BIGS-DR provides a tailor-made program to expand knowledge in development research, within a specific discipline and beyond. The mandatory course program comprises three modules, starting each year in October.

Embarking on a doctoral study in a new place can be challenging, regardless of whether one is from Germany or from another country. Starting in October, BIGS-DR students become a member of a batch of international doctoral students from various disciplines who will proceed through the program together and step by step. This batch ensures peer-to-peer support and often results in lifelong connections with batchmates.

Step by Step to a Doctorate

Starting at ZEF

During the first six to twelve months of residence in Bonn, students work with their main supervisor and tutor to refine their research proposals, develop a budget plan, and organize the infrastructure and institutional arrangements in their research countries. Students must present their research proposals to researchers at ZEF and faculty for comments and suggestions before starting the fieldwork. Conducting doctoral research with secondary data and without own fieldwork is also possible. ZEF provides doctoral students with shared offices, computing, conference facilities, and an in-house- library.

Module 1 (two months)

The Interdisciplinary Course (module 1) equips the BIGS-DR students with interdisciplinary skills for their research and a solid theoretical foundation to tackle complex and interconnected research topics. The course provides an interdisciplinary perspective on ZEF's primary research topics. Teaching is carried by ZEF professors and other well-known experts, among them many ZEF alumni. Module 1 concludes with a graded interdisciplinary term paper, as well as workshops on intercultural training and research ethics.


Module 2 (four months)

The Disciplinary Courses (module 2) in economics, social sciences, public health, or ecology enhance the theoretical and methodological foundations in the respective disciplines. These courses provide intensive training in relevant theories and empirical methods, including statistics, GIS, remote sensing, and system modeling using various software. These disciplinary courses are taught in blocks and last for a total of four months, including exams.

Field research

After finishing the course modules 1 and 2, students work with their tutors and supervisors on their research plan. After final approval by their supervisors, students travel to their research countries to conduct field research. The time frame depends on the chosen research topic, the funding, and applied methods. Upon returning to ZEF, students write up their doctoral theses. Most students finish their PhDs and obtain their doctoral degrees within four years.

Module 3: Softskill training

Throughout the remaining years of the program, students participate in soft-skill training to ensure an effective thesis-writing process, improve their presentation techniques for conferences, and develop further career steps. Students choose the training based on their individual needs. They are guided and supported in writing academic articles and publishing them in peer-reviewed international journals.



International networks

ZEF has intensive cooperation networks in most parts of the world, which doctoral students can tap into for their own research and career development. The Santander Research Grant or other funding opportunities enable short research stays with strategic partners of the University of Bonn to discuss findings, get other perspectives, and build career networks. BIGS-DR also cooperates closely with the University of Tokyo (i.e. IPADS and GPSS-GLI) in the fields of teaching and student exchange.

Last step: Graduation

Most BIGS-DR students submit their dissertations to the respective faculty after a maximum of four years. The time frame depends on the topic, funding, and other circumstances. Upon successful defense of their dissertation, students are awarded a doctoral degree from one of the Faculties of the  University of Bonn. ZEF is affiliated with the Faculties of Agriculture, Mathematics and Natural Sciences, and Arts.



Dr. Silke Tönsjost
(Academic Coordinator)
+49 (0)228 / 73-1794

Max Voit
+49 (0)228 / 73-1727

Diese Webseite verwendet Cookies

Diese Website verwendet Cookies – nähere Informationen dazu und zu Ihren Rechten als Benutzer finden Sie in unserer Datenschutzerklärung am Ende der Seite. Klicken Sie auf „Ich stimme zu“, um Cookies zu akzeptieren und direkt unsere Website besuchen zu können.
Read more