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Doctorate process


All information here is semi-official, the official guideline, preprints, and regulations can be found here. There is also a check list that comes in very handy.

General points

  • Do everything as early as possible. The people in the Office for Doctoral Studies (German: Promotionssekretariat) may or may not adjust to your (possibly tight) schedule, but it's generally not worth the risk.
  • The official process and its guidelines are a bit off from reality. Especially, you are officially only allowed to plan and schedule a date for your presentation and oral examination once the circulation of your thesis (incl. the reports of your evaluators–“Berichter”) has finished. However, this is probably too late or does not match the process you discussed with your Supervisor (most probably your professor). It will be interesting especially if you have a 2nd evaluator who has to travel a longer distance to Aachen and wants to plan longer in advance!
  • There are official pre-prints that need to be used to register etc. your thesis. You can find them here (PDF) and here (DOC).
  • There is a LaTeX template for the required front-page of the written thesis, which can be downloaded here.
  • The Center for Doctoral Studies offers certification of additional achievements in the course of your PhD studies. Information can be found here. This is not part of the basic doctorate process.
  • You should probably read at least once the currently valid doctoral regulations (Promotionsordnung) (changes 2018).
  • For enrolling in the doctoral studies programme (Promotionsstudiengang) you should apply before via RWTHonline. more information and instructions.
  • For the actual enrollment in the doctoral studies programme (Promotionsstudiengang) at the registrar's office, a preliminary certificate of graduation (or your final certificate) is needed unless your degree is visible in RWTHonline. Not everyone at the registrar's office has access to campusOffice, so having your degree visible there might not suffice.


The following information strives to achieve a very concise step-by-step description of the necessary actions to obtain your doctoral degree. The list of documents necessary for each step can be found in the checklist of the Office for Doctoral Studies.

