29 year old male, considering applying for PHD programs that begin 2021 or else 2022.

Have I left it too late to apply for a PHD that begins in 2021? I know this question is fairly general, but it seems that in the U.S, deadlines for most PHD programs have passed. I'm curious if it's the same in Europe.

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    The answer to this general question has to take too many variables into account. You should be much more specific (country, field) if you want to increase your chances for a fitting answer. I voted to close. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 7:44
  • Europe being a continent rather than a country, the rules and customs are varying from one country to the next, including the duration of the PhD support. For instance, in France, PhD grants often cover the first two years and the third year has to be supported by another grant or a teaching assistantship (ATER). Concerning the date of administrative registration, it is possible to register as a new PhD till early December. Concerning the PhD grants, some are already closed, others will close in July, and a few more remain open the whole year. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 9:31
  • No idea where lighthouse_keeper gets the idea that this is uniform. It is not! The only thing that might be sort of universal is that there is not much predictability in when PhD applications open up and what their deadlines are across Europe. Quite often the deadlines are throughout the whole preceding year. For some specific fields in specific countries things are more organized and there is a real PhD window. PhD's usually start either around September/October or around January/Feburary however even this is definitely not set in stone across Europe.
    – Kvothe
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 9:45
  • To answer "Have I left it too late to apply for a PHD that begins in 2021?" That probably depends on the field. There are definitely still many country and field combinations where it is not yet too late! (You should really at the very least add the field you want to do a PhD in to get a useful answer.)
    – Kvothe
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 9:46
  • I have voted to reopen this question because I think the argument for closing "strongly depends on individual factors" is unfounded. Yes, academia in Europe is diverse, but for this particular question, one can give a general answer that applies to most cases. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 18:22

3 Answers 3


Unlike in the US, there are no "application seasons" in Europe. PhD positions are announced throughout the year, and every vacancy has its own deadline.

  • Any explanations for the downvote? Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 22:56
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    I did not downvote, but your answer may be a little too general. In my opinion, also a definition is needed when talking about "Europe". The whole continent? Seriously, there is probably no general answer covering the whole of Europe, no matter what the question is. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 7:59
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    @Snijderfrey Fair enough. I interpret the OP's words "generally speaking" as "in most cases". For that I believe that my answer is correct. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 8:13
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    @lighthousekeeper My apologies, I seemed to have accidentally clicked the downvote button without noticing. I cannot change it anymore since too much time has passed. Your answer is true for many countries in Europe, with the caveat that more structured programmes do often have deadlines (see DCTLib's answer and the comment of Ian under there). Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 11:28

Academia in Europe is very diverse. This answer is for the case of Germany.

There are two ways of doing a PhD in Germany. You can either join a coordinated program, or you find a PhD advisor under which supervision you will work outside of such a program.

Coordinated programs all have their own deadlines. For joining them in October (fall), deadlines between March and July appear to be common.

However, doing a PhD outside of a coordinated program is the norm in Germany. There are no seasons for the deadlines for them, and the application you will write is for the funding - getting into the PhD program is then normally the easy part. Scholarships may have deadlines, but more common is the case that you are employed by your future university in the research group of your PhD supervisor while doing a PhD at the same time, and each suitable position has a different deadline.

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    I would say that the UK is similar to this with a couple of exceptions: 1) Programs are becoming more and more common. 2) PhD students are hardly ever employed by the uni, but rather the supervisor will have secured a scholarship before advertising. 2) Because programs want to recruit the best students, they try to recruit early before students have accepted a different position. Often the more prestigious the program, the earlier it tries to recruit. However, in reaction many supervisors with studentships to advertise are trying to do it earlier and earlier each year. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 2:03

Answer valid for France only. PhD programs in France require to already have a master's degree (or equivalent); filling the position is controlled by the PhD advisor(s); funding is usually secured by the advisor before advertising the position (*). This means you have more time to apply because your clock starts after funding was obtained.

There is no official PhD season, but in practice most PhD start between September and ~February, based on the previous year graduation of master's students. In my case I applied to the position in early October and started the PhD work and getting paid in December. However, I was officially enrolled in the "doctoral school" only in late February. You should probably assume a 4-month delay in case your advisor is less versed at playing the bureaucracy than mine were.

Hence, February is not late for France gor a start in autumn. I would even guess most open positions are not published yet.

(*) funding sources that I know of officially grant PhD positions based on the strength of the research project that the advisor submits (alternatively, more general project funds allow for PhDs/postdocs). However, I do know unofficially of one case where funding went to a project based on the CV of the candidate that would fill the position. I do not know is that is common or not.

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