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BGTS Application

Starting date of programme: 3 year full -time doctoral programme starting September of each year in Berlin
Starting date for applications:
Applications are closed 
Deadline for submitting applications:
Final admission decision:
Around May 2024

The 2024 call for applications can be found here. Note, the given deadline on the call is not up-to-date; applications can be submitted until the 31.01.2024.

Applications are only accepted via the application platform. The platform can be accessed here.

Anyone who has completed a master’s degree in social sciences (usually comprising a total of 300 European Credit Transfer System [ECTS] credits including the bachelor’s degree) is eligible to apply. The term “social sciences” refers to political science, area studies, sociology, and history as well as to economics and law. The programme is open to applicants of all nationalities and shows no preference to EU citizens.

  • Master’s degree, qualifying for doctoral studies in the social sciences, history, economics, law, or area studies;
  • proof of C1-level English language skills or the equivalent;
  • most recent CV;
  • letter of motivation (600 words maximum);
  • research proposal (5,000 words maximum) with a timeline for your project;
  • two letters of reference from professors at universities or research institutions.

The expected level of English proficiency is C1 (or better) of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, which translates into other tests as follows (scores indicated are minimums):

  •    IELTS: 8.0
  •    TOEFL PBT: 603/677
  •    TOEFL CBT: 263/300
  •    TOEFL IBT: 110/120
  •    TOEIC: 785

If you are not a native English speaker or if the language of instruction at your previous university was not English, we will ask you to provide evidence of strong English language skills. Please include English language test results in your application if this applies to you. English language tests should not be more than two years old at the time of your application to the BGTS and should be uploaded in your online application form as a PDF or JPEG document. Please consider that the BGTS will only accept results of the English language tests mentioned above and no others.

The doctoral programme at the BGTS does not require German language skills. However, we recommend that you study German during your time with us. This will help you in your daily life in Berlin, including communicating with others at the university. Free German language courses for international doctoral researchers are offered by the Dahlem Research School at Freie Universität Berlin.

Your final grade point average should be at least 2.4 (German grade system), “Good”. In ECTS terms this corresponds to a “B” average, starting at 79%. As grading systems vary from country to country, grade point average is only one factor among many upon which selection is based.

If you haven’t completed your master’s degree at the time of application, you may still apply, but you must provide official documentation (e.g. academic transcript and official diploma) of your successful completion of a master’s degree before enrolling in the doctoral programme.

If your official diploma is not ready at the time your application, you are required to send some proof of your academic performance (e.g. a current transcript) instead. Then, please send us a letter from your university as soon as you have completed your master’s degree, confirming the completion of your studies. This letter will allow you to provisionally enrol at the BGTS while awaiting your official degree diploma.

A research proposal is an outline of the research project that will be the focus of your doctoral thesis. Your research proposal will be the core of your application and allows you to present your academic perspective and creativity. Successful proposals will address research questions that lie within our areas of research.

The following guidelines may be helpful in writing your proposal. However, keep in mind that a research proposal should always reflect your personal academic perspective and research interests. We appreciate being challenged by an innovative research question and approach!

First, present a concrete issue.
  • What is the issue?
  • Why have you chosen this issue, and why is it relevant?
In relation to this issue, pose a central research question. This question is the focus of your project and should be specified clearly.
  • What is the central question you aim to answer in your thesis?
  • Why is your research question relevant for the academic debate?
  • Where is the gap in literature that you intend to address?
  • What are some sub-questions or hypotheses relevant for answering your question?
Address the specific theoretical perspective that you will use in analysing your issue.
  • Why did you choose this specific theoretical perspective?
  • How does current theory help to answer your question, both in general and in particular?
Based on your theoretical foundation, detail your planned methodological approach.
  • What kind of methodology will you use and why (e.g. qualitative or quantitative analyses, single case studies, process tracing, small or large N, discourse analysis, critical theory, etc.)?
  • What are some relevant sources of information (e.g. document analysis, field research, database, interviews)?
Finally, reflect on the content.
  • What will be the main arguments of the thesis?
  • What might be the outcome of, or answers to, these arguments?
  • How will you structure your thesis, and why?

Please also enclose a timetable indicating the timing of the main steps of your project including periods for research, analysis, and writing. Your proposal should be no longer than 5,000 words (without reference list); the quality of your text is more significant than the quantity. Please consider that the focus of your research should relate to the research interests of at least one BGTS faculty member.

