Who can apply?

ZEF's doctoral studies program aims at attracting young scientists from all over the world with an outstanding master’s or equivalent degree in economics, social sciences, sociology, political science, economics, development economics, agricultural and resource economics, agronomy, biology, ecology, forestry, mathematics or earth sciences. Candidates preferably have work experience in national or international research institutions, governments, or the private sector. Interest in interdisciplinary research is a prerequisite. 

What are the main selection criteria?

- Academic qualification: an excellent master or equivalent degree: G.P.A. higher than 3.0 in the American system, or a grade higher than 2.0 in the German system or equivalent.

Innovative research ideas: Your application must contain a Graduate Research Statement. The statement should describe a development problem you consider interesting and important; include your main research questions and the proposed methods linked to them; and have literature references. The statement should have a maximum of 4 pages. Your Graduate Research Statement may relate to ZEF's research areas in a broad sense of may address a topic in another development research area. The selection committee will assess all research statements on the basis of orgininality, analytical rigor, and relevance.

- ZEF's doctoral program is conducted in English. We therefore require the following English language skills: IELTS (band 6) certificate or TOEFL (minimum score: 550 paper based, 213 computer-based, 80 internet-based). Students can attend a two-month German language course prior to the study program.

- There is no age limit for applying to the doctoral program at ZEF. However, your last academic degree should be obtained less than six years prior to application.

Special DAAD requirements:

To be entitled to receiving a DAAD scholarship you must have at least two years of relevant professional experience.

How do I apply?

Applying to the ZEF Doctoral Studies Program involves two steps:

Step 1: Online registration is currently open.

First of all, you have to register online. During the online registration, you will be asked to enter your personal data and information. After you have completed your online registration, you will receive a confirmation per e-mail containing your personal registration number and all further necessary information for your application. Please use this number in any correspondences with us.

Step 2: Application for admission.

Please note that your online registration helps to accelerate the admission procedure. It is NOT a substitute for the required documents to be sent by e mail to the program's office.

Special prerequisites and requirements for DAAD scholarship applicants from Cameroon and China:

Applications from Cameroon and China must be submitted via the German Embassy, where the academic certificates have to be verified. Find the links to the German Embassies here:

  • Cameroon: German Embassy in Yaoundé
  • China: Academic Evaluation Centre of the German Embassy in Beijing

When is the annual application deadline?

You may submit your complete application documents at any time, particularly if you already have a scholarship or if you want to apply for a scholarship not provided by DAAD. DAAD and other funders have their own deadlines, so don't forget to inform yourself accordingly!

ZEF's Doctoral Studies Program starts on October 1st, annually.

The deadline for DAAD scholarships is August 31st, 2017.

Where do I apply?

Please register online at before sending your application in a digital form to:


Follow the instructions "How to prepare your application?"

We confirm the reception of the appliction documents. If you have not heard from us within two weeks, please inform us immidiately. We are not responsible for any application lost due to technical problems. 

Contact and more information

Please contact the doctoral program management team in case you have any questions not answered on this page:

Dr. Günther Manske (academic coordinator) and Maike Retat-Amin (assistance),
Email: docp.zef(at)