Doctoral StudiesThesis Submission

Thesis submission and defense.

All inquiries should be made by email, and all documents must be deposited in the mailbox outside building INF 234 or on the 2nd floor, where the Ph.D. office is housed. Similarly, we will email relevant documents to you. So make sure that we have your correct emailing address. The Ph.D. office is occupied (for closure times see "Contact & PhD office") but also partly working from home.


-     Will there be an extension of your Ph.D. period?

Due to COVID-19 your doctoral period will be extended by six months without special application.

  • Can the defense be via video conference?  

YES (examiners only):  The examiners can be connected online (via heiCONF or  other secure platforms), except for at least one examiner, who must be present in person in a room with the candidate in Heidelberg.

NO (doctoral candidates): The candidate must be present in person at the examination in Heidelberg. The doctoral candidate and at least one examiner have to be personally present in one room in Heidelberg.

  • Can the deadlines and processing times be shortened?

NO: Plan at least 8 weeks (+ closure times) from the time of thesis submission to the date of the doctoral defense examination. Please see below "time restrictions".

  • Where can I defend?

The University Institutions are open for examinations. To find a suitable seminar room, please contact the chair of your defense committee.

  • Are electronic signatures allowed on the "Zusatzblatt zur Prüfungskommission"?

YES, both your supervisors/referees may sign this form electronically.

General Information about Thesis Submission and Defending

Writing the thesis

  •  A doctoral degree is awarded to candidates who have demonstrated the ability to undertake independent scientific research. The dissertation (thesis) must be of an adequate scientific standard, be a product of the candidate’s research and contribute new knowledge.
  • Make sure that you clearly identify your individual research contributions to the reader of your thesis by writing in the first person singular form. Thereby you comply with Doctoral Degree Regulations §1 (2): “The doctorate serves to demonstrate the candidate's ability to undertake independent academic research.” and §7 (1) : The dissertation must be of an adequate scientific standard, be a product of the candidate’s own research, and contribute to the advancement of science.” Please see the Official Statement Concerning Plagiarism § 3-§6.
  • The dissertation counts as a single-author publication, in which independent contributions to science must be written in the first-person singular form. Everything new that you have developed and achieved in terms of scientific ideas, experiments, results, theories, methods etc. is written in the first person. This is exactly what you are being awarded the  doctorate for. In the case of collaborative work, the “we” form may be used, naming the other participants and describing the contributions of the individual persons, see the Official Statement Concerning Plagiarism §3-5.
  • Cumulative dissertations are not allowed due to possible risks of plagiarism and due to ambiguous assignments of experiments and results (Doctoral Degree Regulations, Anlage 2 Biowissenschaften zu § 7 (2)). Therefore the thesis must be written mandatorily in the first person singular form ( "I found out", "I concluded", “My results show” ..); see the Official Statement Concerning Plagiarism, §6.

Time restrictions

  • Please make sure that you submit your thesis with the required documents to the Ph.D. Office no later than 8 weeks before your oral examination, together with the confirmed date of your defense. When the Ph.D. Office is closed (see “Contact & PhD Office” for closure times), you have to add these periods to the 8-week advance submission requirement; however, you can schedule your defense examination during these times.
  • Calculation:       Defense in calendar week “X” --> thesis submission in calendar week “X” - 8.   If the Ph.D. office is closed e.g. 2 weeks, the submission has to take place 2 weeks earlier: “X” - 10.

Submitting the thesis

  • Fill in and sign the form “Application Defense”.
  • Please note the change in terminology for supervisors / reviewers (referees): Your former “Erstgutachter” / “first supervisor” is now called “Fakultätsgutachter” / “Faculty supervisor” and your former “Zweitgutachter” / “second supervisor” is now called “Gutachter” / "supervisor".
  • In addition to your registered reviewers (Faculty supervisor / Fakultätsgutachter and supervisor / Gutachter) find a third and fourth examiner from the List of Examiners.
  • Let both your reviewers sign the Zusatzblatt zur Prüfungskommission (Examination Commission Form).  Please note that only examiners mentioned on the list as 'Vorsitz' can be chairpersons of your examination committee. Arrange a date for the thesis defense by the Faculty's regulations.
  • Carefully read “How to Defense” (PDF) to see which documents you have to submit to the Ph.D. Office. Use the checklist at the end to ensure you have all the required documents.
  • Please send the following information with the email the day before submission: name of the chairperson, date of defense, and your personal email-address.
  • Submit the theses and documents via the mailbox of the PhD office (main entrance INF 234 or second floor INF 234).
  • The examination must take place in an institute of Heidelberg University or one of the affiliated research institutions in Heidelberg.
  • Provide your referees and examiners with a copy of your thesis.
  • When you have registered for your thesis defense, you will receive a confirmation letter in German. Our international Ph.D. students may find the English translation of this letter here: Admission to Defense (English translation). This translation is for information purposes only.

Defending the thesis

  • The doctoral candidate must be present in person at the examination. The examination has to be held in a room at Heidelberg University or affiliated research institutions in Heidelberg.
  • Usually, the defense format consists of 15 - 20 minutes presentation, about 20 minutes thesis related questions and approx. 20 minutes of discussion and general questioning. You can choose the media for your presentation. If you do a computer presentation (PowerPoint or presentation programs), you have to take care of the technical aspects such as the availability of a beamer, compatibility of programs, etc. Remember that technical equipment tends to break down at the least expected moment.
  • You should present your work - do not give a review of the field. You should use your own figures from your thesis, scans from books or papers are not allowed, and the use of material from the Internet is equally discouraged.

After Defending

  • After successfully defending your thesis, you must publish your thesis (§13) to conclude the Ph.D. process. If you don't publish within two years of your exam, you will forfeit your Ph.D. degree altogether.
  • Fill in, sign, and let your Faculty supervisor (if differing, also your direct supervisor) sign the Veröffentlichungsnachweis (Proof of Publication Form). You need to pick up your thesis's “Original” issue at the Ph.D. Office, submit it to the library and get the “Veröffentlichungsnachweis” signed and stamped there. Finally, you return the “Veröffentlichungsnachweis” to the Ph.D. Office.
  • You may publish your thesis in print or online through the university's library document service (information about online publishing provided by heiDOK ) or by first-author publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
  • An application for an embargo on the publication can be directed to the library. This is possible when the dissertation is connected to a patent application or a journal publication. More details and the relevant forms can be found on the page FAQ. If you apply for an embargo, you must upload the electronic version of your dissertation onto the heiDOK repository and follow the FAQ instructions.
  • Information about opting in/out from the PhD Celebration can be found in the list to the right. 

Forms and Information for PhD Thesis and Defense Examination and Publication

Note and check:

Only complete documents for thesis submission will be considered.

Please use the letter box of the Faculty of Biosciences at the main entrance or on the 2nd floor of building INF 234 or contact us via email.

Address of the Ph.D. Office and closure times: See “Contact & PhD Office”