Doctor­ate at the HFA
Questions and Answers



I am in my last semes­ter of my Master/ I finish my Master in …, can I apply?

Yes, you can apply. Upload your transcript of records or a provi­sional master certifi­cate. Please be aware that you have to finish your master until the end of this year and hand in your certifi­cate before you can start the doctor­ate. As soon as you have your certifi­cate, please send it to us.

I already have a doctor­ate, can I still apply for a position?

If your field of inter­est is differ­ent from what you have done in your previ­ous doctoral program then, yes, you can apply at Hector Fellow Academy for a position.

I applied last year or before but was unsuc­cess­ful. Can I apply again?

Yes, you can re-apply. You will need to re-upload your application.

Is there any age limit to apply for a doctoral position?

Please be aware that our doctoral positions aim at promot­ing young and excel­lent scien­tists at the begin­ning of their career. For this reason, we recom­mend you to have a Master degree which is less than five years old. Thus, we will review your appli­ca­tion in regard to your profile and quali­fi­ca­tion if you decide to apply nevertheless.

I am not a citizen from the European Union, can I still apply for a position?

The call is open to excel­lent students from around the world. There are no restric­tions regard­ing your country of origin.

Is it manda­tory to have an IELTS or TOEFL certifi­cate to apply? What is the minimum grade required? 

Appli­cants must have excel­lent English skills. However, an English language certifi­cate is not manda­tory for the appli­ca­tion. If avail­able, an IELTS or TOEFL certifi­cate can be uploaded. We will take it into account if the certifi­cate is there.

Are German language skills mandatory?

German language skills are no precon­di­tion for the doctoral program. However, appli­cants must have excel­lent English skills.

What are your research areas?

As only you know what the specific focus of your doctor­ate will be, we recom­mend you to take a look at the differ­ent research areas of our Hector Fellows. On our website, you can find all the research areas within the Hector Fellow Academy. For your appli­ca­tion, you define the match­ing Hector Fellow as a poten­tial super­vi­sor for your appli­ca­tion. The profiles of our Hector Fellows are provided here:

You can find the profiles of our Hector Fellows here:

Please check the Hector Fellow’s profiles if he/she is avail­able for super­vis­ing doctoral projects!

I am inter­ested in …, can you please tell me whom of the Hector Fellows can super­vise me?

It is your respon­si­bil­ity to choose the Hector Fellow, whose field of research fits your proposal. On our website you can find all the research areas repre­sented in the Hector Fellow Academy. Just go to the profile page of each Hector Fellow and look at their current research fields.

You can find the profiles of our Hector Fellows here:

Can I still apply for a doctoral position when my super­vi­sor is not one of the Hector Fellows?

The funding of the Hector Fellow Academy is bound to the super­vi­sion of a Hector Fellow. It is not possi­ble to apply for funding without having a super­vi­sor from the Hector Fellow Academy. There­fore, you are not eligi­ble to apply if you were already accepted for another position.

The topics avail­able do not match my research inter­est, can I still apply for a position?

Your research topic needs to fit within the research inter­est of a Hector Fellow. The funding is bound to the super­vi­sion of your research by a Hector Fellow. If you haven’t found your field of research in the fields of one of the Hector Fellows, then unfor­tu­nately there might not be much of a chance for your application.


Your Appli­ca­tion

Formal Documents

Could you review my documents and see if I am eligible?

The Hector Fellow Academy cannot pre-screen your appli­ca­tion and background. As we take a holis­tic view at each appli­cant, we can only evalu­ate your appli­ca­tion once it is complete and we only accept appli­ca­tions made via our appli­ca­tion portal.

Do I have to upload the official trans­la­tion of my documents?

For the appli­ca­tion process, we need the origi­nal document as well as the trans­la­tion in English or German (you can make one pdf file out of two and then upload a two-page document). If you don’t have the possi­bil­ity to provide an official/notarized trans­la­tion, we accept trans­la­tions made by yourself (that’s enough for the first instance). At a later stage in the appli­ca­tion process, we will require notarized trans­la­tions. Please send your documents as early as possi­ble so that we can start the admission’s process.

Can I submit letters of recom­men­da­tion myself?

We cannot accept letters of recom­men­da­tion sent by the appli­cants themselves. We will request them from the refer­ences directly.

Who should write the letters of recommendation?

The letter of recom­men­da­tion should be written by someone who is able to give us a holis­tic view of your abili­ties. As you are apply­ing for a research schol­ar­ship, this should be an acade­mic who is able to comment on your research and acade­mic abili­ties — whether from the univer­sity you studied at or another one does not matter. Letters need to be written on official insti­tu­tional letterhead.

Do I need a class ranking?

You can go on with your appli­ca­tion without any class ranking, it’s not mandatory.

Research Proposal

What topic should I choose for my research proposal?

The topic must fit within the research inter­ests of the chosen Hector Fellow. You need to be quali­fied to conduct the research (i.e. have a strong background in the required method­olo­gies, topics, techniques).

Is there a special format required in writing the research proposal?

There is no template. Please follow these guidelines:

Please summa­rize your Research Proposal on 2–4 pages (4,000–8,000 charac­ters, incl. spaces) and address the follow­ing points: Intro­duc­tion to the scien­tific topic, state of the art in the field of research (+ possi­bly own prelim­i­nary work), goals and methods applied, bibli­og­ra­phy. Highlight the innov­a­tive­ness of your research idea and link your topic with the research field of the chosen Hector Fellow.

You can find the profiles of our Hector Fellows here:

In the appli­ca­tion form in the "Research Proposal or Letter of Appli­ca­tion" section, do I upload a Research Proposal, or a State­ment of Purpose?

