Doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers—scholarship holders
There are special legal conditions for scholarship holders with families and their social security protection differs from that of regular employees.
Scholarship funding does not establish a formal employment relationship and thus needs to be distinguished in many respects. For example, a scholarship involves the allocation of funding that does not need to be paid back; it does not constitute regular income and is thus not subject to standard social security laws. Furthermore, legal regulations on statutory maternity and parental leave do not apply.
With regard to these, scholarship providers must be consulted individually as family regulations vary greatly from provider to provider. For example, an Universität Hamburg scholarship for doctoral students based on family-friendly university measures includes an additional special child allowance. For more information on specific scholarships, please see the guide of GEW (PDF, in German only). The German Research Foundation (DFG) also offers research scholarship holders a child allowance.
So it is definitely worth comparing providers. Here are some important questions to ask:
- Will a family allowance or lump sum for childcare be provided?
- Can the scholarship period be extended if the holder has childcare obligations?
- Alternatively, can funds be retrieved in advance in lieu of extending the period of funding?
- Are there other support services to help students reconcile academic and parental obligations?
Statutory maternity leave and maternity benefits
Maternity benefits and statutory maternity leave are granted to the gainfully employed only, meaning that scholarship holders, who are not considered as employed, are not eligible. In accordance with the Hamburg act for the promotion of doctoral and early career researchers and artists (Hamburgisches Gesetz zur Förderung des wissenschaftlichen und künstlerischen Nachwuchses, HmbNFG), in especially justified cases (including pregnancy), a longer-term break is permissible. Scholarship payments will be discontinued throughout this period and the scholarship funding period will be extended accordingly.
The maternity benefit, however, is paid by the respective insurance provider throughout the period of employment prohibition for mothers (6 weeks prior to and 8 weeks or—for multiples—12 weeks following birth). Thus, we recommend you ask your insurance provider to find out if you are eligible for the maternity benefit. Amounts and eligibility depend upon the respective insurance provider (e.g., state or private) and where the scholarship holder is insured.
Scholarship holders cannot apply for parental leave as they are not officially employed. Depending on scholarship type, however, partial scholarships for students who must provide childcare during a period of parental leave may be available. In this case, the scholarship funding is reduced while the scholarship period is extended accordingly. Please ask the scholarship provider about this option.
Scholarship holders receive a basic monthly allowance of €300 in parental pay, as the scholarship is not regarded as taxable income. If the scholarship provider pays a tax-exempt child or family allowance, the recipient is still eligible for the basic €300 monthly allowance in parental pay. Parental pay is disbursed starting from the day of birth, providing the insurance provider does not pay a maternity benefit. Otherwise, the maternity benefit will count toward parental pay. One parent can receive parental pay for a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 12 months. Two additional months may be granted if a partner also applies for parental pay and income from employment is ceases partially or in full for at least 2 months.
Scholarship holders are also eligible for the standard child benefit of €204 per month (for the first and second child; more as of three children). We recommend that you ask about the so-called supplementary child allowance.
Interrupting scholarship period and taking leave
Doctoral students may not take standard semester leave. Instead, following consultation between the student and his or her supervisor, the faculty is notified that studies will be discontinued and resumed at a later date.
As a rule, a scholarship period can be discontinued for familial reasons upon agreement. In this case, however, no benefits will be paid. Thus, you should carefully weigh a decision to take a break from your studies. You will need to consider how you will finance costs of living during the break, as you might only have parental pay and child benefits at your disposal. Scholarship holders are not eligible for unemployment benefits as they do not contribute to unemployment insurance during their scholarship and voluntary or private unemployment insurance is not possible. Without personal funds, you may still apply for unemployment benefit II (ALG II) and a housing benefit.
As a rule, a scholarship period can be interrupted for familial reasons upon agreement. In this case, however, no benefits will be paid. Thus, you should carefully weigh a decision to take a break from your studies. You will need to consider how you will finance costs of living during the break, as you might only have parental pay and child benefits at your disposal. Scholarship holders are not eligible for unemployment benefits as they do not contribute to unemployment insurance during their scholarship and voluntary or private unemployment insurance is not possible. Without personal funds, you may still apply for unemployment benefit II (ALG II) and a housing benefit.
Additional information on social protection benefits
You can find important information about health insurance, social security, and accident insurance in the guide published by The German Education Union (GEW)(PDF, in German only).
FAQs for doctoral students - scholarship holders
- May doctoral students apply for semester leave?
No. You may not take a semester leave for parental leave.
- Whom do I notify about statutory maternity leave or parental leave?
The respective scholarship provider.
- What forms do I need to fill out?
There are no forms. Apply in writing.
- May I extend a scholarship in order to balance doctoral work and family obligations?
It depends upon the total scholarship sum and the scholarship provider. Please ask your scholarship provider.
- What kinds of support are available if I receive a scholarship from Universität Hamburg?
It depends upon the provenance of the funds. According to the HmbNFG, statutory maternity leave (14 weeks) can be classified as illness (up to 3 months). In such cases, funding continues or the scholarship period is extended accordingly.
- Is the birth of a child generally seen as a valid reason for extending a scholarship period?
Parental leave is not covered by the HmbNFG. Depending on scholarship type, partial scholarships for students who must provide childcare during a period of parental leave may be available. In this case, monthly funding is reduced while the scholarship period is extended accordingly.
Scholarships and other sources of funding
At Universität Hamburg, you can pursue doctoral studies individually or as part of a structured program.
There are many ways to cover your costs of living while doing a doctorate. Many doctoral students look for employment opportunities at universities or external research institutions. They can also apply for scholarships. Their respective status affects their options for balancing academic pursuit and family life, especially with regard to parental leave and parental pay provisions.
- Funding for doctoral students
Universität Hamburg supports its young researchers with Landesgraduiertenstipendien (scholarships from state graduate funding program) and travel grants funded from the University’s corporate assets. Scholarships are also available in doctoral programs that have integrated funding options, e.g., in DFG-funded research training groups.
- The German Project Information System (GEPRIS) is a database that provides an overview of all current DFG-funded projects.
- Guide to doctoral funding
Important information about state graduate funding for doctoral students, travel grants, etc.
- Übersee-Club scholarship for doctoral students
The Übersee-Club’s funding focus is the global economy and politics, development aid, geography, and ethnology.
The postdoctoral phase is dedicated to in-depth research or expanding the research focus. There are numerous career paths for postdoctoral researchers:
- Externally funded positions
- Setting up one’s own position with DFG support
- DFG postdoctoral research fellowships
- In addition to a Habilitation (postdoctoral qualification) and junior professorship, early career research group programs offer doctoral and early career researchers another way to gain qualifications.
- Support for travel to conferences
- Academic prize for promoting academia and research
For information about academic prizes, please see at the information about academic prices at Universität Hamburg and at the academic information service FIT
- Equal Opportunity Fund