So I've been working at a German university as a Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin for a year now, and whilst I was here I completed my UK-based PhD. I've recently just received my certificate from my old university. Since in the UK once you've submitted any corrections to your thesis OR, as in my case, passed your viva with no corrections, you're considered a Doctor and the certificate is largely just a formality, I've been considered a PhD in the UK since July 2021. I just sent my certificate to the HR department at this university, since I'm signing a new contract, but they've told me that I have to go through a process of getting my PhD recognised at the ZAB.

Looking into this, it looks like a long process and will cost me €200. My question is- what's the point? I'm on a short-term contract, and not entirely convinced that I'm going to stay in Germany long-term, so does getting this recognition make any difference to me? It's not going to have any baring on my current contract since that will go through long before any of this recognition could happen. I've become fairly desensitised to the German bureaucracy since arriving here, and I get that it's just the way of things here, but at this stage, I don't see why this is even remotely necessary, when it's from an accredited and recognised UK university and I've got all the paperwork to prove it. Am I missing something?

  • I am a Ph.D. The last thing I want is my co-workers to call me "Dr." -- it wouldn't help. At a University, I was regularly called "Dr" but it was not a good situation. If it's really important to you to be called "Dr" I would pay the fee, otherwise, not. Mar 8, 2022 at 21:07
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    I don't particularly like being called Dr at all, it's partly that many of the students I teach here are often the same age or older than me, and I get quite a lot of questions about whether I'm qualified to be teaching them at all, and a lot of senior professors who disregard my input and opinions. It's more like a quick way of expressing that I have earned my stripes for people who don't work with me in much capacity. Mar 9, 2022 at 7:42

1 Answer 1


As far as I can see from reading on their website, getting a (PhD) degree recognised by the ZAB can be useful/necessary especially in two cases:

  1. A PhD is a requirement for your job: The employer may demand the recognition of your degree to make sure that it is equivalent to a PhD obtained in Germany. As you do obviously have a contract already and assuming that the requirements for your new contract do not include a PhD, this should not be relevant for you.
  2. If you want to use your academic title: There are restrictions on when you can use an academic title obtained outside of Germany in Germany, as stated here:

"A foreign academic title may be used in Germany provided it has been properly awarded by a higher education institution or a public authority entitled to do so. Additionally, the university must be state-recognised or accredited in the country of origin."

Further, there are restrictions on whether you can call yourself "Dr." if you have obtained the title "PhD". Each federal state has its own specific regulation here (...) but fortunately "[i]f use of an academic title is granted under a Länder regulation, it is valid in all other German Länder as well."

So, looking at the regulation of Baden-Württemberg, in 2.6 it is written that a PhD obtained in the UK can generally be used both as "PhD" or "Dr." in Germany

For doctoral degrees which were acquired in the United Kingdom with the designa- tion “Doctor of...” plus the respective abbreviation for the field and which are classified as third cycle degrees according to the basic framework of higher education qualifica- tions determined in the Bologna process, no. 4.5 of the current resolution of the Stand- ing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of 28 May 2021 stip- ulates that the degree may be used in the abbreviated form “Dr.” without specification of subject or mention of the awarding higher education institution. For example: Doctoral degree acquired in the UK: Doctor of Philosophy, abbr.: Ph.D. or Dr. Doctor of Business Administration, abbr.: DBA or Dr.

So, if you have a "Doctor of Philosophy" awarded in the UK by a university that fulfills the criteria of the respective federal state you may use that as "Dr. XY" throughout Germany (or as "XY, PhD" of course).

Thus, in conclusion, I don't see why an official recognition should be necessary in your case (but note that my answer is written based on briefly skimming the ZAB website).

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    Thanks so much for this! I checked with HR and they confirmed that there was no need for the confirmation for the job, but they did add that I wouldn't be allowed to use my title (Dr or PhD) if I don't do it. I wonder if it's different policy within the university than elsewhere. I'm begrudging giving up a title I've earned and am entitled to, particularly when I teach students who are often the same age or even older than me, having a title seems like it would help when they're a little disrespectful about my right to teach them. Mar 8, 2022 at 13:23
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    The university cannot make its own rules here but has to apply the regulation of the Federal state. You could ask them to show you the respective paragraph in your state's regulation. They are all listed here (in English): kmk.org/zab/central-office-for-foreign-education/…
    – erc
    Mar 8, 2022 at 13:41
  • @TwigTheWonderKid If students doubt your competence, prove your competence through competence rather than a title. A title does not certify competence.
    – user151413
    Mar 11, 2022 at 23:58

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