You upload your research proposal if you are apply­ing with your own idea and you upload a State­ment of Purpose if apply­ing for an adver­tised position.

Do I need to contact the super­vi­sor to get their approval before I can apply?

You don’t have to contact any Hector Fellow but are welcome to. Please do not be discour­aged if you do not receive an answer immedi­ately. If contact­ing them, be well prepared and please make sure to have relevant and well thought questions. Keep the email short and to the point includ­ing the most relevant data about yourself and your research. You just have to name the selected Hector Fellow in the appli­ca­tion form. Without this, your appli­ca­tion will not be forwarded.

In case of apply­ing for an adver­tised position, please contact the respec­tive Hector Fellow in order to discuss the position in advance. Please check the adver­tised positions:

What is meant by "Sched­ule for the doctoral project / Timeline"

You have to prepare a timetable for you research idea, i.e. when are you planning to do what/ how are you planning to use the three years of funding? Please show a rough work sched­ule of the 3 years of your doctoral thesis on 1–2 pages. You can decide on your own whether you use a graphic or a timeline, there is no formal concept. We use this sched­ule to gauge whether your research proposal is feasi­ble to complete in three years.

For an adver­tised position we will use the timeline to see whether you have already famil­iar­ized with the chosen topic.


Appli­ca­tion Process

How can I apply?

We can only accept appli­ca­tions made via our appli­ca­tion portal:

Please check the Hector Fellow’s profiles if he/she is avail­able for super­vis­ing doctoral projects:
Hector Fellow Portraits.

Can I upload protected pdf files?

Please ensure that we as well as your chosen Hector Fellow can read and review your documents.

What kind of ways are there to apply?

The main idea of the Hector Fellow Academy doctoral projects is that the appli­cants develop their own research idea and name a Hector Fellow as their super­vi­sor, whose field of research fits the one of their proposal. Further­more, you also have the possi­bil­ity to apply for an adver­tised doctoral position of a Hector Fellow.

How do I apply with my own research idea?

For a self-devel­oped idea, you need to firstly choose whether a Hector Fellow is doing research in the area you are inter­ested in. In a second step, you either already have an inter­est­ing idea or you have a look what an inter­est­ing and novel research avenue to follow through with your own project can be. It is also impor­tant to relate to the Hector Fellow´s research expertise.

How do I apply for an adver­tised position?

Please check if there are any adver­tised positions of the Hector Fellows online at the moment: Adver­tised Doctoral Positions (

In case of apply­ing for an adver­tised position we recom­mend that you contact the respec­tive Hector Fellow about the require­ment for the position in advance.

Can I submit my appli­ca­tion but upload some of my documents after the appli­ca­tion deadline?

No, sadly due to the numbers of requests it is not possi­ble to update your appli­ca­tion after submis­sion. We will evalu­ate your appli­ca­tion based on the documents you provided until the deadline. Due to fairness reasons, we cannot accept any documents after the deadline.

Do I have to pay appli­ca­tion fees?

The Hector Fellow Academy does not charge any appli­ca­tion fees.


After Submis­sion

Where can I check my appli­ca­tion status?

We will inform you by the end of May whether you have reached the second round.

In the meantime, please do not call or write to us to inquire about the status of your appli­ca­tion. Please check your SPAM folder if you have not heard from us.

What is the evalu­a­tion process like?

When the appli­ca­tion process is finished, the HFA Office will review every appli­ca­tion in regard to the quali­fi­ca­tion, the project proposal and if the topic fits to the chosen Hector Fellow’s research field. After the first screen­ing and if your appli­ca­tion is promis­ing, the Hector Fellow Academy will forward it to the Hector Fellow you chose as poten­tial super­vi­sor. The Hector Fellow will inter­view promis­ing candi­dates and eventu­ally prese­lect a candi­date to suggest to the Hector Fellow Academy. All prese­lected appli­cants have to present themselves and their topic proposal to Hector Fellows. This will be a part of the annual Hector Fellow Academy sympo­sium, which usually takes place in a German city at the begin­ning of July. The candi­dates will be informed in August if their appli­ca­tion was successful.


Being Doctoral Researcher at HFA

Doctoral researchers are fully funded accord­ing to TV‑L 13; how much net do I take home with that?

Your net income depends on several factors what makes it hard to predict it. It also depends on the subject you do your doctor­ate in (i.e. in biology you will receive 67% of a full position/ in engineer­ing 100%). For a 100% position, you will earn about 2200 and 2500 Euro net. In sum, we cannot predict your income but you might use this calcu­la­tor to see how much you will make:

What are the benefits of being a doctoral researcher at HFA?

Doctoral students of the Hector Fellow Academy are employed as research assis­tants. The funding is for maximum four years (3+1): three years with the possi­b­lity to extend for one year. The salary corre­sponds to the inter­nal regula­tions at the univer­sity of the respec­tive Hector Fellow. Doctoral students receive a funded position along with exten­sive research funding, member­ship in our network, collab­o­ra­tion with the Hector Fellows, train­ing in manage­ment topics, and other train­ing activ­i­ties and network­ing events. To learn more about the funding and benefits, please visit our website:

Can I apply for a visa to Germany, if I get accepted?

Yes, you can apply for a visa with your admis­sion letter. Please check with your local German embassy about require­ments and/or neces­sary documentation.

Do doctoral researchers have to attend classes?

Students attend modules and classes depend­ing on the host univer­sity. You will take part in additional courses (i.e. manage­ment train­ing, presen­ta­tion train­ing) offered by the Hector Fellow Academy.

Which insti­tute will issue the doctoral certificate?

Certifi­cates will be issued by the univer­sity of the super­vis­ing Hector Fellow.