January 7th, 2024

Funding a Doctorate in Design

As in all other fields of research, the successful completion of a doctorate in design also stands and falls with its funding. Doctorate programs can be quite expensive, and funding opportunities are often limited. This means that competition for funding can be fierce, and not all students who apply for funding will receive it. Also many students may not be aware of the various funding opportunities that are available to them. This can be due to a lack of information provided by their institutions or a lack of awareness of the various funding sources that exist. Besides that some funding opportunities may have strict eligibility requirements, such as being a citizen of a certain country or having a certain GPA. This can limit the number of students who are eligible to apply for funding. In some cases, there may simply be a shortage of funding available for doctorate programs. This can be due to budget cuts, economic downturns, or other factors that reduce the amount of funding available.

Moreover funding opportunities often have strict deadlines, and students may have to balance the demands of applying for funding with the demands of their coursework and research. Many students may rely on a single source of funding, such as a research grant or a scholarship. This can be risky, as if that funding source falls through, the student may be left without the resources to complete their doctorate. In some cases, the stipend amount provided by funding sources may not be enough to cover the cost of living expenses, especially in high-cost cities.

Overall, funding a doctorate program can be a challenging process, but with careful planning, research, and persistence, students can increase their chances of securing the funding they need to complete their studies. HfG has compiled an overview of german funding institutions for this purpose, which can be accessed via the following link. A selection of these is listed below.

Doctoral Scholarships


Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Studienwerk

Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst


Friedrich-Naumann Stiftung



Heinrich-Böll Stiftung


Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung

Stiftung der deutschen Wirtschaft

Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes


Art- and Design-specific Doctoral Scholarships

Akademie Schloss Solitude (Visuelle, darstellende Kunst)

Van der Koelen Stiftung für Kunst und Wissenschaft (Kunstgeschichte)

Gerda-Henkel-Stiftung (Kunstgeschichte)

Wüstenrot Stiftung (Kunstwissenschaften& Architektur, Promovierende U30)

August-Hoff-Stipendium für kunsthistorische Forschung der LETTER-Stiftung

Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte Paris

A distinction is usually made between a so-called full scholarship, which is intended to cover the entire cost of living, and smaller programs, for example to finance archive research, technical investigations, attending conferences, research trips, printing cost subsidies or the purchase of scientific literature. In addition, some foundations and universities also offer pure completion grants, which include financial support for the last six to nine months of a dissertation, which are usually very labor-intensive. Grantees are often only allowed to work part-time to a limited extent. This may mean that you are allowed to work at a university, but for a maximum of ten hours per week. In other part-time jobs, perhaps only five hours a week.

For a differentiated view, the career network e-fellows points out that doctoral scholarships sometimes run the risk of being used as a mere substitute for employment at a university. The doctoral thesis counts as a regular academic professional activity, which should be paid accordingly by the institutes. First and foremost, they were expected to reduce the time it takes to complete a doctorate and lower the dropout rate. However, time savings and relative freedom speak in favor of a scholarship. Research assistants are usually employed part-time, but often state that they actually work full-time. This usually leaves evenings and weekends for the doctoral thesis. Doctoral fellows, on the other hand, can usually organize their time more freely and concentrate on their own work. The fact that more and more doctoral candidates are applying for doctoral scholarships is therefore not only due to the fact that there are few staff positions.

In addition to financial support, many programs focus on “non-material support”. The spectrum ranges from workshops on socio-political or scientific topics to educational offers, travel, seminars on professional orientation and offers for personal development and the implementation of personal goals. The focus is also on networking, exchange, expanding one’s own skills and interdisciplinary synergy effects for one’s own scientific research. The study-related programs often also include advice on questions relating to funding, studies, career entry and personal problems. In special mentoring programs, doctoral students are sometimes supported and advised by former scholarship holders.

As the number of applicants has risen, so have the requirements.The criteria depend on the individual funding organizations. In general, however, the foundations require above-average academic and examination results as well as social commitment. A doctoral project usually has to be well-founded and, above all, it must be clear that a relevant contribution to research can be expected. If you apply to a party-affiliated foundation, you do not have to be a member of the party, but as an applicant you should be able to credibly represent its basic orientation. In the case of church-affiliated funding organizations, denominational affiliation is usually a prerequisite, but there are also justified exceptions.

Prerequisites for funding in the context of design science or artistic research are usually: very good study and examination results and corresponding special aptitude for academic work (doctorate) or above-average artistic and creative qualifications (project). The guarantee of supervision by a professor at a university is often also a prerequisite. For some scholarships, the income of a spouse is also taken into account when calculating the scholarship amount. Most funding bodies oblige the recipients to submit a final report or interim reports.


The list of funding institutions in the middle part of the text, was compiled by HfG Offenbach. The complete list can be found under the following link: https://www.hfg-offenbach.de/de/pages/promotion-1#ueber [last retrieved: 5th January 2024]