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I emailed a Prof. in Germany my CV and my research interests and that I want to discuss PhD research opportunities with him.

His reply was the following:

Thank you very much for your message and your interest. I do not know yet whether or nor I will have the capacity to take on new students in the fall, but you are welcome to apply at our graduate school: .

Should I follow up with him? I saw the website and the admissions are centralized with deadline in April.

He is the only Prof. in the institute whose interests align with me.

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  • @everybody: Please do not post answers in the comments.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jan 14 at 10:42

2 Answers 2

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You should follow up with the institute, not the professor, assuming that there are reasonable costs of doing so. This will buy you time and the opportunity after you apply for a further conversation when they may know more. You don't need to make a commitment to attend if they are unwilling to take you on, but not applying closes the opportunity.

But it would probably be fruitless to follow up with the professor at the moment. They haven't said NO, but have made it clear that, at this time, they can't say YES.

A short note of thanks would be appropriate, saying that you will follow their advice.

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In Germany, getting funding for PhD studies is the difficult part. Once funding is secured, being admitted as a PhD student is normally the easy part.

When the professor wrote "capacity to take on new students", she/he most likely meant financial capacity. So she/he doesn't currently have own funding sitting around that could be used to pay you when you start in the fall. And while that is the case, it makes little sense to have a closer look if you are a suitable PhD candidate until some grant proposal got accepted or so.

Apart from funding via a professor (grant funding or institute-based funds they have control over), there are however sometimes also coordinated programs as it seems to be the case. In these, your application will need to compete against other applications (of potential PhD students who would be working with other professors).

Because the answer was so short, it looks like the professor did not have a detailed look at whether you would be suitable PhD candidate in his/her eyes. This step would probably come later if you decide to submit your application.

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  • The grad school the professor mentioned is one of the possible ways to get funding. Also, there are quite a number of Stiftungen (e.g., the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes) - if the OP sees a reasonable (!) chance of being able to secure funding from such or other sources, it may be worthwhile to follow up with the prof himself and point this out. Jan 10 at 12:39
  • @StephanKolassa Can you please elaborate about the system of"Stiftungen " ? It will be really helpful as I am not a native of germany.
    – Kalneol
    Jan 10 at 16:19
  • This website (in German) explains the various Begabtenförderungswerke in Germany. They fund both the Studium up to the bachelor's or master's degrees, and the Ph.D. All of them expect above-average achievements, and most (essentially, all except for the Studienstiftung) also expect some ideological commitment, being either close to the major parties or the major churches in Germany. I don't know whether they also require German citizenship. Jan 10 at 16:23

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