I am an academic from China and I am currently studying the accreditation and quality assurance of German master's and doctoral degrees. However, the existing English literature does not clearly explain how German doctoral degrees are authorized.

My questions are as follow:

Do all comprehensive universities and universities of applied science and technology have the right to award doctoral degrees? Can a doctoral program be opened after internal discussion within the university? Does the government play any role in this?

  • 2
    The government (primarily those of the federal states) can only influence universities in a limited way by providing (or reducing) funding. Academic and scientific freedom are protected: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_freedom#Germany
    – user9482
    Commented Dec 4, 2023 at 11:34
  • @Roland You're sure this freedom includes the right to choose whether being able to award PhDs? AFAIK this about being free in choosing your research topics as an academic.
    – user151413
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 20:07
  • @user151413 It includes the freedom to organize how PhDs are awarded, which includes opening doctoral programs ("Graduiertenkollegs" but they are not the only way to organize this).
    – user9482
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 6:20
  • @Roland It gives them the freedom to decide how to award degrees, but not whether they can award degrees, which is the first part of the question (and in that regard, the government does play a role, cf. the discussion about the right of universities of applied science to award PhDs).
    – user151413
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 17:46

1 Answer 1


In general, education is federally organized in Germany and thus many decisions, laws and regulations are only valid for single Bundesländer (federal states). Although there are general rules and regulations that apply for the whole country, most educational decisions are decided only on a federal level.

All comprehensive universities have the right to award doctoral degrees, except for some art and music universities, for more info see here. Concerning the universities of applied sciences, there are 8 federal states that allow for universities of applied sciences to award doctoral degrees to date (end of 2023), although there are differences, see here for more info. It is likely that in the future, the remaining 8 Bundesländer will also change the law accordingly.

  • Thank you so much for lending a helping hand!!
    – Qing Chen
    Commented Dec 4, 2023 at 12:02
  • 5
    I would note that any public/state-run university of applied science in Germany would not dare.to offer a PhD track without approval from the relevant authorities.
    – TAR86
    Commented Dec 4, 2023 at 17:44

You must log in to answer this question.

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