Prospective International Doctoral Students

brochures on doctoral studies

All faculties at RWTH Aachen University are entitled to award doctoral degrees. In order to obtain a doctoral degree, candidates have to conduct an independent research project and publish their results in form of a dissertation (Doktorarbeit). Subsequently, they have to pass an oral examination. A doctoral degree is primarily awarded for producing a substantive, independent research thesis under the supervision of a university professor; lectures and coursework only play a minor role in the dissertation process. Thus doctoral studies at RWTH do not commence with a coursework phase.

"Structured PhD programmes" as offered e.g. by American universities are rather the exception at RWTH Aachen University - PhD projects conducted at RWTH are usually quite different from doctoral programmes based on the Anglo-American model. Only a few Graduate schools and research training groups affiliated with RWTH offer such structured PhD programmes. With the exception of those research schools and training groups, the education of doctoral students is not centrally organised within a graduate school: undergraduate and graduate students alike are taught within the same institutional framework (i.e. within the same faculty). PhD candidates may enrol as students, but they don't have to do so; frequently, doctoral students are employed as research assistants at university departments or institutes.

The first decisive step for students who wish to embark upon a PhD project is to find a suitable supervisor for their research and dissertation: the formal application for a PhD position made to the faculty in question must include a written confirmation by a RWTH professor that he or she is willing to act as the candidate's academic supervisor.

How Do I Find a Supervisor for My Dissertation?

  1. Use the contacts of the teaching staff at your home university, who may know a teacher at Aachen and can provide you with a recommendation.
  2. Contact a RWTH Aachen teacher via mail, fax, or email.
  3. Send a letter to the academic advisor or doctoral office of the faculty in question.
  4. Use the RWTH Aachen website to find out about potential institutes, research areas, teaching staff, and the relevant contact information.

Finding a Supervisor for your PhD Project and Thesis

First of all, prospective PhD students are advised to search the web pages of RWTH Aachen University for information on the various fields of study on offer, the research areas of the departments and institutes, and also to obtain the contact data of suitable academic supervisors. Having identified the key research interests of RWTH staff and departments, you should be in a position to contact a university professor whom you consider well-suited to supervising your thesis. Concerning your chances for success, please note that well-known professors at times receive over a thousand applications per year, of which they can accept only a very small percentage. On the other hand, there are currently about 600 international PhD candidates at RWTH, which indicates that excellent doctoral students are always very welcome at our university, and that outstanding students always stand a chance of obtaining an offer for a place. Contact the Doctoral delegates of the faculties (de)

Mathematics, Computer Science and Natural Sciences


Civil Engineering

Mechanical Engineering

Georesources and Materials Engineering

Electrical Engineering and Information Technology

Arts and Humanities

Business and Economics