social foundations, there are a number of industry-based foundations which provide financial support for doctoral students. The Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz Foundation, for example, provides support for doctoral students to travel to foreign research institutions as part of their research as well as for foreign students who wish to travel to German research institutions. Funding is available for a maximum of two years. The exact amount is dependent on the country the researcher is visiting.

Funding for foreign doctoral students in Germany: Opportunities from the DAAD

The DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) offers a wide range of scholarships for foreign scientists who want to carry out research in Germany. To help researchers find the most appropriate programme, the DAAD has created a search engine which allows scientists to enter details about their scientific status, their country of origin and their subject area. The search engine then returns details of all suitable scholarship programmes.

Scholarships for the historians: Doctoral scholarships from the Gerda Henkel Foundation

The Gerda Henkel Foundation sponsors excellent researchers in the historical sciences during their doctoral research. Doctoral scholarships are awarded to exceptionally gifted researchers who are expecting to submit above average dissertations. The maximum duration for scholarships is two years during which time recipients receive a monthly stipend of €1,400. Scholarships are awarded both to German and foreign researchers.

Scholarships in biomedicine: PhD fellowships from the Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds

German and foreign scholars with outstanding qualifications in the field of biomedical sciences can apply for support from the Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds. The PhD fellowships are aimed at scientists who are not older than 27 years of age and who have been working on their PhDs for less than six months. The funding available consists of a monthly allowance of €1,500 with additional supplements for research materials and childcare. The duration of scholarships is around three years.

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