ZEF: Doctoral Program | Bonn International Graduate School for Development Research (BIGS-DR)

A unique international experience

The Bonn International Graduate School for Development Research (BIGS-DR) is the doctoral program at the Center for Development Research (ZEF). We are a part of a group of international graduate programs at the University of Bonn that maintains the highest level of academic quality. ZEF is led by three renowned professors in the areas of social sciences, economics, and ecology: Professor Solvay Gerke (social sciences), Professor Joachim von Braun (economics), and Professor Christian Borgemeister (ecology).

BIGS-DR is an excellent choice as a stepping stone for your international career in the field of development cooperation, policy or research. Our mission is to attract young scientists from all over the world to pursue their development research interests. Under BIGS-DR, students are exposed to an international community guided by a challenging research environment.

Plurality and diversity

BIGS-DR students are part of an international academic community of students, researchers, faculty, and alumni. Our students come from diverse academic and regional backgrounds, and our faculty are engaged with various institutions and projects across the globe. We have collaborations with international universites and institutes where we conduct joint seminars and project development. Our academic community is here to help guide students along their journey, as well as learn from student experiences and contributions.

Students are part of a large network of researchers coming from almost 100 countries. Roughly 700 students have joined our program since its inception in 1999. Over 40% of our students are women. Our educational concept encourages the open exchange of academic and social ideas.

Educational concept

Our full-time doctoral program has a duration of 3.5 years. Doctoral students will participate in course work, conduct their field research, and complete their thesis within this time frame. In addition to courses, students take part in softskill workshops that train them in academic writing, intercultural working, leadership skill, and ethical considerations.
Our education concept involves intensive supervision and tutorship. During the selection process, the BIGS-DR selection committee helps students find supervisors with overlapping research themes and methods. Once students begin their studies, they will receive additional guidance about selecting a mentor or tutor. Being part of the BIGS-DR academic atmosphere gives you the possibility of exchanging professional and personal experiences, advice and support.

Students who finish and defend their theses successfully are conferred a doctoral degree in sociology, political science, social anthropology, economics, agricultural economics, agriculture, forestry, mathematics or natural science. The degrees are granted by the respective university faculty, which is usually the faculty of the first supervisor.

Students may pursue their doctoral study under direct supervision of ZEF professors, but may also be associated with ZEF while being supervised elsewhere. Arrangements within the selected German university are made to ensure that a student is accepted by a distinguished advisor and is acceptable to their faculty. The majority of doctoral students are supervised and undergo examinations by professors of the University of Bonn.

  • Expected program duration: 3.5 years
  • Students admitted per year: c. 20-30
  • Language of instruction: English

Admission status

Applications for 2020-2021: Currently open



BIGS-DR coordination team: Dr. Günther Manske; Ms. Maike Retat-Amin

Email: bigs-dr@uni-bonn.de

Source: Announcement Center for Development Research (ZEF), July 2019