I know that it is not compulsory to taking classes during the PhD (in Germany). But if I want to take some classes in subjects that I missed during my master program, is it possible to take some classes 2-3 in the related field that my PhD is in?

I want both take the exam and follow the course

  • 3
    Do you want to take the exam or just follow the course?
    – Maeher
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 12:21
  • 2
    Lectures in public German universities are (of course) in general open to the public (as long as space permittes). Is this your question or something else (like if you can do.the exam or if you will have time off when the courses are)?
    – user111388
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 13:01
  • Why do you care about taking the exam?
    – user151413
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 20:21

2 Answers 2


Following the course will usually not be a problem, since lectures are generally public. Exceptions are, e.g., seminars with a limited number of places. Also, if the lecture hall happens to be too small (highly unlikely) for all the students, you may be expected to leave.

Check the examination regulations of the PhD program that you would enroll in. Sometimes acceptance for PhD studies can be conditional on taking a few extra courses, depending on what the "Promotionsausschuss" decides. If that can be the case, taking the exam should be no problem, as there needs to be some way to taking the exam in this case.

Getting some kind of certification that you took and passed the exam may be tricky, though. You may have to ask the respective lecturer for a letter stating that, as there are normally no official transcripts for PhD studies.

As already written in a comment, you should check with your advisor if she/he would not oppose taking courses, though - at least if you are not on a scholarship. PhD studies typically works by getting employee status, and using normal employee working hours for such courses may not be welcome. But even on a scholarship, some advisors/supervisors may not like that.

  • The course that I need is quantum field theory since my master program did not offer that course. And maybe one course in astrophysics (astrodynamics)
    – CarlF
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 21:05
  • I personally feel offended when someone says a PhD student must ask for permission from his supervisor to attend a course. A PhD is ideally done to push the boundaries of science and technology -- and that cannot be done by confining students to the will of their supervisors. Ideally, the supervisor is supposed to be a senior collaborator - nothing more.
    – kosmos
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 18:41
  • @kosmos If the PhD student is an employee of the university (which is the more common case in Germany - scholarships are not so common), he/she shouldn't simply use core working hours for activities (of non-trivial extent) not specified in the working contract without the supervisor agreeing, as this would be a contract violation. This has nothing to do with what PhD studies should be like. Of course, taking a course during vacation would not be a problem, but courses taught in a block are also rare.
    – DCTLib
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 22:03
  • @DCTLib Then I politely oppose the existence of such job contracts. Does not make sense to me. A PhD should not be a job contract.
    – kosmos
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 22:54
  • @kosmos I think that you are raising a valid point. It just won't happen here, partially because that would require an overhaul of the complete academic organisation structure. Fun fact: the Max Planck society used a lot a scholarships in the past. But there were too many complaints about this (including from the researchers holding these scholarships), so they pretty much switched to working contracts. Scholarships simply lack the social security benefits, including unemployment money after the contract ended if the PhD student does not have their next income source secured by then.
    – DCTLib
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 11:34

It would depend on the department and the university's policies. You can check their website or mail the staff regarding it

  • 1
    And possibly on the advisor.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 12:31
  • 2
    While I was not the one to vote you down, perhaps let me state why somebody may have done that: it would be uncommon to have a policy on this. And surely most likely the staff wouldn't know about this and just refer the question to your advisor - or not answer it at all.
    – DCTLib
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 11:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .