About BTS
PhD Candidates
Application | Supervisors | Reference letter | English skills | Financial assistance | Enrolment procedure | Miscellaneous










How do I apply for the PhD programme at BTS?
BTS uses an online application system for its PhD programme. The application form is made available every year on 1 December for studies starting in September of the following year. All required documents must be submitted online by the 31 January deadline. Late submission of documents is not permitted.

Applicants from China are required to submit their application via the Bejing Office (Hyperlink: http://www.fu-berlin.de/en/sites/china/foerdermoeglichkeiten/fuer_chinesen/csc/index.html) of the Freie Universitšt Berlin by 4th January 2017. In these cases, the documents will be uploaded by the BTS coordination office.†

Who is eligible for the PhD programme at BTS?
Anyone who has completed a masterís degree in social sciences comprising the equivalent of 120 ECTS credits (for a total of 300 ECTS credits including the bachelorís degree) is eligible to apply. The term ďsocial sciencesĒ refers to political science, sociology, and history as well as to economics and law. The programme is open to applicants of all nationalities and shows no preference to EU citizens.

Do I have to send hard copies of documents with my application?
All documents can be submitted electronically through the online application form. Uploading is possible in jpeg, pdf, doc, or rtf formats with a maximum size of 2 MB per file and 20 MB total. It is not necessary to send original copies of documents prior to being accepted. If you are accepted, you will be required to provide certified copies/translations of your documents in paper form before enrolment. Enrolment at BTS will not be possible without these documents.

In what language should I submit my application and attached documents?
All documents must be submitted in English, except masterís degree diplomas, which may be submitted in German. Reference letters may also be submitted in German.

Are there any further documents necessary for my application, apart from those listed on the webpage?
We strongly recommend that you focus on the requested documents (university degree, proof of English language skills, CV, letter of motivation, research proposal and two reference letters). However, you may include other documents to support your application, e.g. documents demonstrating practical skills such as internship certificates. These documents must be submitted in English. Your CV can be submitted in an English or German format.

What do you mean by a research proposal?
Please see our guidelines for more information on the research proposal.

What is the purpose of the letter of motivation?
In the letter of motivation you should provide a strong argument as to why you decided to apply for the PhD programme and how it fits into your overall career plans. You may further discuss which supervisor of the BTS core faculty would fit your research project and why. Also, you should indicate whether you are applying for a BTS scholarship and how you plan to finance your time at BTS if not. Please also indicate if you have applied for additional scholarships.

What should I do if my masterís degree diploma is still pending at the time of application?
If your official diploma is not ready, you are required to send some proof of your academic performance (e.g. a current transcript) instead. Then, please send us a letter from your university as soon as you have completed your master's degree, confirming the completion of your studies. This letter will allow you to provisionally enrol at BTS while awaiting your official degree diploma.

What should I do if I am not done with my masterís degree at the time of application?
You may still apply, but in order to enter the PhD programme you must have completed a masterís degree programme, which must be confirmed by official documentation (e.g. academic transcript and official diploma). In rare cases, the selection committee can decide to allow a provisional entrance into the programme with the official completed masterís degree still pending; in these cases, the degree must be issued within three months of enrolment at BTS. In other words, you may apply, but acceptance will be provisional until you can produce a masterís degree diploma.

Do I have to achieve a certain result in my masterís degree to be able to apply?
Your final grade point average should not be worse than a 2.4 (German grade system), "Good". In European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) terms this corresponds to a "B" average, starting at 79%. As grading systems vary from country to country, selection for the programme will depend on a variety of factors of which grade point average is only one.

When will admissions decisions be announced?
Applications will be reviewed by the selection committee in March, with admissions decisions announced in April. If considered necessary, interviews will be held with some candidates during this time as well.



Do I have to decide on a supervisor prior to application?
Applicants should familiarize themselves with the research interests of the BTS faculty and indicate one or several supervisors in their application. The selection committee will then propose a team of supervisors for your research project based on your research focus and availability of faculty members. After admission, the decision will be discussed with you. However, you are free to make suggestions within your application.

Should I contact potential supervisors prior to my application?
No, you do not need to contact faculty members prior to your application. Supervisor assignments will be made by the selection committee in consultation with faculty members who are able to serve as supervisors.

Should I send my research proposal to a faculty member for comments?
No. BTS has very strict regulations which do not allow for detailed comments on research proposals by faculty members. Faculty members will not peer review your proposal. Hence, please do not send us any documents asking for review!

Who will be my second/third supervisor?
Selected candidates can freely choose their second supervisors. The second supervisor does not have to be a member of the BTS core faculty like the first supervisor, nor does he/she have to come from one of BTSí three member institutions. The idea behind this is to find a person that fits your particular research focus and, ideally, complements the first supervisor through different qualifications and merits.

BTS supervision teams should be made up of three supervisors for every PhD candidate. The third supervisor is not an absolute requirement, but provides a great opportunity for you to receive skilled advice and benefit from an even more inspiring and motivating atmosphere.



Who is eligible to write a reference letter?
We strongly recommend that your reference letters be written by faculty members at your home university who are able to comment on your academic performance in detail. If you are no longer affiliated with a university and do not have continued contact with any faculty members, you may also ask someone in a senior position at your workplace to write a reference letter for you.

