The Board of Directors of the International Graduate Academy (IGA) of the University of Freiburg approved the following recommendations for doctoral studies in its session on 29 September 2009.
The main aim of the recommendations is to increase the transparency of doctoral studies at the university and establish good practice examples for admissions, advising, and procedures, also taking into account differences in the academic cultures of the disciplines as well as the various forms of doctoral studies (individual studies, structured doctoral programs). The IGA collects and publishes good practice examples currently in use at the University of Freiburg.
1. Admission to Doctoral Studies
Students should submit the application for admission to doctoral studies to their faculty (doctoral committee, dean) before beginning work on their degree. We recommend collecting and filing the following data upon admission: The student’s last name, first name, sex, date of birth, place of birth, nationality, postal address, email address, topic of dissertation, main supervisor, type of funding (employment at the university, employment outside of the university, scholarship, other type of funding).
2. Admission to a Structured Doctoral Program or Graduate School
Since doctoral studies are regulated by the faculties, it follows that students must receive admission to doctoral studies from their faculty before being admitted to a structured doctoral program (DFG research training group, doctoral research group, etc.) or graduate school.
3. Formal Agreement Between Student and Supervisor
The IGA recommends for newly admitted doctoral candidates and their doctoral supervisor to draft a formal agreement. The agreement should require the student to write a synopsis of his/her dissertation project, adhere to standards for the principles of good academic work, and submit a progress report at regular intervals (with a presentation of findings since last report). The synopsis should be completed no later than six months after admission to doctoral studies and filed together with the formal agreement. The results of advising sessions should be recorded in a protocol. The protocols should include goals for further work on the dissertation agreed upon during the session.
Doctoral candidates should be advised by two to three supervisors: a main supervisor (the so-called „Doktorvater“/„Doktormutter“) and one or two other supervisors. Several faculties also require an external third supervisor. This supervisor may also function as an advisor. The IGA recommends that doctoral candidates meet their main supervisor for an advising session at least two times each academic year. Advising sessions with the other supervisors may be held as needed. In some cases it may be prudent to hold an advising session between the doctoral candidates and all of his/her supervisors together. The second and/or third supervisor may represent a different discipline than the main supervisor. If the student is to be supervised by a thesis committee, the committee should not be too large. In addition, a clear decision should be made on whether the main supervisor should be a member of the thesis committee as well as on whether the committee can or should also include external members.
5. The Right to Supervise Dissertation Projects
The IGA recommends for postdocs who are seeking to become professors to take a course on supervising dissertation projects. In exceptional cases, the doctoral committees of the faculties should permit outstanding scholars at the university with a doctoral degree, particularly the heads of postdoctoral research groups, to supervise dissertation projects (both within the context of and independent of a thesis committee). The doctoral committees should also be authorized to permit qualified scholars with doctoral degrees who are not professors to supervise „external“ doctoral procedures, e.g. those carried through at a non-university research institute or in the industrial sector.
6. Doctoral Studies for Working Students
It should be possible to pursue a doctoral degree while working a full-time job as long as the candidate has fulfilled the prerequisites for admission to doctoral studies.
7. Fast-Track Doctorate
In order to avoid diminishing the value of the master degree, only the best graduates of each academic year (5% max.) should be allowed to complete a fast-track doctorate. The IGA recommends offering fast-track doctorates with an integrated master degree. At the present time, the IGA advises against allowing fast-track doctorates without a master degree due to potential legal complications concerning salaries.
The topic of a dissertation should be narrow enough to allow completion within approximately 3 years if the student is free to devote him/herself solely to the dissertation. In addition to the classical dissertation, there should also be the possibility of a cumulative doctorate (doctorate on the basis of publications in recognized scientific journals), if this is in keeping with the academic culture of the field. In order to ensure uniform grading of dissertations, the IGA recommends adhering to the following levels of academic distinction: summa cum laude (with highest honor; outstanding) 0.7; magna cum laude (with great honor; very good) 1.0–1.3; cum laude (with honor, good) 1.7–2.3; rite (passed; satisfactory) 2.7–4; non probatum (insufficient) 4.3. When a dissertation is given the distinction summa cum laude, an evaluation from a third (external or, if necessary, internal) grader should be obtained.
9. Defense of Dissertation
The IGA recommends the dissertation defense as the preferred form of oral examination upon completion of the dissertation.
10. Overall Grade
The overall grade summa cum laude should only be given if the candidate’s oral defense also received summa cum laude. If a rigorosum or a general oral examination is held in place of a dissertation defense, the grade for the oral examination should not count for more than 25% of the overall grade.