What to do before searching for funding possibilities?
If there are no job vacancies available at the university or research department, scholarships can be an alternative for funding a PhD project. Scholarships are, amongst others, provided by government sponsored organizations and charitable foundations.
In the social sciences, holders of a scholarship are not obligated to give lectures or to provide scientific input to a research project that goes beyond their own PhD thesis. Thus, scholarships offer the advantage of being able to focus entirely on one's own PhD project. In contrast, an employment via university means normally obligates the employees to give lectures, whereas an obligation to provide scientific input to major research projects often comes with an employment via third-party funds (see below).
...and disadvantages of scholarships
On the other hand, scholarships often entail financial disadvantages. The amount of money holders of a scholarship receive does not include the following social insurances:
- health insurance,
- unemployment insurance and
- statutory pension insurance.
Furthermore, scholarships do not always provide additional funds for covering traveling expenses or the costs of equipment, consumables, publications etc. The "Organizations for the Promotion of Young Talent" (Begabtenförderungswerke, sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)) normally provide 1,350 Euro per month and a so-called research cost allowance of 100 Euro. Furthermore, holders of a scholarship may apply for additional funding covering the costs of conference trips or research stays abroad. However, those additonal funds are not provided by all funding institutions. That means, that holders of a scholarship may have to apply for additional funding or to bear potential additional costs.
Therefore, it is strongly recommended to develop a comprehensive financial plan for the potential PhD project before applying for a scholarship.
On the basis of such a plan, potential additional costs can be identified and assessed more easily and clearly. If any additional costs are going to accrue, it is advisable to clarify prior to starting the PhD studies if and how these anticipated expenses can be covered. Possible options are university means or the application for additional funding.
Third-party funded projects as an alternative funding possibility
A third reasonable possibilty for funding a PhD thesis is - apart from an employment financed by university means or a scholarship - an employment financed by third-party funding. This option is especially interesting when high additional costs - for example material or travel expenses - are anticipated. Third-party funded projects are research projects financed by non-university institutions. In the social sciences, PhD students financed by third-party funding are generally employed part-time (50 to 75%, TV-L 13). Moreover, third-party funding normally also provides financial means for covering material and travel expenses and the costs of publications related to the research project.
How to get an employment in a third-party funded project?
For some academic disciplines (for example economic sciences), vacancies in third-party funded projects are advertised by faculties or departments which members already successfully applied for funding at non-university institutions. PhD students financed by third-party funded projects may be asked to take over tasks that do not contribute to the progress of their own PhD thesis - depending on how closely the research theme of the third-party funded project resembles the theme of their own PhD project. If there are (currently) no vacancies available at the respective faculties or departments, possibly the PhD supervisor may apply for third-party funding (the applicant must at least hold a doctorate). PhD students may contribute to the preparation of such an application and, thus, support its submission.
It is strongly recommended to list all expected expenses of a potential PhD project before choosing a way of financing it. Only on the basis of such an overview, the most suitable way of funding can be identified. We are glad to assist you in this matter!