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University graduates who begin their research career at ZEW can attain their doctoral degree by following one of two pathways:

  • by working as a full-time staff member in a ZEW research unit within the framework of ZEW's in-house PhD programme or
  • by participating in the ZEW Doctoral Studies Network (ZEW DocNet).

Regardless of the path chosen, clear milestones help to insure that our doctoral candidates make steady and rapid progress. Candidates meeting the qualification standards set out of ZEW’s PhD programme, “Standards der strukturierten Promotionsausbildung am ZEW”, also gain ZEW certification. Successful completion of a doctoral degree at ZEW takes on average four and a half years - no longer than at most German universities.

The ZEW’s in-house PhD programme involves writing a doctoral dissertation on the basis of collaborative projects. In collaboration with the heads of research units and experienced economists, young researchers develop a topic for their doctoral dissertation based on their ongoing research work. Once doctoral students are allocated with a research topic, a dissertation mentor is sought out at a German or foreign university. The ongoing development of the dissertation is based on the regulations for doctoral studies at the university in question, supported by the qualification standards at ZEW. PhD candidates have the opportunity to enrol in doctoral courses at the university, and visit compulsory and elective field courses, as well as soft skill courses, at ZEW.

ZEW DocNet is an international network that links ZEW with high quality graduate programmes at institutions such as the Universities of Konstanz, Maastricht, Mannheim, St. Gallen (CH), and Leuven (BE), which meet our specific ZEW qualification standards. Those who choose the ZEW DocNet pathway must first apply for admission to the graduate school of a participating university. Depending on the structure of the respective doctoral programme, doctoral students are than invited to apply as early as possible for a research position in one of ZEW’s research units. For the majority of doctoral programmes the most suitable time for application to ZEW seems to be, at the end of the first, or at the beginning of the candidates second year. PhD students may then pursue their project work independently either in part, or entirely, at ZEW.

PhD Specific Activities

Content (Course Programme)

Time Schedule

Compulsary Courses:

  • Advanced Microeconomics
  • Advanced Economics

During the first two years

Elective Field Courses: Two field courses, for instance:

  • Empirical Public Finance and Economic Policy
  • Environmental and Resource Economics
  • European Fiscal Policy
  • Public Economics: Empirical and Quantitative Methods
  • Macroeconomics of Inequality
  • The Economics of Technical Change
  • Quantile Regression
  • Etc.

During year three and four

Soft Skills Courses:

  • Scientific Talks
  • Leadership Skills
  • Communication Strategies and Conflict Management
  • Moderation Techniques
  • Etc.

During year three and four

Additional Activities at ZEW:

  • ZEW Discussion Paper
  • Scientific Talk at a ZEW Seminar
  • Regular Participation at the "ZEW Lecture in Economic Policy"
  • Participation at Conferences, Seminars and Workshops
  • Contributions to the ZEW-Newsletter
  • Etc.

Ongoing until graduation