Nationwide increase in doctoral degrees awarded to graduates of universities of applied sciences

10. May 2017

General Assemply of the HRK on 9 May 2017 (Photo: HRK/Sarah Jonek)

New data on doctoral degrees awarded to graduates of universities of applied sciences and those completed through cooperative doctoral training was presented by the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) yesterday, on the occasion of its General Assembly in Bielefeld. The HRK surveyed all German universities on both these topics for the academic years 2012 to 2014.

Looking at doctoral degrees successfully completed at universities by graduates of universities of applied sciences, it is clear that there has been a steady rise in numbers since the 1990s to at least 1,245 people in the period now surveyed. Compared with the years 2009 to 2011, this is an increase of over 30 per cent. The HRK also asked about rules that guarantee non-discriminatory access to doctoral training. Around 90 per cent of university leadership teams that responded confirmed the existence of such rules in the relevant university regulations.

The number of doctoral degrees completed through cooperative training for the period from 2012 to 2014 was 376. These processes involve professors of universities of applied sciences acting as supervisors, reviewers and/or examiners. This is the first time the HRK has recorded this figure in detail. “The survey is part of the monitoring included in the HRK recommendation of 2015 on managing cooperative doctoral degree programmes,” says HRK President Prof. Dr. Horst Hippler. “We can see that the universities are on the right track. In some cases, binding cooperative arrangements already exist as part of agreements, or of doctoral training projects and programmes.”

“However it is also clear that there is some considerable way to go before the systematic institutionalisation of cooperation in doctoral training is achieved across the board,” Hippler says. “University leadership teams still need to work to convince key players in order to implement the goals set in 2015 in time for the evaluation in the coming year.”

The survey covered 146 universities authorised to confer doctoral degrees, including 38 Colleges of Art and Music. Questionnaires were sent to university leadership teams and faculties/departments. Responses were received from almost all universities and 710 of 872 faculties/departments.

The publication “Promotionen von Absolventinnen und Absolventen von Fachhochschulen und Hochschulen für Angewandte Wissenschaften und Promotionen in kooperativen Promotionsverfahren” (Doctoral degrees awarded to graduates of universities of applied sciences and doctoral degrees through cooperative doctoral training processes) can be downloaded from the HRK website or ordered from the HRK Head Office ( in print (in German only).