At a glance

Expected program duration
3.5 years

Students admitted per year
c. 20-30

Language of instruction

Admission status

Applications for 2020

Applications for 2021
Opens in spring 2020


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


Program questions

Who can apply to BIGS-DR?

BIGS-DR aims to attract scientists from all over the world with outstanding master's or equivalent degrees in economics, social sciences, sociology, political science, 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.

Can external PhD students participate in the courses?

BIGS-DR gives external students the opportunity to attend lectures and seminars here in Bonn. External participants should review our current course program and keep in mind how they plan on financing their time here. As an external participant, you can apply by submitting an application with the following documents in a single PDF file:

  • A motivation letter
  • A BIGS-DR application form
  • A CV
  • University certificates and transcripts
  • Enrollment as a doctoral student at another university
  • One letter of recommendation

Take a look at our application guide for more information about the documents you will need to apply. You may submit your completed application to bigs-dr[at] at least two months prior to the start of the course.

Can I reapply to BIGS-DR?

Our program receives hundreds of very competitive applications every admission season and we are not always able to guarantee a spot for each qualified applicant. Reapplying to BIGS-DR is possible with a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • Rewrite your motivation letter
  • Rewrite your Graduate Research Statement (GRS)
  • Update your CV with any relevant details
  • Resubmit two recommendation letters

In accordance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), applicants who wish to reapply must compile their documents anew following our application instructions. Please remember to register online to receive a new registration ID for the current admission period.

I have a completed a one year master's program. Am I eligible to apply?

Applicants who have finished a one year master's degree are also eligible under the condition that they have written a master's thesis.

I am in my final semester of my Master's. Am I eligible to apply?

Yes, students who are in their final semester of their master's study are also eligible to apply. In this case, you may submit your degree certificate once it has been conferred, but latest by the end of October of the year of application. In the meantime, you will need to provide us with copies of your most recent transcripts or written proof of the courses and scores that you have taken thus far.

Do I need a master's degree to apply?

Yes, our program only admits students with a completed (or near completed) master's degree and thesis.

Is there an age limit to apply?

There is no age limit in applying. However, your last academic degree should have been obtained recently. Applicants who were conferred a degree several years ago will need to demonstrate a level of research aptitude by including a recent list of publications.

Do I need to contact professors and supervisors before I apply?

When you apply to BIGS-DR, no prior contact with a faculty member or ZEF senior researchers is necessary. Once you are admitted to the program, BIGS-DR will assist you in finding the right supervisor.

How do I receive a conditional letter of acceptance?

Applicants who are applying with external funding often require a conditional letter of acceptance. Ideally, applicants apply for BIGS-DR and their external funding institution simultaneously. Upon a successful application, applicants are issued a conditional letter of acceptance that they may use to receive their award.

Can I apply for part-time study?

BIGS-DR is a full-time program. If you are applying under a project vacancy, you will need to discuss the time and study contraints with the doctoral program and your project coordinator.

Do I need work experience prior to applying?

Applicants who are applying for our internal scholarship are required to have at least two years of relevant work experiernce. Other externally funded applicants are not strictly required to have any work experience; however, it can be an advantage during the selection process.

Where can I find information about the current research at ZEF?

Feel free to browse through our research & capacity development page, which highlights current themes and projects. Institute publications are all listed under our publications tab.

Application questions

What are the ZEF research themes on the online registration?

The online registration lists a number of research themes that ZEF is in engaged in. This allows you to select the theme that matches your profile, and helps us make sure that you are being provided with the appropriate supervision.

When is the application deadline?

The application deadline for internal scholarship applicants is August 31st, 23:59 CEST (UTC/GMT +2) annually. The application deadline for externally funded applicants will vary, depending on your funding institution and our supervision capacity.

Technical issues often occur when submitting your application, so we encourage you to always submit your application as early as possible. Please only submit your application once. Our email sever may block email addresses that appear to be spamming.

Can I send documents for review to determine eligibility?

To guarantee fairness, we do not preview application documents or writing samples. We do not accept single documents unless specifically requested. All documents should be compiled in your application PDF file and email to us.

Can I submit a revised document after I have submitted my application?

If you would like to submit a revised document, you must compile your application PDF file once again with the changes, and email the PDF file to us once again. We do not accept individual documents unless specifically requested.

How will I know if you have received my application?

BIGS-DR sends a confirmation of receipt email once an application PDF file has been received. After our initial screening, you will be informed whether or not your application is complete. Once your application PDF file is complete, we will send you a confirmation of application email. If you do not hear back from us within two weeks, please inform us immediately. We are not responsible for any application lost due to technical problems.

What happens to my personal information after I apply?

The application PDF file and all other accompanying documents will remain at BIGS-DR at all times. Personal data is stored in the BIGS-DR application database for the time required to register applications and scholarships in compliance with the German Federal Data Protection Act. Unsuccessful applications will be destroyed after the review process has concluded. Incomplete applications are not considered and are also destroyed after the review process has concluded.

When will I be notified of the admissions results?

The selection committee usually concludes the review period by the end of the year. Once the review period has concluded, you will be informed of your results indivdually by email.