Doctoral Cap

The Research Group

The supervision and instruction of PhD candidates forms an integral part of the academic workload. However, does this necessarily mean that scientists are also good supervisors? Should doctoral students receive guidance for a life after their dissertation? Are some disciplines more susceptible to plagiarism than others? And are there fundamental differences in terms of motivation and self-image of PhD students between the sciences and the humanities?

Due to numerous public affairs of plagiarism, an alleged 'glut of PhD students' at German universities, and the demand to extend the right to award doctoral degrees to universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen), the doctorate has become a major focus of attention in the public eye and in science policy debates. The research group "Doktorhut" ('Doctoral Cap') intends to approach this topic from various perspectives.


1. The culture(s) of doctoral education. While more than 70% of students of chemistry go on to do a doctorate, only less than 10% do likewise in economics. Why do we find such major discrepancies between individual disciplines? Are there fundamental differences in the level of motivation and the type of self-image of PhD students if we compare them across disciplines? What may different fields learn from one another?

2. The quality(-ies) of doctoral eduction. The supervision of PhD students differs substantially between and within individual disciplines. However, what makes a PhD supervision 'good' in the first place? How should the ideal relationship between supervisor and PhD candidate look like? What are the minimum standards that should apply to supervision and doctoral procedures in general? In how far should, may, and must job-related and personal counselling be integrated into the process of supervising a PhD?  

3. The doctorate as a schooling system. As the number of graduate schools increases, questions arise as to the general philosophy and quality of such institutions. Are there certain aspects that are particularly conspicuous in individual programmes, such as the teaching of ethical values, the realisation of democratic elements, specific instructional tools like job counselling? Are the scientific achievements or the personal development of PhD students prioritised in such programmes? How does the trans- and interdisciplinary discourse develop? And can such graduate schools function as role models for doctorates more generally, especially given the fact that doctorates should, in principle, be carried out individually?

4. Dr. Fun. In a collage project, we are planning to deal with the rituals and customs of the doctoral graduation ceremony, which typically varies a lot - and in very inventive ways - not just from discipline to discipline but also from university to university.



  • Tobias J. Erb


    Tobias J. Erb
    Microbiology / Synthetic Biology
    Max-Planck-Institut für terrestrische Mikrobiologie
    Tobias J. Erb more
  • Lena Henningsen

    Lena Henningsen
    Chinese Studies
    Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
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  • Christian Hof

    Christian Hof
    Technische Universität München
    Christian Hof more
  • Kristina Musholt

    Kristina Musholt
    Universität Leipzig
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  • Hans Jakob Wörner

    Hans Jakob Wörner
    Physical Chemistry
    ETH Zürich (Schweiz)
    Hans Jakob Wörner more