Diversity through cooperation - Recommendations of the UniWiND board on procedures for doctoral qualification with partner institutions"

The English translation of the German position statement "Vielfalt durch Kooperation – Empfehlungen des UniWiND-Vorstands zu Promotionsverfahren mit Partnereinrichtungen" (February 2019) is now available.

You can download the PDF file here: "Diversity through cooperation - Recommendations on procedures for doctoral qualification with partner institutions".

"Doctoral qualification in cooperation with partner institutions" or so called "cooperative doctorates" describes cases in which, in addition to a university or institution of higher education, external partners are involved. This may relate to cooperation with other universities, with non-university research institutions, with companies, with colleges or universities of applied sciences (in Germany Fachhochschulen, FHs, and Hochschulen für angewandte Wissenschaften, HAWs), with international partner institutions (for instance in form of Cotutelle or double degree programs) or other forms of external or extra-occupational doctorates with partners such as cultural institutions, foundations, archives, schools or churches.

The aim of this position statement is to give general recommendations for procedures during cooperative doctoral research, independent of the nature of the partner institutions.

Recommendations at a glance


The agreements on cooperative doctoral qualification between the partner institutions must be implemented swiftly, comprehensibly and in accordance with defined standards. The rules under which cooperative doctoral qualifications are implemented by the partner institutions must be defined in cooperation agreements at the start of a doctorate. An institutionalization of such rules through contracts between institutions that exceed individual doctorates is considered useful.

With the admission to the doctorate, the university or institute of higher learning authorized to award a doctorate commits itself to safeguarding the quality control of the graduation procedure. These include clear guidelines on admission requirements, mutual recognition of procedures leading to the doctorate, the (cumulative or monographic) doctoral dissertation and the doctoral examination including its technical or subject-specific scope. Observance of these guidelines at the start and throughout the doctorate are necessary to comply with the reporting duties under legislation that prescribes the compiling of the statistical data in the higher education sector (Hochschulstatistikgesetz).

The scientific supervision by Professors is generally independent of the type of employment, the funding or the location of the doctoral research and must be guaranteed until the doctorate is completed. The basis for the supervision, also for the joint supervision by university and non-university supervisors, is a doctoral/supervision agreement at the beginning of the doctorate.

During the doctoral project, counseling services and options for further qualification must be available to the doctoral researcher. The cooperative doctorate should not be a disadvantage with regard to subsequent career options. Rather, all doctoral candidates should have the same opportunities, regardless of the chosen qualification path. For this reason, the cooperation agreements must also give access to further qualification opportunities and counseling services offered by the university or degree-awarding institution. In cooperative doctorates, access to the support structures of both partner institutions is deemed necessary.

Equal treatment of all doctoral candidates must be guaranteed through centralized structures at the institutions with authority to award doctoral degrees. In the interests of optimal framework conditions, interdisciplinary endeavors and opportunities should be available to all doctoral candidates. For doctoral candidates in cooperative doctorates, these are likely to be particularly relevant. Accordingly, both the access to further qualification and the inclusion in the university infrastructure and culture (for example by participation in institute colloquia or the assumption of other institute-related tasks) should be set out in binding agreements.

Compliance with the rules of good scientific practice by doctoral candidates and supervisors must be ensured. Advisory and Ombuds structures must be available if conflicts arise during the doctorate. In cooperation agreements between institutions, it should therefore also be stipulated that all partners, in the exercise of their responsibility, provide the appropriate mediation structures to the doctoral candidates.

The different partners involved in the doctoral qualification must honor the work, services and achievements of the partner institutions for a successful implementation of the cooperative doctorate. It is recommended to draw up rules for the mention of the partner institutions on doctoral certificates. Similarly, there should be recognition of the contribution of all participating institutions in presentations and publications.