Doctoral Program at the Center for Development Research University of Bonn 2018, Germany


August 31, 2018

Opportunity Cover Image - Doctoral Program at the Center for Development Research University of Bonn 2018, Germany

Doctoral Program at the Center for Development Research University of Bonn 2018, Germany

BIGS-DR, a unique international experience in Germany

The Bonn International Graduate School for Development Research (BIGS-DR) is the doctoral program at ZEF. BIGS-DR is part of a group of international graduate programs at the University of Bonn, a graduate framework that maintains the highest level of academic quality.

BIGS-DR is an excellent choice as a stepping stone for your international career in the field of development cooperation, policy or research.The mission is to attract young scientists from all over the world to pursue their development research interests here in Bonn. Under BIGS-DR, students are exposed to an international community guided by a challenging research environment.

Research institute setting

BIGS-DR is part of the Center for Development (ZEF), an internationally operating research institute at the University of Bonn. The institute is led by three renowned professors in the areas of social sciences, economics, and ecology: Professor Solvay Gerke (social sciences), Professor Joachim von Braun (Economics), and Professor Christian Borgemeister (ecology).

International and diverse

BIGS-DR is international and diverse. Nearly 650 students have joined the program since its inception in 1999, coming from almost 90 countries. Around 40% of our students are female. Students are part of a BIGS-DR academic atmosphere where the participant can exchange academic and personal experiences. The rigourously structured doctoral program enables students to obtain their doctoral degree in 3,5 years on average. In addition to courses, students will take part in softskill workshops that train them in academic writing, intercultural working, leadership skills, and ethical considerations.

Educational concept

The educational concept provides intensive supervision and tutorship. During the admissions process, the BIGS-DR selection committee helps students find supervisors with overlapping research themes or methods. Once students begin their studies, they will receive additional guidance about selecting a mentor or tutor.Being part of the BIGS-DR academic atmosphere gives the participant the possibility of exchanging professional and personal experiences, advice, and support.

The degree

Students who finish and defend their theses successfully are conferred a doctoral degree in sociology, political science, social anthropology, economics, agricultural economics, agriculture, forestry, mathematics or natural science. The degrees are granted by the respective university faculty, which is usually the faculty of the first supervisor. Students may pursue their doctoral study under direct supervision of ZEF professors, but may also be associated with ZEF while being supervised elsewhere. Arrangements within the selected German university are made to ensure that a student is accepted by a distinguished advisor and is acceptable to their faculty. The majority of doctoral students are supervised and undergo examinations by professors of the University of Bonn. BIGS-DR also issues individual certificates of each course and a final transcript of all courses after you finished the program successfully.

External participants

 BIGS-DR gives external students(enrolled in another progremme) the opportunity to attend lectures and seminars here in Bonn. External participants should review the current course program and keep in mind how they plan on financing their time here. Take a look at the application guide for more information about taking part as an external participant!

Who can apply?

BIGS-DR aims to attract scientists from all over the world with outstanding master's or equivalent degrees in economics, social sciences, sociology, political science, economics, agricultural and resource economics, agronomy, biology, ecology, forestry, mathematics or earth sciences. Candidates preferably have work experience in national or international research institutions, governments, or the private sector. Interest in interdisciplinary research is a prerequisite.

Selection criteria

Academic qualification

An excellent master's or equivalent degree (GPA higher than 3.0 in the American system, or a grade higher than 2.0 in the German system or equivalent). Applicants who have finished a one year master's degree are also eligible under the condition that they have written a master's thesis.

Innovative research ideas

The application must contain a Graduate Research Statement. The statement should describe a development problem the applicant considers interesting and important. Include the main research questions and the proposed methods linked to them and have literature references. The statement should be a maximum of four pages. Applicant's Graduate Research Statement may relate to ZEF's research areas in a broad sense or may address a topic in another development research area. The selection committee will assess all research statements on the basis of originality, analytical rigor, and relevance.

Language proficiency

BIGS-DR is conducted in English. We, therefore, require the following English language skills:

  • IELTS certificate (band 6)
  • TOEFL (minimum score: 550 paper-based, 213 computer-based, 80 internet-based)
  • Other English language certificates from a language institution
  • University waiver that indicates the language of instruction was in English.

The applicant's last academic degree should have been obtained less than six years prior to application. This guarantees the competitiveness of the application.

Special DAAD requirements

Only applicants from developing countries and emerging economies according to the DAC list are eligible for the scholarship we offer in cooperation with the DAAD EPOS program. To be eligible, you must have at least two years of relevant professional experience.

Special prerequisites and requirements for DAAD scholarship applicants from China:

Applications from China must be submitted via the German Embassy in the country where you reside, where the academic certificates have to be verified. Find the link to the German Embassy in Beijing.


The program receives hundreds of very competative applications every admission season and the programme is not always able to guarantee a spot for each qualified applicant. Reapplying to BIGS-DR is possible with a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • Rewrite your motivation letter
  • Rewrite your Graduate Research Statement (GRS)
  • Update your CV with any relevant details
  • Recommendation letters do not need to be resubmitted unless the applicant did not submit them last year or if he/she have new referees

The applicant may reuse portions of his/her previous application; however, he/she will need to merge all the documents together once again with the new registration number and updated documents. Additionally, please remember to register online to receive a new registration ID for the current admission period.

Selection process

  1. Once receiveimg the complete application PDF via email, the applicant will be sent an acknowledgement to the email address the applicant indicated at the time of registration.
  2.  BIGS-DR staff members screen applications for academic qualification, recommendations, and the quality of the research proposal. Applications will be informed via email of the completion of their application. A shortlist of candidates is then compiled. Some of the shortlisted candidates are interviewed at ZEF, or alternatively, via phone or internet.
  3. All Graduate Research Statements of shortlisted candidates will be checked for citation and potential plagiarism.
  4. The Selection Committee, consisting of three ZEF directors and delegates from DAAD, will decide upon the DAAD scholarships.
  5. Qualified candidates who cannot be offered a scholarship will be put on a waiting list and/or receive a conditional letter of acceptance to assist them in seeking financial assistance at another institution/foundation.
  6. Candidates on the waiting list may be accepted in the case an already-accepted candidate fails to join the program.

For more information click "LINK TO ORIGINAL" below.

Eligible Countries
Host Country
Study Levels
Publish Date
March 16, 2018
Link To Original