ZEF Doctoral Studies Program

The ZEF Doctoral Studies Program is designed to give particular consideration to the academic needs of students from developing countries. ZEF provides intense study counseling and academic support services by tutors and mentors. Guided by ZEF, and following consultations with a potential thesis supervisor identified by ZEF, the doctoral thesis is submitted to a cooperating faculty in Germany or abroad.

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38 months

Bonn International Graduate School for Development Research (BIGS-DR)

University of Bonn

Location The University of Bonn is one of the leading research universities in Europe and the preeminent university of excellence in Germany with six transdisciplinary research clusters. The Center for Development Research (ZEF) with the Bonn International Graduate School for Development Research (BIGS-DR) is part of this strategy. Bonn is further a hub for international organizations, like the United Nations, and the national development research organizations, like the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). This environment enables the BIGS-DR doctoral students to conduct research and network on the highest level.
Course focus BIGS-DR offers a broad, interdisciplinary approach to development research and sound training in theories and methods of selected disciplines. The doctoral students conduct practice-oriented field research in developing countries and/or development-related institutions. Combining theories, methods, and practical experience in the areas of social, economic, and ecological change enables students to explore new fields and be competitive in the international job market.

During the first year, students participate in courses offered by professors and senior researchers at ZEF, as well as professors from the University of Bonn, and vising international and German scholars. The courses provide students with interdisciplinary skills and disciplinary knowledge as well as with tools for their development-related field research. Students finalize their research plan, conduct field research, and finalize their dissertations under the supervision of a ZEF-affiliated professor and with the guidance of a scientific tutor.

Target group Young scientists from all over the world with an outstanding master’s or equivalent degree in economics, political science, anthropology, agricultural and resource economics, agronomy, biology, ecology, forestry, mathematics, or earth sciences. Candidates should have work experience in national or international research institutions, governments, or the private sector. The program aims at educating highly qualified scientific staff, advisers, and managers for both the private and the public sectors. Interest in interdisciplinary research is essential for a successful application.
Course language English
Entry requirements
  • Excellent master’s degree
  • Innovative research proposal
  • Relevant work and research experience in the field

The application deadline for DAAD scholarships for enrollment in the subsequent year is August 31st.  Applicants with individual funds can submit applications to BIGS-DR at any time. Entry requirements are subject to change. Please always refer to the BIGS-DR homepage.

Degree Awarded All ZEF professors are members of a faculty at the University of Bonn. Doctoral students are being admitted at the same faculty as their doctoral supervisor. The degree is granted by the faculty after a successful defense and publication of the thesis. BIGS-DR doctoral students can also be under the supervision of a professor from outside the University of Bonn. In this case, they are admitted and receive a degree from the respective partner university.
Course Begins Studies at BIGS-DR start with the academic year on the first working day of October annually.
Course Duration The mandatory doctoral courses take place from October to April of the first year of studies. Completion of the doctoral studies vary between 3 and 4 years depending on the individual project.
Duration of German language course prior to beginning of programme DAAD EPOS scholarship recipients take part in a mandatory German language course in August and September prior to the start of studies at BIGS-DR
  • The ZEF Doctoral Studies Program is designed to give particular consideration to the academic needs of students from developing countries. ZEF provides intense study counseling and academic support services by tutors and mentors.
  • The limited number of participants (30 to 35 students) in the courses allows for intensive interaction. The students learn to work in teams and to identify and analyze problems of development and elaborate possible solutions.
  • Appropriate financial support for the research agreed upon will be made available from donors and ZEF resources.

Dr. Silke Tönsjost

Academic Coordinator

Bonn International Graduate School for Development Research (BIGS-DR)

Center for Development Research (ZEF)

University of Bonn

Genscherallee 3

53113 Bonn, Germany

Tel.: ++49-228-731794