Earlier this year I applied to 3 PhD programs in physics in Europe, and one (Germany) informed me they can't provide me a PhD position while the other two (Germany, Netherlands) didn't inform me their review status or decision. I afterwards sent them e-mails to inquire about the status but they didn't reply me.

Last month I applied to a PhD program in physics in Europe again. The program (Germany) doesn't specify when they will inform their decision and how they will inform the applicants. It has been 3 to 4 weeks since my submission of the application. I haven't got any of their notice and wonder whether they will eventually give any notice.

So is it a common convention of European PhD programs that they don't inform all the applicants the application status and those applicants who don't get any notice can just automatically assume they are not admitted? I don't like this way because the application is not an effortless process. To apply to a PhD program, I spend much time to check its research profile, including the publications of the principal investigators therein, to compose the essays they require. Therefore I expect each program I apply to informs me the definite result.

  • I am not sure about NL in particular but unfortunately in general it is quite common in EU (also for PostDoc where the effort is larger in general). No matter how big effort you and the professors supporting your applications put, nothing can guarantee any answer besides an initial ack, and sometimes not even that!
    – PsySp
    Commented Dec 17, 2017 at 21:24

2 Answers 2


Yes, unfortunately this kind of thing happens often in Europe.

Some years ago I sent a candidature for the Francis Crick Institute (UK) and in the public notice it said explicitly something like:

"We will contact the candidates we are interested in before the date X. If you do not hear back from us it means you were not selected."

I also had submitted a candidature for a Max-Planck program (Germany) and received a standard email. But with a note that explains why they don't give further informations about the candidatures:

P.S. I have a personal wish: Please refrain from further enquiries. I am the only person dealing with 1000+ applicants and I simply can't answer such enquiries.

However, in Portugal they usually are very transparent with this kind of process. The candidates are seriated and they ask for every candidate to reply an email in agreement with the results. If the candidates didn't agree they have 15 days to complain. In the absence of a reply and a complaint, the process is put on hold for 15 days and then they atribute the fellowship.

  • The websites of the programs I applied to never have statements similar to what you describe. The automatic confirmation mails also don't mention about how and when they will inform the result. One program just said selected candidates will be invited for interview on (a date). However, I think the number of applicants should not be an issue for notice, because they can just send automatic mails to those they don't admit, just like they send automatic mails to referees requesting reference letters.
    – Wanderer
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 14:20
  • Wow! Portugal has that kind of practice I have never heard! So they send mails including the reason they are rejected for the applicants to complain in case they are not convinced by the reason? But what's the meaning of complaint? Can it lead to change of decision? Usually an applicant is rejected just because there are other applicants better than him even he filfills all the requirements and the positions a program can provide outnumber the applicants.
    – Wanderer
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 14:37
  • @Captain I agree with you. The email with the "P.S" I described above was an automated rejection email, I think that this should be the minimum to be done. Not receiving any response at all is somewhat rude. In Portugal you can disagree with the evaluation, they need to justify why the other candidate is better than you. If they made some mistake on classifying the candidates and the candidate point out it can change the final classification and, consequently, the fellowship attribution. This how it is done in Brazil too.
    – The Doctor
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 14:48
  • Sorry, I found I wrote something absurdly wrong above. I don't know why I would typed that way; probably yesterday it's too cold so that my brain didn't function well. What I meant is the applicants outnumber the positions a program can provide. On the other hand, how do you know that rejection mail is automatic? The rejection mail I received never wrote that way. Instead, it was usually atached with something like ``We hope you will find other suitable place for your PhD." I can't tell whether this kind of mail is automatic or not.
    – Wanderer
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 7:20

The program I was affiliated with in Europe had a lengthy admissions process—it could take months to decide on an applicant, and thus it would take time before we felt comfortable notifying declined applicants, if we felt they were qualified.

Clear-cut rejections, though, were handled much more efficiently.

  • If that's the case, they can show the review status in the personal homepage where we submit the applicatoin so that we can login to check the status anytime, like when we submit a paper to a journal for them to consider publishing.
    – Wanderer
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 8:31

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