In the letter of motivation, you should provide a strong argument as to why you decided to apply for the doctoral programme and how it fits into your overall career plans. You may further discuss which supervisor of the BGTS core faculty would fit your research project, and why. Also, you should indicate whether you are applying for a BGTS scholarship and, if not, how you plan to finance your time at the BGTS. Please also indicate if you have applied for additional scholarships.

Who is eligible to write a reference letter?

We strongly recommend that your reference letters be written by faculty members at your home university who are able to comment on your academic performance in detail. If you are no longer affiliated with a university and do not have continued contact with any faculty members, you may also ask someone in a senior position at your workplace to write a reference letter for you.

In what language should reference letters be written?

Reference letters should be written in English or German.

How should reference letters be delivered?

Please make sure to provide your referees' E-Mail addresses in our online application form. Your referees will then receive a personalized link from our office where they will be able to upload their letter of reference. The link will be sent to your referees automatically after you have submitted your application.

Please note that sending reference letters by E-Mail directly to us is not possible. Our system will contact your referees instead, using the E-Mail addresses you have provided for them during your application.

Please note that all letters of reference must be submitted before the end of the application deadline.

It is therefore the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that referees have enough time to submit the letters of reference before the end of the application deadline. Please plan your application process accordingly.

What should reference letters include?

A reference letter should contain a short description of your academic performance and discuss your qualifications and interest in the doctoral programme at the BTS – research interests, background, etc. A professor’s report on your master’s thesis cannot serve as a reference letter.

Applicants should familiarize themselves with the research interests of the BGTS faculty and should indicate the supervisor(s) of their choice. Yet, we kindly ask you not to contact faculty members prior to your application or to send your research proposal to a faculty member for comments. The BGTS has very strict regulations, which do not allow for detailed comments on research proposals by faculty members. Faculty members will not review your proposal. Hence, please refrain from sending us or faculty members any documents for review!

The selection committee will recommend a team of supervisors for your research project based on your suggestions, your research focus, and availability of faculty members. After admission, the decision will be discussed with you.

Selected doctoral researchers can freely choose their second supervisors. The second supervisor does not have to be a member of the BGTS core faculty like the first supervisor, nor does he/she have to come from one of the BGTS’ three member institutions. The idea behind this is to find a person that fits your particular research focus and, ideally, complements the first supervisor through different qualifications and merits.

SCRIPTS’ Research Units

Four positions for doctoral researchers (E13, 65%) are funded by the Cluster of Excellence “Contestations of the Liberal Script” (SCRIPTS), linked to its four respective Research Units (RU): Borders, Orders, (Re-)Allocation and Temporality. Doctoral researchers are expected to participate in regular meetings and events of the Research Units and to contribute to the dissemination of research results through publications and participation in workshops and conferences. Applicants should express their interest in the topics of their preferred Research Unit.

RU Borders

RU Borders looks for doctoral projects concerning challenges to territoriality and citizenship through processes of globalization, regionalization, (de)imperialization, technological change, and other factors (endogenous, exogenous); contestations and transformations of “the liberal border script” and its principles (e.g. national sovereignty, cultural diversity, personal and economic freedom and mobility) in comparative and historical perspective.

RU Orders

RU Orders is interested in doctoral projects on contestations of the liberal order script including state-structures, rights, and political rule. In particular, the RU investigates objections to the notion that democratic procedures produce equality in the capacity of individuals to influence political choices as well as the promotion of exclusionary understandings of human rights. It also examines resistance to institutions of global governance.

RU (Re-)Allocation

RU (Re-) Allocation looks for doctoral projects related to welfare and social security with a focus on the global south, preferably Africa or South Asia; to liberal market economies, (re-)allocation processes (such as progressive taxation) and the creation of inequality; interdependences of inequalities within the liberal market economy; to contestations of the liberal script through a combination of inequalities and other pressures such as climate change, demographic change, and (forced) migration.

RU Temporality

The RU Temporality is interested in doctoral projects related to time-related challenges to the liberal script; in challenges to the liberal script from a historical perspective; understandings of temporality and progress and their influence on how actors allocate time to market and non-market activities; tensions between future-oriented values against present-oriented norms with regard to, e.g., work-life-balance.

Doctoral programme in Governance at the Hertie School

One of our partners, the Hertie School, also advertises doctoral fellowships for researchers focusing on contemporary social, political, legal and economic challenges. If you are interested in this programme, please apply through the separate portal: https://www.hertie-school.org/en/phd/

You may apply to both programmes in parallel.