I had a scientific-assistant position from April 2012 till December 2016. I had two children in between and took the necessary time off, the extension of contract due to this break is also included in the time mentioned in the beginning. Now I am trying to finish the thesis, but I am not very happy with the quality of results and am finding it hard to defend.

Rather than finish, can I apply for another PhD position or not?

  • As I mentioned I took necessary time off that was about 11 months for both children together and for that I got extension of my contract. If the total possible time for me is 6 + 4 years then I should have 5 years and 3 months left? Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 21:21

2 Answers 2


You may write another thesis, however, you will not be able to be employed on a limited-time contract in this capacity again due to the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz. So doing a second PhD means doing it without any financial support (unless you are able to get a scholarship, but all funding sources I know of require that it's your first time).

ETA: Based on comments and the other answer, you may actually be allowed to continue on a limited-time contract still for 4 years plus the length of your maternity leaves. In this case it seems possible to complete another PhD in this time if you can get another position.

However, if it's only the lack of time/distraction of children that lead to your current thesis not being where you want it to be yet, it would seem more worthwhile to invest the time to improve it. Unless you have significant issues with your current advisor/lab that you didn't mention, there's no reason to think your results would suddenly be so much nicer the second time around!

  • 1
    In fact she still might. "Das Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz enthält auch familienpolitische Komponenten, nach denen sich die Befristungshöchstdauer (12-Jahres-Regelung) bei Betreuung eines oder mehrerer Kinder unter 18 Jahren um zwei Jahre je Kind verlängert." She might have 4 extra years for the two children, which should be enough to do a PhD. But I am not sure if you only get one year per child before you finish your PhD.
    – skymningen
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 11:30
  • 1
    Oh, right, the time off is not counted, so I guess she still has the equivalent amount of time available as what she took off? Could be difficult to find another position though with a shortened timeframe... might be easier to obtain an extension in the current position and use the time to strengthen the thesis.
    – nengel
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 13:30

From a formal standpoint: Yes, you can apply for a new position since you get two extra years per child. See "Was ändert sich für Familien".

I don't know how easy it is to apply at a new institute though. But if you're well connected, it might work out.

  • If I read this correctly, it's actually possible to extend by two years per child plus the maternity leave, so e.g. if you took a year off for each child you'd have 6 years left?
    – nengel
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 4:10
  • This is how I interpret it as well. If you work at a Fraunhofer Institute and finish your thesis in 6 years the time is not added to the maximum of six years either. I guess it should be the same at university. I have a colleague who did his thesis at university and later had two kids - I think he has been working as a research assistant (from PhD student up to now) for more than 10 years.
    – fukiburi
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 8:49

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