Research_Scholarships_Germany

Research Scholarships

Around 20,000 scientists come to Germany from abroad each year through exchange programs or fellowships.

Compared to other countries German universities charge little (some places even no) tuition and the country’s research institutes offer great opportunities to further your education as well. But wouldn’t it be great if someone actually gave you the money to make ends meet while researching abroad?

According to Dieter Herrmann, secretary general of the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities and co-editor of the Research Handbook 2005, the better your education, the higher the chances to secure a grant: “With roughly 200,000 foreign undergrad students at German universities, getting funding for your first degree is not that easy,” explains Herrmann, “but if you want to come to Germany already holding a PhD, for instance, the relation of applicants and grants is much better. 

Options for university and PhD students

When it comes to students and doctoral students, the first address should be the Begabtenförderungswerke. Their mission is to support highly talented German students and foreigners who study in Germany. They give out the largest number of grants in this area,” says Herrmann. "

The Begabtenförderungswerke are foundations for the promotion of educational excellence like the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung or the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. “Foreigners who graduated in Germany can also turn to the Landesgraduiertenstiftung of their particular federal state in search of funding for their PhD. In Germany, every federal state finances a number of doctorates each year and foreigners are definitely eligible to apply,” adds Herrmann.

Options for university and PhD students “When it comes to students and doctoral students, the first address should be the Begabtenförderungswerke. Their mission is to support highly talented German students and foreigners who study in Germany. They give out the largest number of grants in this area,” says Herrmann. The Begabtenförderungswerke are foundations for the promotion of educational excellence like the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung or the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. “Foreigners who graduated in Germany can also turn to the Landesgraduiertenstiftung of their particular federal state in search of funding for their PhD. 

In Germany, every federal state finances a number of doctorates each year and foreigners are definitely eligible to apply,” adds Herrmann. Doctoral and post-doctoral programs For both doctoral and post-doctoral stipends, the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Max Planck Institutes, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundations, the Volkswagen Foundation and the Fritz Thyssen Foundation are the major providers of grants across academic disciplines. Full scholarships that you can actually make a living on in Germany are not as rare as one might think and actually account for the largest part of support. “Most organizations are aware of the fact that a scientist coming to Germany to do serious research will hardly have time to work on the side,” says Herrmann, adding that working regulations often come into play as well when foreigners come to Germany on an academic program. 

Grants are generally available for applicants from across the world. But depending on where you come from, you may want to look out for special programs designed to promote young researchers from that area. “For the past 10 years, an emphasis has been placed on promoting young talents from Central and Eastern Europe,” says Herrmann, “and for historical reasons, there are also some extra programs for people from Israel.”

Stipends for your niche

The general programs of major institutions are thus complemented by very specific offers – from the DAAD/Siemens Initiative for Young Engineers from Central and Eastern Europe to the BioFuture program of the German Research Ministry. “Many of those programs are only eligible for a small group of applicants with a very particular profile. But for the individual student working in that particular field of research, those grants can be decisive for his or her entire career,” says Herrmann, admitting, however, that it can be hard to get an overview of all the options available and that finding out about a particular specialized grant can be more a question of luck than of research.

“It’s a very complex matter in Germany. In most countries the system is much easier. You either turn to your university or a national research fund,” he explains, “In Germany, there are hundreds of different programs. And to my knowledge, there is no one-stop shop for information either. That was one of the reasons why I published the first handbook of research grants a few years ago together with several colleagues.