I have been through a 4-year PhD program at my home university. In these 4 years, I have performed several research projects, authored several articles and passed qualification exams. After that, I left for a 3-year academic leave, and found myself ineligible to return to my home university to complete my PhD. I have an option of becoming an external doctorate student at my home university, which will require me to re-take qualification exams to complete my PhD and earn a PhD degree.

However, I am also considering becoming an external graduate student in another country, if this is possible. By saying "external graduate student", I mean a program where non-affiliated scholars might come to a university, present the evidence of their expertise in the field (research articles and a thesis / dissertation), take qualification exams and earn a PhD degree.

Is this an accepted practice in European countries? Are there rules allowing or precluding foreign students from taking these positions?

2 Answers 2


Yes, in Europe it is possible, but be ready to contact many professors.

The ideal path is to get a PhD with a cumulative thesis, where you "collate" your paper, write a nice frame around them as introduction/conclusion and then you discuss it in front of a comitee.

You must however wade through doctoral's program rules, often written in local language, so it is a long journey. At best, you get in touch with secretaries and official persons in the universities, they may be able to provide details or not.

Rules regarding eligibilty of papers and their format (must they have an internal co-author? the advisor? do they need a translation of the abstract in the local language?) are decided at the each university, so no general answer can be given.

Europe is a continent, I bring here some sparse facts about one of the countries, Germany.

In Germany you would aim at a „kumulative Dissertation“, the example of the rules are here:

Promotionsordnung (from the University of Mainz)

and although there are 122 pages in the documents, the relevant ones are just the first 22, many things are in common among german institutions. In the remaining 100 pages, there are specific rules for almost each faculty.

It may be worthwhile to get in touch with the german exchange service DAAD, they may help you (I guess you do not need a full funding for your PhD's closing, but nonetheless having some sort of stipendium would open you more doors in German universities).


In Germany, PhD admission and PhDs in general are handeled differently than lets say in the US: the only thing you need is a professor to supervise you (and the approval of their department, which is normally a given if you fullfill the basics: MA, good grades and a topic fitting the department your supervising professor works at). Look at this canonical question for more info.

So you could try to find a prof in your field and try to convince them to take you on as a PhD student by presenting your previous work during from the 4 year program. If you are purely looking for supervision (and even have done a large share of the work towards the PhD already) and not for funding as well, chances are that somebody might agree if the quality of your work so far is high enough.

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