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. 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).
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
FAQs Promotionsstudierende- Stipendiatinnen und Stipendiaten
Are there family-friendly rules for scholarships?
Because a scholarship does not constitute an employment relationship, the statutory maternity leave and parental leave rules do not apply. Most scholarship organizations have a number of rules related to families. Ask your respective scholarship organization about support.
Can I interrupt my scholarship to fulfill parental obligations?
Scholarships can usually be interrupted for familial reasons, although financial benefits generally cease, as well. Scholarship recipients are not eligible to apply for unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosengeld I). Review your options for financing your costs of living (see information on the maternity benefit, parental pay, and child benefit).
As a doctoral student, can I apply for a semester of academic leave?
Doctoral students, like all other students, may apply for up to three years of parental leave.
Whom do I notify about statutory maternity leave and parental leave?
The scope of the protection of working mothers act (Gesetz zum Schutze der erwerbstätigen Mutter, MuSchG) was expanded on 1 January 2018 to also include students. If you are pregnant, notify the University as soon as possible to ensure your full protection rights pursuant to the MuSchG and that the University can implement the necessary protection measures. Contact your faculty’s doctoral studies office to notify the University of your pregnancy and with any further questions you may have or information you may need. Also inform your scholarship organization that you are pregnant in order to clarify the funding conditions.
What forms do I need to fill out for this?
Simply send an informal request to your doctoral studies office or scholarship organization.
Are there financial support options that I can apply for from my scholarship organization?
There is no standard rule in this regard. However, you should ask your scholarship organization about the possibility of a family allowance, a lump sum for childcare, or retrieval of funds in advance.
As a scholarship holder, am I entitled to the maternity benefit?
The maternity benefit, which is paid by the insurance provider throughout the period of employment prohibition for mothers (six weeks prior to and eight weeks after birth), depends on which type of insurance you have (private insurance, state insurance, family insurance). Ask your insurance provider whether you are eligible for the maternity benefit. You are not entitled to employer contributions.
As a scholarship holder with a child, am I entitled to the child benefit?
Yes, you are entitled to the child benefit as a scholarship holder. If you are a non-EU citizen, entitlement to the child benefit depends on your respective residency permit. Also ask about the supplementary child allowance.
Am I entitled to parental pay as a scholarship holder?
Scholarship holders are fundamentally entitled to parental pay, which is paid out for 12 or 14 months. The scholarship is not considered income, however. Scholarship holders without other forms of income therefore receive the basic €300 allowance in parental pay. Parental pay is paid out from the date of your child’s birth onward. If your insurance provider pays the maternity benefit, it will be offset against the parental pay. You can also apply for the child benefit (see above).
Is it possible to extend my scholarship to balance doctoral work and family obligations?
That depends on the total scholarship sum and your respective scholarship organization. Contact your scholarship organization and ask. The Equal Opportunity Unit at Universität Hamburg offers a completion scholarship through the Equal Opportunity Fund for students with a child or a family member requiring care.
Is the birth of a child generally seen as a valid reason for extending a scholarship period?
It depends on the provenance of the funds. Parental leave is not explicitly regulated by the Hamburg act for the promotion of doctoral and early career researchers and artists (Hamburgisches Gesetz zur Förderung des wissenschaftlichen und künstlerischen Nachwuchses, HmbNFG). As in cases of illness, the scholarship can continue to be paid out during statutory maternity leave or be extended by this period accordingly; for State Graduate Funding Program scholarships, only if the scholarship is interrupted for this period (without continuing to be paid out). Depending on the scholarship type, partial scholarships for students who must provide childcare during a period of parental leave may be available. In this case, the monthly funding rate is reduced while the scholarship period is extended accordingly. Contact your scholarship organization for details.
Take advantage of the information and advising services on offer around the Universität Hamburg campus. For information and a list of advisory offices on the compatibility of doctoral work and family, refer to the Family Office’s website.