Scholarships: General information 

Important information for students who apply for scholarships


(1) The difference between a salaried position and scholarships
(2) So why scholarships?
(3) Part-time work in addition to scholarship payments

This is what you should know about scholarships, and about the difference between scholarships (= stipends - these two terms are used synonymously in Germany) and salaried (university) positions:

(1) The difference between a salaried position and scholarships

By law and owing to the rules of third-party funding agencies, the entitlements, terms and conditions regarding prolonged illness, pregnancy, Mutterschutz (maternity protection), Kindergeld (child support), and Elternzeit (parental leave) differ significantly for people who are on ...

- salaried (university) positions that include both employers' and employees' statutory monthly contributions to the national income tax, social security, unemployment insurance, pension schemes, and health insurance,

- taxfree research scholarships that demand from scholarship holders neither further financial contributions (apart from obligatory [reduced] health insurance payments) nor statutory duties to their university/research institution or the state.

Scholarship holders are not employees of the university, and the only real obligation they have is to devote their time fully to their agreed research project.

However, this freedom also means that they are ...

- not legally entitled to four to six weeks of statutory paid holidays (as most employees in Germany are). It is inconceivable that your supervisors will not agree to you taking holidays (on your scholarship), but all holiday breaks, and the timing and the length of breaks, need to be applied for and agreed with the heads of labs and/or supervisors and/or the school beforehand.

By the way: People on salaries also have to apply for their holiday breaks and agree on the timing and the length of their holidays with their employers (usually their supervisors), so your procedure is not different. And: the legal entitlement for people on salaries pertains to the total amount of holidays per year and does not constitute a right to take holidays whenever they would like to. The same applies to you as scholarship holders,

- not legally entitled to continue to receive their solely research-related scholarship during long periods of sickness – as always with sickness, the supervisor needs to be informed and should see a sick note from your doctor, and past two weeks it is mandatory that also the school is informed, and past six weeks, supervisors or the school may have to inform the DFG or other resp. funding agencies. Please talk to us! We will try to find a solution to your problem,

- not legally entitled to take parental leave (Elternzeit) while continuing to receive their monthly research-related scholarships. When they pause their scholarship to apply for state-funded parental leave payments, they will only receive the minimum of 300 Euro per child (Elterngeld). Owing to a change in funding, from 2017, M&B will not be able to guarantee extensions of scholarships for parents anymore,

- (usually) not legally entitled to paid maternal protection leaves (Mutterschutz) of 6 weeks before birth and 8 weeks after birth, though some funding agencies now have begun to grant this period as a paid break with no research obligations,

- not legally entitled to state-financed child support (Kindergeld) payments. Owing to a change in funding, from 2017, M&B will not be able to guarantee child subsidy payments anymore.

The reason for this general non-entitlement to state-funded payments is that paid holidays and the right to government-funded sickness payments, parental leave, more comprehensive payments during parental leave, and child support are state-subsidized benefits that are linked to the previous employment and tax payments of the person in question. These benefits, therefore, do not apply to people who neither pay taxes nor make any other contribution into the public purse. This is your job: Find out from your scholarship granting agency/institution whether and to what extend they will be able to support you in case of parenthood (e.g., extensions, part-time options, extra funding ...).

(2) So why scholarships?

So why are scholarships/stipends used to fund doctoral candidates, and not exclusively salaried positions? There are many reason for this:

Only scholarships allow for applicants to apply with their own project ideas to our graduate school. We can advertise for scholarships within an open competetion for the best ideas; with salaried position we would be required to clearly define the research topic for each position beforehand, which would narrow down research areas considerably. Also, scholarships are much more flexible regarding duration and distribution: work permits are not required for scholarship holders; scholarships can be allocated flexibly for shorter or longer periods; scholarships can be allocated for any project developed by doctoral candidates themselves, because scholarship funds are usually not part of supervisors' detailed and thus restrictive project proposals for which third-party funding was granted; scholarships usually grant maximum freedom and time for research (no teaching, little supervision of bachelor or master students, little administrative obligations to the institution, which with salaried positions take up to 50% of doctoral candidates' time); scholarships cost a quarter of a full-time doctoral position. For graduate schools this means that with the sum required to employ one full-time doctoral candidate they can admit four candidates on scholarships to their education and training programs. To be able to give four people the chance for research and education instead of one is a strong argument. However, the questions whether giving more people a chance is a good enough reason for scholarships, and whether more people with doctorates is a good or a bad thing, are part of an ongoing public debate about doctoral education and the ideal number of doctoral candidates accepted into doctoral studies world-wide. You, your supervisors, research group leaders, our graduate school, the universities, the research-funding agencies, politicians, the taxpayer, future employers, are all part of this ongoing discussion and the quest for the best way forward for doctoral research, education, and training in Germany.

(3) Part-time work in addition to scholarship payments

(a) Scholarship holders wishing to work part-time during their scholarship period, i.e. pursue gainful employment, always require the approval their academic supervisors and the managing director of the Berlin School od Mind and Brain. The managing director will have to verify that the part-time employment does not interfere with the purpose of the Mind & Brain scholarship. Additional income exceeding € 520 gross per month (mini job) shall be deducted from the monthly scholarship payment.

(b) If you are already fully funded by the DAAD, or another German funding organization, or another state agency in Germany, you cannot receive an additional scholarship from the Berlin School of Mind and Brain.


This page last updated on: 21 November 2023