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For excellent doctorate conditions

In future, the Graduate Centre (GraCe) will unite the services for doctoral candidates at the University of Freiburg under one roof

Freiburg, Mar 19, 2024

For excellent doctorate conditions

Photo: Sandra Meyndt

With the Freiburg Graduate Centre (GraCe), the University of Freiburg has created a visible, University-wide central service point for doctoral candidates. This centre bundles the existing services of the International Graduate Academy (IGA), the institution previously responsible for this. This will increase national and international visibility and competitiveness in the recruitment and qualification of (international) doctoral candidates. 

“By establishing GraCe, we are systematically expanding the doctoral programme at the University of Freiburg and offering a solid foundation. In this way, we are also increasing the attractiveness of the University of Freiburg for doctoral candidates and doctoral students,” says Prof. Dr Stefan Rensing, Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation at the University of Freiburg.

Better networking, career coaching and regular doctoral candidate surveys 

GraCe’s services support doctoral candidates in their qualification and career development. It offers advice on issues relating to doctoral studies, funding and conflicts, a broad-based interdisciplinary qualification programme and financial support. Another thing that is new at GraCe is an advisory board in which all those involved in doctoral studies will be represented, including doctoral student representatives and chairs of the doctoral committees of all faculties. The advisory board will promote networking and dialogue between the various stakeholders on how to create the best possible conditions for doctoral studies at the University of Freiburg and enable greater participation. “In my work, I have noticed that the regular exchange with representatives of doctoral candidates is very beneficial,” reports Dr Silke Knaut, head of GraCe. ”I am delighted with their commitment, feedback and suggestions. Giving doctoral students a voice is very worthwhile.” 

Improved networking is also one of GraCe’s primary goals outside of the Advisory Board. In future, there will be an annual networking meeting in addition to the biannual “Doc On!” welcome events for new doctoral candidates. As a further innovation, an additional project position will be created to offer doctoral candidates career coaching for individual career planning. Regular doctoral candidate surveys will also be conducted in order to gain insights into their situation at the University of Freiburg and to receive feedback on GraCe’s services so that they can be further developed accordingly. 

“It is important to us to help doctoral candidates and their research gain greater visibility and integration into academic networks. That’s why we support their participation in meetings or conferences with our GraCe travel grants,” says Knaut. “We also hope to be able to raise additional funds to better support doctoral students in the event of unexpected upheavals with bridge financing or an emergency fund.”

For more transparency in the number of doctoral students

The University of Freiburg and GraCe also hope that the restructuring will lead to better systematisation and greater transparency with regard to the actual number of doctoral candidates. It is not uncommon for doctorates to be based solely on verbal agreements between doctoral candidates and supervising professors – despite the existing obligation to conclude a doctoral agreement, submit an application for acceptance as a doctoral candidate and enrol. In such cases, the University often does not find out about the doctoral project for a long time. Accepted doctoral candidates have many advantages. They are doctoral candidates at the University of Freiburg, belong to the doctoral candidate conventions, receive relevant information, benefit from GraCe’s services and enjoy legal certainty if the supervising professor cancels because then the faculty is obliged to continue supervising the doctorate. The situation is similar for doctoral candidates who are employed by the University. The University is often unaware that these employees are working towards their doctorate.

Mandatory multiple supervision planned 

The introduction of the multiple supervision system is also being planned. This would make it mandatory for a doctoral student to be supervised by at least two people. “The second person can provide specialist supervision or act as a mentor,” says Rensing, “such as in career planning or in the event of a conflict with the first supervisor.” Knaut adds, “Multiple supervision by two professors is particularly useful for interdisciplinary doctoral projects. It increases the quality of the doctoral project and is often beneficial for everyone involved.” A corresponding revision of the University-wide doctoral degree regulations is planned by summer 2025 at the latest; the individual doctoral regulations of the respective faculties must then be adapted.

Invitation to the opening ceremony 

The opening ceremony of GraCe will take place on 2 May 2024 at 2 pm in the auditorium of the University of Freiburg. In addition to welcoming addresses by Rector Prof. Dr Kerstin Krieglstein, Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation Prof. Dr Stefan Rensing and Vice-Rector for University Culture Prof. Dr Sylvia Paletschek, Prof. Dr Frank Hutter and Jörg Franke will speak on the topic of “How will AI change your doctoral studies?”. Afterwards, doctoral candidates and the head of GraCe, Dr Silke Knaut, will give a presentation on the topic “Doctoral studies at the University of Freiburg: Today and Tomorrow.” All University members are invited, especially doctoral candidates, professors and others involved in the doctoral programme, as well as members of the media. Please register by 15 April 2024 at the latest via HisInOne or by e-mail.


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