Doctorate at universities of applied sciences in North Rhine-Westphalia

German Science and Humanities Council recommends independent doctoral degree for the Promotionskolleg NRW

In its statement on the "Promotionskolleg für angewandte Forschung der Fachhochschulen in Nordrhein-Westfalen" (Promotionskolleg NRW), the German Science and Humanities Council recommends that it be granted the right to award doctorates. The Promotionskolleg NRW was founded in December 2020 and is supported by 21 universities of applied research / universities of applied sciences (HAW/FH) in North Rhine-Westphalia. It is organized in eight departments, which are structured thematically or subject-wise and in each of which several sponsoring universities are involved. The right to award doctorates is to apply equally to all departments. After a probationary period of seven years, the Wissenschaftsrat (German Science Council) will re-evaluate the Doctoral College NRW.

"We are aware that a leap of faith is necessary in the start-up phase of the Promotionskolleg NRW. The best indicator of the quality of the institution are the doctorates that will be created there on the basis of an independent right to award doctorates. The Promotionskolleg NRW can now demonstrate this quality in the coming years," explained Dorothea Wagner, Chair of the German Science and Humanities Council.

The German Science and Humanities Council appreciates the efforts of the state to involve all state and state-recognized HAW/FH in North Rhine-Westphalia in the Promotionskolleg NRW, as well as the commitment of the sponsoring universities to the strategic and organizational design of the Promotionskolleg NRW. The organizational structure of the doctoral college is very complex due to its distribution throughout the state, but it is viable. The Promotionskolleg NRW still has to fill its own claim as a network structure of the HAW/FH with life on all layers. The departments still have different levels of quality and should urgently develop independent research strategies in the course of a thematic-subject focus. When admitting professorial members to the doctoral school, university standards should be applied to their research performance, while at the same time taking into account the special features of application orientation. In addition, an external element of quality assurance should become a regular part of the admission procedure in order to guarantee high quality standards in practice.

In its statement, the German Science and Humanities Council predicts that the granting of independent doctoral rights to organizational units of HAW/FH and the accompanying diversification of doctoral paths will have an impact on the entire German academic system. The differentiation of the university type HAW/FH will increase, in parts HAW/FH will approach universities in research performance and strength. In Germany, there are already various approaches to granting independent doctoral degrees to research-intensive units at HAW/FH. In addition to the approach chosen in North Rhine-Westphalia of a central umbrella organization with subject-specific substructures, there are decentralized approaches, such as in Hesse and Saxony-Anhalt, which provide for an independent right to award doctorates for doctoral centers with strong research capabilities at one or more HAW/FH. The German Science and Humanities Council will continue to monitor these developments.

"We would also like to encourage professors at universities to participate in these organizational units and their committees and to continue to participate in cooperative doctoral programs. This is another way to support a uniformly high level of doctorates," Wagner said.

Statement on the Doctoral School for Applied Research of the Universities of Applied Sciences in North Rhine-Westphalia (Drs. 9860-22)

DOI: The statement will be available at the given URL as of Monday, July 11, 11.00 a.m.
Print copies can be requested at

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