  • Step 0: Get a supervision commitment (Betreuungszusage) from your supervisor (Preprint 3). This does not yet require a topic and can be done as early as the beginning of your PhD studies.
  • Step 1: (In any case, step 1 does require a thesis title/ topic. Thus, you can use a working title. The title given in Step 1 can be changed later.) See the checklist for details on the needed paperwork.
    • Apply for registration and confirmation of your doctoral studies (Preprint 1). This form of application should be suitable in most of the cases (Antrag auf Zulassung zur Promotion). In this case, you need the supervision commitment for the application at Office for Doctoral Studies and the enrolment at the students registrar's office. If you do not get two versions of the supervision commitment from your supervisor, you should use a copy at the registrar's office, since the Office for Doctoral Studies must receive an original.
    • If you do your thesis externally and you do not get enrolled as a (PhD-)student at RWTH Aachen University you can use (pre-print2 Antrag auf Prüfung der Zulassungsvoraussetzungen) (NOTE: getting enrolled does not imply that you must take extra courses towards your PhD). For pre-print2 you will need a statement of your supervisor.
  • Step 2: Talk to your supervisor to find at least a second evaluator. There can be more than two evaluators and there must be at least two evaluators. The first and the second evaluator may not be located at the same chair in Aachen (You have to take care that there is no power to direct between the evaluators (Weisungsbindung)). For all other detailed regulations regarding e.g. emeritus professors, professors not from Aachen, lecturers (Privatdozent) as evaluators reference to the regulations! Besides the official regulations (Promotionsordnung) you should take care of Weisungsfreiheit! In this step, you also may start planning the whole examination committee (see step 5). If your thesis results out of a cooperation with an abroad university (bilateral doctorate process with two separate doctorate titles, one from each university) you need to get a cooperation contract (cotule). For further instructions, in this case, contact the Office for Doctoral Studies.
    • The dean will ask the head of CS for approval, and the head will ask your professor. So, make sure that your professor OK with the second evaluator before contacting the Office for Doctoral Studies.
  • Step 3:
    • Finish thesis
    • Get a Go from your supervisor (and maybe the second evaluator)
    • Submit your thesis / register for the doctoral examination (pre-print 3 and 5). This version of your thesis is not the final version that will be published since it does not necessarily contain all changes required by your examination committee. Instead, it is the version that will be circulated in the CS department along with the report of your supervisor and second evaluator.
      • See the checklist for details on the needed paperwork. Here's additional detail that was unclear in the checklist:
        • In the Book:
          • Abstract (EN)
          • Abstract (DE)
          • Statement what was your contribution to all already published papers
          • A signed Eidesstattliche Versicherung (Statutory Declaration in Lieu of an Oath)
        • On separate sheets of paper:
          • List of publications
          • Abstract (EN)
          • Abstract (DE)
          • CV (if you have a middle name, be sure to include your full name in the CV because the name on the certificate will be copied from here). Make sure to include your nationality in your CV.
          • A copy of your working contract (Arbeitsvertrag). Additionally, be prepared to show the original version of your current working contract.
      • You will need at least three copies printed out — one for the dean's office, and two to mail to the evaluators. There is no need to bring them to the Promotionssekretariat, they only need one issue. You have to mail them to the evaluators yourself. While there are little requirements on quality and you can save some money, consider that these copies are the ones that are actually in the hands of your evaluators.
      • When you hand in at the dean's office, they will look up the eligibility and the addresses of the evaluators in an internal database. If one of them is not in the database and the eligibility is not completely clear (e.g., the second evaluator is from a foreign country), the dean will reach out to the computer science department (Fachgruppensprecher) for an opinion. This whole process will take valuable time. If you think this might be a problem, kick-off this process a month before you hand in the thesis.
    • Send a copy of your thesis to your supervisors (ask them about the format they prefer)
      • You can send this before submitting at the dean's office.
    • If you are not an employee of the RWTH Aachen, you need a police certificate (“Führungszeugnis”), which you can get for ~13 Euros at the Aachen Bürgerservice. Alternatively, if you are not German, you might be able to get it online and for free at your national government website.
    • Even if your thesis is in English, you will need a German title.
  • Step 4: Time to wait. After the reports of your evaluators have arrived, your thesis circulates in the CS department to allow eventual objections by other professors. This (currently) requires either 3 weeks during lecture time and 5 weeks during lecture-free times. Check for updated regulations here. An additional 2 weeks are required for formal and administrative reasons. A diagram showing the timeline after submission
    • Note following the observed process in summer 2023: The official correspondence by the Promotionssekretariat does not seem to “add” the 10 days after the administrative delay anymore. So, your earliest defense date is a little bit earlier than illustrated in the figure (circulation time + administrative delay), i.e., at most 7 weeks after the evaluation reports arrived.
  • Step 5: Think about a possible examination committee. The framing conditions are:
    • Your committee has to consist of
      • Your evaluators:
        • Your supervisor
        • Another expert in the field (see step 2)
      • One examiner
      • A chairperson
    • The chairperson may not be in personal union one person with the examiner or with one of the evaluators
