6 Free Online PhD Programs in Germany (Plus Scholarships)

Even though it’s promising to further your education through PhD level – we won’t deny that it will totally boost your career and even make you an authority in your field – it doesn’t come cheap, you won’t only be sacrificing your money but also your time. Because, at this moment you probably have a family you’re responsible for, and you’re now a working adult, so no more quick conclusion.

In fact, a lot of decision goes on before anyone undertakes a Postgraduate Programme, because it may exceed the minimum time and might even hit ×2 of the years projected (depending on your research), so it won’t only cost you your time but also your money. The bright side is, that several colleges including FernUniversität in Hagen (which is the only open university in Germany) now provide some of their programs online, making it easy for anyone in any country to still partake in a Ph.D. program without travelling outside their home.

Also, FernUniversität in Hagen provides some free online PhD programs in Germany through scholarships and other financial assistance. As a scholarship or other grant, you don’t need to pay them back.

The United Kingdom and Canada also provide some free online PhD programs.

Before we list these programs, let’s briefly explain why an online PhD might be the best fit for you.

Reasons to Study Online PhD in Germany

More Affordable

First of all, the tuition of a distance learning Ph.D. program is more affordable than an on-campus degree. Then the cost of living also adds up especially if you’re an international student.

More Flexible

As now a working adult and perhaps a spouse, creating time for evening classes can be complicated and might make your life more stressful, and we believe no one wants to add more headaches to their lives. Online PhD gives you the flexibility of coming to class, performing your research and reporting back to your supervisor in your comfort zone.

Maintain Job

If you’re already working, an online Ph.D. will help you to remain on your job, unlike an on-campus Ph.D. that might require you to change your city or if possible country.

This is not to say that a campus-based PhD doesn’t come with its own perks.

free online PhD programs in Germany

Free Online PhD Programs in Germany

FernUniversität in Hagen is the online university that provides different free online Ph.D. programs in Germany, and we’ll focus on these programs. With, more than 76,000 students annually, it makes them the University with the highest number of students in Germany, and 80% of their students study through distance learning.

The University provides its free online PhD programs in Germany through both internal and external non-fundable research funding.

Some of their internal research funding includes;

  • FernUniversität research award: worth €20,000
  • Completion Scholarship Doctorate
  • Funding for female postdocs: own budget for material costs
  • Postdoctoral funding: Postdoctoral fellowship

Some of their Research funding by external third-party include;

  • Research grants from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
  • Grants from the Heinrich Hertz Foundation
  • Max Weber Foundation – German humanities institutes abroad
  • Discipline-open doctoral scholarships from gifted organizations

And many more.

Let’s now focus only on the programs FernUniversität in Hagen provides

1. Research Topics in Mathematics (English & German)

FernUniversität in Hagen provides several research topics in mathematics that you can focus on, including Discrete Mathematics and Optimization; Research in Algebra; Research in Numerical Mathematics; Applied Stochastics; Stochastics and Mathematical Physics; Applied Mathematics; Analysis.

2. Research Topics in Computer Science (English & German)

Here are some of the research topics in Computer Science FernUni offers; Software Engineering and Theory of Programming; Data Science; Cooperative Systems; Multimedia and Internet Applications; Parallelism & VLSI; Research Professorship for Educational Technologies for Digital Transformation; Enterprise-wide Software Systems; Technical Informatics; Human-Computer Interaction; Theoretical Computer Science; Artificial Intelligence Group, etc.

3. Humanities and Social Sciences (German)

This is among the free online PhD programs in Germany that you’ll focus on analyzing and explaining the mechanisms of action, the history or the level of knowledge in our society from different perspectives.

4. Research at the Faculty of Psychology (German)

Faculty of Psychology has three (3) research topics you can focus on, they include;

  • Psychology of Digitized Education
  • Psychology, diversity and social cohesion
  • forensic psychology

5. Faculty of Business Administration and Economics (German)

Some of the research topics provided through the Faculty of Business Administration and Economics include Douglas Endowed Chair for Service Management; Investment Theory and Business Valuation; Production and Logistics; Quantitative Methods and Business Mathematics; International Economy, Empiricism of the Foreign Exchange and Financial Markets. etc.

6. Research at the Faculty of Law (German)

FernUniversität in Hagen provides different PhD research topics in 3 Law areas, these areas are Civil Law, Public Law, and Criminal Law.

Questions to Ask Before You Choose Any Online PhD Program

Will This Program Benefit Me and My Career?

It’s best to enrol in a PhD program that aligns with our current full-time job, even though there could be a few cases where you want to pursue your passion. Since most PhD programs teach you things you can apply immediately at your work, that’s why it’s important to focus on programs that are in line with your work.

And, don’t say because a program is free or almost free, you can just enrol in it, remember your time is not free.

Is the Flexibility Perfect for Me?

Even though online programs are flexible, it is not fitting for everyone, because you need to be self-motivated to always show up, and now you have so many other responsibilities, some emergencies might even take the particular time you intend to always come to class or perform your research. 

You know doctoral programs can take a minimum of 2½ years and up to 7 years, so be sure that you can balance both, and complete your degree on time.


You can see that FernUniversität in Hagen is the only school that provides free online PhD programs in Germany through several financial assistance. Be sure if their programs are best for you or better look for other countries that provide the program you need for free or through scholarships.

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