Graduate Schools, Research Training Groups, and Doctoral Study Programs

A perfect mix to ensure excellence in educating junior scholars and scientists

A doctoral student of the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies in the Museum of Islamic Art.

A doctoral student of the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies in the Museum of Islamic Art.
Image Credit: Bernd Wannenmacher

Berlin is home to about 100 graduate schools, doctoral programs, and research training groups. They offer opportunities to engage in structured doctoral study instead of following the long traditional procedure in Germany of securing an individual doctoral research position with a specific professor and earning a doctorate that way. Many of these doctoral study programs combine the strengths of different institutions on a targeted basis. For example, the areas of focus of specific disciplines at two or even three of the universities can supplement and complement each other perfectly, giving candidates an opportunity to put together their own ideal curricula.

Interdisciplinary Approaches Increasingly in Demand

The Global Intellectual History research training group, for example, benefits from the complementary areas of focus between disciplines at Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, both of which host the group. While Freie Universität’s areas of emphasis in teaching and research activities include global history, the history of Asia, the history of the Islamic countries, and the history of Latin America, Humboldt-Universität emphasizes the history of Africa and of southeastern Europe and both economic and social history in its teaching and research activities.

The Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies (BerGSAS) is also jointly hosted by Freie Universität and Humboldt-Universität, and it is accredited at both the Dahlem Research School (DRS) and the Humboldt Graduate School (HGS). The graduate school, which was initiated by the Excellence Cluster Topoi and founded in 2011, is based at the Berliner Antike-Kolleg. In addition to their participation in research projects at the cluster, all the doctoral students receive training in one of the graduate school’s structured programs. Just as with Topoi, alongside these two universities, four independent research institutions are also involved: the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the German Archaeological Institute, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. This graduate school currently offers five different doctoral programs that respond to both the specific conditions that apply in individual disciplines and the rising demand for interdisciplinary approaches. The school maintains an excellent international network and cooperative relationships with prestigious institutions in the field of ancient studies worldwide, which opens up opportunities for doctoral candidates to spend time abroad and arrange joint conferences.

The graduate education provided at the Zentrum für jüdische Studien (ZJS – Center for Jewish Studies) in Potsdam also relies on the complementary strengths of different institutions. Freie Universität, Humboldt-Universität, and Technische Universität Berlin are all involved in the center, along with the University of Potsdam, European University Viadrina, Abraham Geiger College, and the Moses Mendelssohn Zentrum für europäisch-jüdische Studien.

Broad-based Education through Joint Supervision

Doctoral candidates in the natural and life sciences are also educated jointly. One especially good example of this is the Research Training Group 1589, Sensory Computation in Neural Systems. Within this group, which is jointly hosted at Technische Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität, and Freie Universität and also includes researchers from Charité, experts in the fields of machine learning and artificial intelligence work together with neuroscientists. Graduates learn to work on an interdisciplinary basis in a highly innovative field right from the start.

The doctoral candidates within the UniCat cluster of excellence are connected on an institutional basis within the Berlin International Graduate School of Natural Sciences and Engineering. This graduate school is also hosted jointly by Freie Universität, Humboldt-Universität, and Technische Universität Berlin, and candidates are encouraged to choose two supervisors from two different institutions (and disciplines) to broaden their education.

Doctoral education at IRI Life Sciences, an alliance between Humboldt-Universität, Charité, and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, is also organized on a cross-institution basis. “IRI” stands for “Integrative Research Institute.” Humboldt-Universität uses funding under its institutional strategy to support institutions that take an interdisciplinary approach to their work on highly relevant topics with bright future prospects in the fields of the life sciences and/or interaction between humankind and the environment. Scientists from alliance partners are also jointly involved in work at graduate schools hosted by institutions not affiliated with any of the universities, such as the International Max Planck Research Schools of the Max Planck Society, in order to contribute their research expertise on a targeted basis.

One joint international project operated by Charité and Freie Universität Berlin is the Myograd graduate program, which has locations in Paris and Berlin. The doctoral candidates in this program work on diseases and disorders of the muscular system. They can earn a doctorate awarded by two universities – Freie Universität and one of the three partner universities in Paris that are involved in the program.