Doctoral courses at ZEF

The ZEF doctoral course program starts at the begining of October every year.

Here is the tentative course plan for the Academic Year 2017/18 (last update November 22, 2017) for download.


The course program includes three blocks of courses spread over the first and third (last) year of the program. ZEF doctoral students have to attend all blocks of courses.

Module I: The Interdisciplinary Course is mandatory for all students. This course offers doctoral students an insight to other disciplines and to provide them with interdisciplinary skills for their future doctoral research. This course provides a sound theoretical background and skills to address the complex and interlinked issues of development. Three additional weeks are dedicated to reflective activities (writing, literature research) and writing a term paper. This course is mandatory for all students.

Module II: In the disciplinary courses in economics, social sciences, and ecology, respectively, theories and methodology of the different disciplines are taught. These courses are mandatory for students of the respective discipline.

Module III: Courses on specific topics, or specific training for individual students provided in laboratories at the University of Bonn, or other cooperating institutes in Germany or abroad.

Special short courses: ZEF also offers training in topics such as GIS, remote sensing, mathematics and statistics, SPSS and STATA training, and training in methods and key skills.

At the end of module 1 and 2 the ZEF doctoral students have to pass an exam.



Student are required to take courses which, in total, amount to at least 50 ECTS-Credits  (ECTS = European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System). You can find information on the courses and their ECTS-credits here.

Students are required to finalize course module 1 and 2 and pass their exams prior to undertaking their field research. If a student fails an exam, he/she has a second chance. If a student fails twice, or in two exams, or achieves less than 50 ECTS-credits, the ZEF Directorate decides if the student can continue to study at ZEF. Successful participation in the courses is a prerequisite if you want to obtain a doctoral degree supported by ZEF.

During the first 6-12 months of residence in Bonn, the students are also expected to work with their tutor/major professor on fine-tuning their proposals, developing the necessary budgets, and organizing the infrastructure as well as institutional arrangements in the host countries where they will conduct their field research. You have to present your proposal to the scholars in residence and the interested faculty for comments and suggestions before clearance is given to travel abroad.