Selection and admission


At a glance

Expected program duration
3.5 years

Students admitted per year
c. 20-30

Language of instruction

Admission status

Applications for 2019-2020 intake
Currently closed

Applications for 2020-2021 intake
Open early 2019


Internal scholarship applicants
23:59 CEST (UTC/GMT +2)
August 31st, annually

External funding applicants
Deadlines vary


BIGS-DR coordination team
Dr. Günther Manske
Ms. Maike Retat-Amin


How to apply

Step 1: online registration (currently closed)

Prospective applicants must first register online. After you have completed your online registration, you will receive a confirmation email containing your personal registration number and further information for your application. Your personal registration number is important for the application process. In correspondences with the coordination team, please always mention your registration number. Once you submit your online registration, you will not be able to reivse any data. If something needs to be changed, please contact the coordination team.

Step 2: prepare your application documents

The required documents should be assembled in the correct order in a single PDF file (max. 20MB). The PDF file should be named: [your registration number]_[your first and last name] (e.g. "123_John Doe"). For help merging and/or compressing your documents, please see the following guides: a PDFMerge application and a wiki how-to-guide on reducing PDF file size. Once you have prepared your PDF file, it should be emailed to docp.zef(at) as an attachment. Please keep the following information in mind as you prepare your application documents:

Step 3: letters of recommendation

We require two letters of recommendation (or alternatively, two BIGS-DR recommendation forms) from your professors or supervisors. These must be emailed directly to docp.zef(at) by your recommenders (i.e. separate from your application PDF file). Letters of recommendation must be submitted by the application deadline. To confirm the authenticity of recommendations, we require the following:

  • Recommenders should send the documents through an official academic or professional email domain, or
  • Recommenders should stamp the documents with an official academic or professional seal, or
  • Letters of recommendation should be written on an official letterhead.

Entry requirements

Academic qualification

We require an excellent master's or equivalent degree (GPA higher than 3.0 in the American system, or a grade higher than 2.0 in the German system or equivalent).

Your last academic degree should have been obtained relatively recently prior to application. This guarantees the competitiveness of your application. A gap between your previous academic degree and your application to BIGS-DR means that you should demonstrate how you have maintained your academic rigor (e.g. a longer and current list of publications).

Innovative research idea

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 be a maximum of four pages. Your Graduate Research Statement may relate to ZEF's research areas in a broad sense or 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.

English proficiency

Applicants whose native language is not English are required to provide evidence of English proficiency. The following documents may be submitted as proof of eligibility:

  • IELTS Academic (minimum band score of 6)
  • TOEFL iBT (minimum of 80 points)
  • Other English language certification tests (CPE, CAE)

At the discretion of the BIGS-DR team, applicants who have completed their tertiary studies in English may have the English proficiency requirement waived if evidence can be provided that all courses were conducted entirely in English. Usually, the medium of instruction can be found on the transcript or other official university program documents. Alternatively, applicants may also request a letter from their university directly that attests to the medium of instruction.

Application deadlines

The deadline for the internal scholarship is August 31st annually for the following academic year. The admissions period for the next intake usually begins early in the early spring.

For independent and external scholarship applicants, completed application documents may be submitted at any time, capacity permitting. Please note that these funding institutions often have their own deadlines, so be sure to inform BIGS-DR accordingly by including any deadlines in your motivation letter.

The BIGS-DR courses start in early October annually.