In what language should reference letters be written?
Reference letters should be written in English or German.

How should reference letters be delivered?
There are different ways to have your reference letters delivered to BTS. You can either upload the letters directly into your online application form or have your referee send the letter either i) in a sealed envelope by post to the BTS, ii) via email to application(at)transnationalstudies.eu, or iii) by fax. Contact details can be found on this page.

What should reference letters include?
A reference letter should contain a short description of your academic performance and discuss your qualifications and interest in the PhD programme at the BTS Ė research interests, background, etc. A professor's report on your master's thesis cannot serve as a reference letter.



Do I need to take an English test?
If you are not a native English speaker, or if the language of instruction at your previous university was not English, we will ask you to provide evidence of strong English language skills. Please include English language test results in your application if this applies to you. English language tests should not be more than two years old at the time of your application to BTS.

Can I submit my application even if I have not received my test scores yet?
BTS will take your application into consideration in the absence of English language test results, but any offer of admission will be conditional to submitting positive results prior to enrolment.

How does the English language skill level of C1 translate into other tests?
The C1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages translates into other tests as follows (scores indicated are minimums):

  • IELTS: 6.5
  • TOEFL PBT: 603/677
  • TOEFL CBT: 263/300
  • TOEFL IBT: 110/120
  • TOEIC: 785

How should my proof of English language proficiency be sent to BTS?
Ideally, your proof of English language proficiency should be uploaded in your online application form as a pdf or jpeg document. If it is not available before the application deadline, the certificate can be sent to BTS by post, fax or email (contact details). At the latest, official proof of English proficiency must be submitted at the time of enrolment at BTS. At the latest, English certificates must be submitted†during enrolment at BTS.



Do I have to pay tuition fees?
There are no tuition fees for the programme itself. Yet, a registration fee of Ä600 is required of all candidates each year in order to enroll as a student at FUB. The fee includes a semester ticket for public transport.

How do I apply for a BTS scholarship?
All applicants will automatically be considered for a BTS scholarship during the review process. Candidates selected for a nomination for a DAAD or a CSC scholarship have to submit yet another application to the respective funding organisation, which makes the final decision.

What does a scholarship from the BTS include?
Please see the page on costs and financing for detailed information on the BTS scholarship.Click here for an overview of external scholarship opportunities.

Does BTS offer different types of scholarships?
All applicants for the PhD programme will automatically be considered for a full BTS scholarship covering all three years of the programme, subject to successful completion of each year. Please see the page on costs and financing for advice on how to apply for external scholarships.

Is it possible to be admitted to the programme without funding?
The programme is only open to candidates with secured funding, either through a BTS scholarship or external funding. As, in total, there are only five institutional scholarships available for up to ten PhD positions, candidates who cannot be offered a scholarship are in certain cases admitted to the programme provided that they secure their own external funding. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to apply to other sponsors/foundations at the same time. We firmly support you in your efforts to apply for external funding.

Am I able to work outside of the PhD programme during the academic semester?
In principle, you should not work alongside the PhD programme. The PhD programme is a full-time, on-site programme financed by a full scholarship that should cover all necessary costs.


Can I enrol without being able to present my masterís diploma?
If you are unable to provide your masterís diploma by the starting date of the programme, we expect you to bring a letter from your home university stating that you have successfully passed all final exams and completed the masterís thesis. This letter should also list your final marks.

Can I enrol with my final masterís exams pending?
Enrolment with masterís exams still pending is not permitted. All masterís exams must be taken by the start of the programme and it is not possible to start after the official starting date for each year, as participation in all course meetings is compulsory.

Am I eligible to apply by holding a bachelorís degree?
You are not eligible for the programme if you hold only a bachelorís degree. Admission to the programme is open to those who have completed a masterís degree or equivalent




Does BTS offer student accommodation?
BTS itself does not offer accommodation. Berliner Studentenwerk offers student accommodation in a variety of areas in Berlin, though most students living there will likely be at the undergraduate level. Flatshares (called ďWGĒs in German) are common, with many webpages specializing in connecting people who want to share flats.

Is it possible to complete my PhD in under three years?
In principle, yes. The PhD programme has been structured to fit into a time period of three years. However, in individual cases, arrangements can be made with supervisors to work more intensively over a shorter period of time, taking BTSí academic schedule into account.

Do I need German language skills?
The PhD programme at BTS does not require German language skills. However, we recommend that you study German during your time with us. This will help you in your daily life in Berlin, including communicating with others at the university. Free German language courses for international doctoral candidates are offered by the Dahlem Research School at FUB.

What kind of PhD degree will I receive at BTS?
You will receive a PhD degree from the institution with which your first supervisor is located, typically a PhD, a Dr. rer. pol or a Dr. phil. In addition, you will receive a certificate from BTS stating that you successfully completed a doctoral programme in transnational studies, and a transcript of your courses and achievements.

Which institution will issue my PhD?
BTS is a graduate school with several member institutions and does not have the authority to independently issue PhDs. As such, you will receive your PhD from the institution with which your first supervisor is associated.



The BTS is financially supported by:
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung
Fritz Thyssen Stiftung
DAAD, Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, German Academic Exchange Service
Gemeinnützige Hertie-Stiftung
Einstein Stiftung Berlin, Einstein Foundation Berlin
DFG, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
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