    • The chairperson has to be head of a chair or institute (Lehrstuhl). Being head of a research group (Lehr und Forschungsgebiet) is not sufficient! The professorium agreed to update this regulation on 2022-10-19: W2 professors are now also allowed to serve as chairperson, just like W3 professors (Lehrstuhlinhaber).
    • The subject of the examiner asking you for about 15 minutes needs to have a sufficient distance to your research focus.
    • Contact the Head of the CS department ( to get a confirmation of your planed committee
    • There used to be an old regulation, where you had two examiners (a theoretical and a practical one). In this case, the chairperson could be in a personal union with one of the examiners. You can still choose this way of examination. In this case, each examiner will ask about 10 minutes. Otherwise (with only one examiner), this examiner will ask about 15 minutes.
  • Step 6: Schedule a date for the presentation and examination with the approved committee (NOTE: You should already start planning in step 4, and may start planning in step 2 ;-)). Tell the Office for Doctoral Studies the date and announce it to the CS department here (go for the Graduate Seminar / Oberseminar version). In general, it is your task to find an appointment for the presentation and examination with the whole committee.
    • Make sure that everyone in your committee knows the date and the room. Give a fool-proof description of how to get to the room.
    • Special note for examinations since or during the Covid-19 pandemic: Special rules may apply for oral examinations and presentations. It may and may only be allowed to have an examination via video conference. In that case, all members of the examination committee must sign an additional form to agree that video needs to be enabled all times and that the examination needs to be repeated if one of them fails to reconnect. The recent regulations will be available at the Office of Doctoral Studies and you will be notified by them once all reviews are done.
  • Step 7: Rock your presentation and examination. It's a good idea to get your second evaluator to sign a certificate of non-objection (Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung; pre-print 7) before she/he leaves again. You may try to contact the other people in the committee. Maybe they tell you what to look at more seriously.
  • Step 8: Apply the changes required by the evaluators to your thesis.
    • Make sure your thesis contains the official cover sheet (pre-print 6) and also make sure that the official cover sheet is the first printed page inside the thesis. Your publisher might have different ideas here, but the Bib requires the first printed page to be the official cover sheet.
      • (02/2016) The main Bib recently changed the sentence, it should now say: “Diese Dissertation ist auf den Internetseiten der Universitätsbibliothek online verfügbar.“ Not all templates have updated, so please check again.
    • Ensure that you have a list of relevant publications (e.g., at the end of the thesis) ←- needed for official copies: RWTH Bib, Informatics Bib, Office for Doctoral Studies
    • The RWTH Bib only checks your thesis but does not keep it. Hence, it suffices to print 2 copies.
    • You don't need to put your CV in for this final version.
  • Step 9: Publish your thesis.
    • Find out whether your supervisor has installed an umbrella series of “reports” in which all dissertations of her/his chair are published.
    • Also, you may be able to choose between online publishing via the RWTH Bib, print publishing, and publishing via the publishing company that prints your thesis, for example, Shaker Verlag. These choices differ in the number of required printed versions of your thesis that you need to hand in.
    • Depending on your choice there are different restrictions from e.g. the university's library and the publisher. In doubt contact them for approval before you print your thesis!
    • Contact the RWTH Bib once you have the necessary printed versions to submit them (appointment for the handover). A checklist for the publishing process from their point of view as well as contact information can be found here (Online publication, Print publication).
    • You'll need to fill in the German title of your dissertation for the RWTH library as well (update: If your thesis is written in English, the German title is optional).
  • Step 10: Submit one printed copy to the Informatics library (during office hours, no appointments needed). You will receive a confirmation of submission.
  • Step 11: Submit the following items to the Office for Doctoral Studies.
    • A confirmation of submission from the Bib
    • A confirmation of submission from the Informatics library
    • A printed copy of your dissertation with the official cover sheet (see above)
    • A signed copy of ”Eidesstattliche Erklärung“ (doesn´t have to be part of the thesis, i.e. can be filed separately)
    • Two signed certificates of non-objection from each of your evaluators (Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung). This is only required if you are officially required to correct your thesis which typically involves another review process. Otherwise, the Office for Doctoral Studies will already have received notification from your committee.
  • Step 12: Wait for an email that says you can come to fetch your doctoral certificate. It will take around 4-6 weeks. You can also ask it to be sent by a postal mail. (If you published online with RWTH Publications, the copy you submitted to the Office for Doctoral Studies will be sent back to the Bib and only after that your dissertation will become available online.)
  • Step 13: Congratulations, you're officially done!
  • (optional) Step 14: If you want a doctoral supplement from CDS, see the instructions on this page.

Useful Knowledge

  • Due to a resolution of the rectorate you can only receive an official doctorate certificate with an English title given (a version fully in English language, respectively), if the thesis is written in English.
  • If you do online publication you may skip the curriculum vitae in the thesis published online.
  • A covering page LaTeX template according to the regulations can be found here.
  • The extracted “Befangenheitsformular” without the “Muster 4” text befangenheitsformular.pdf (extracted at 2021-05-11)
doctorate_process.txt · Last modified: 2024/02/27 11:41 by