I've a colleague who's pursuing her PhD in anthropology and religious studies in a German public university, having one of her advisor there and another advisor from another public university in Austria. She told me that:

i) she needs no publications to get a PhD thesis, unlike science or engineering, and

ii) she needs to pay a publisher to publish her PhD thesis, as per the rules of her program or the university.

While I understand that regarding i), the requirement to publish articles may depend on the disciplines, but ii) strikes me as very odd, especially when she told me that it costs at least a few thousand Euros to publish a PhD thesis. Now, as a total outsider to the university, her program or her discipline, I've no clue why one has to pay to publish her thesis, but as a long time academic, I find this very odd and I'd appreciate it if someone familiar with the system can shed some light on the matter, and also let me know if ii) remains the same for other countries, in or outside Europe.

Addendum: When I wrote my PhD thesis in math about ten years ago in a public university in the US, I didn't have to publish my thesis as a book. I published papers in journals and didn't have to pay a dime for the same.

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    I had to pay a local printer to print and bind a half dozen copies of my thesis. If nobody is going to buy copies, someone has to pay…
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Apr 22 at 14:25
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    Agreed, I'm familiar with Jon's situation which was the same for me: we had to pay for a copy to be made for archive with the program. Additional copies were an additional cost, common for people to keep one themselves or give to parents/grandparents, but the total cost likely to be $100 or so for the printing and binding only. But, separately, individual manuscripts submitted to journals often have page charges or open access fees that can be thousands of dollars/euros. These are usually paid by a grant, though, not the student, but if there's no money someone would still need to pay.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Apr 22 at 14:36
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    If this person is in a field where people don't read papers, then they might read theses published as books instead. If they don't produce anything in a format others can read, what's the point?
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Apr 22 at 14:37
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    Graduation requirements differ between universities and subjects even in Germany. (Plus this seems to involve Austria as well, I would expect this to be a bureaucratic nightmare.) Even the "unlike science or engineering" statement about publications is just not universally true. I just looked up my German alma maters PhD regulations, apparently all you need to provide (apart from the electronic version) is four bound, typed copies of your thesis. No publishing of your thesis anywhere but to the university required. Commented Apr 24 at 11:44
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    In the humanities, completely unfunded PhDs are not uncommon by all means. Often, PhD students have to pay all their expenses - in addition to fees to the university (!) - out of their own pockets. Why should it be surprising then, that publishing fees have to be paid out of pocket?
    – xuq01
    Commented Apr 27 at 16:50

2 Answers 2


(Almost) nobody is likely to read that thesis. Why should the publisher pay for a unsellable product?

That being said, in Germany, the author might be able to recoup some of the expenses by VG Wort, which represents the collective interest of authors in Germany and pays them according to publication (usually not worth pursuing for small volume writings such as articles, but in case of books - such as this - it might be worth it).

Some publishers are even happy to take over the rights to those fees in lieu of actual payment. I.e. publishing the book might not cost the author anything. [Caveat: this is old information from many years ago and might have dated, so one should seek confirmation]

Despite all, it is a nice feeling to have a proper bound book as a result of a thesis. And maybe, in some years or decades, someone actually might read it if it's well written and potentially relevant.


(A) The difference in the way of publication derives from the difference between a paper based (cumulative) dissertation, which is as a whole most often "published" solely as a cheap copy shop version that you have to hand into the university/library, whereas a monograph could also be "published" this way, which is, however, in many fields seen as a low-grade way of publishing (i.e. practically saying that you think your dissertation is not worth being read). Thus monographs are often published with "real" publishers and here of course the options vary from no/low-cost options (eg Springer) to high cost options (eg Routledge). Depending on the field, different publishers might be viewed as more or less valuable. To sum up: you don't have to pay money to publish a monograph, but not paying might come at the cost of reputation and recognition for you work.

(B) Even with the more costly publishers you might not have to pay to be published (and might even get payed) if your work is interesting enough for a wider audience and if you are ready to do some heavy editing to make your thesis more approachable to a wider readership. A colleague of mine had his PhD monograph published by a reputable publisher, payed nothing, got 50 copies for free to give to his friends and colleagues, and still receives money from the sales of the book. To sum up: whether you have to pay a publisher or not depends a lot on the market-value of your PhD Thesis.

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