FAQs - Max Planck School of Photonics

General information

Why should I apply to the Max Planck School of Photonics (MPSP)?

The MPSP supports and educates excellent students within its unique postgraduate program. It is distinguished due to its German-wide network of excellent Fellows who are scientists in the field of photonics and practice at universities, Max Planck Institutes, Fraunhofer Institutes, Leibniz Institutes and Helmholtz Research centers. Besides professional training, the MPSP aims to establish ties between outstanding students and excellent researchers in order to actively integrate the participants of the MPSP into the photonics network in Germany.

Which degrees will I obtain if I complete the program?

The overall aim of the program is to obtain your PhD whilst completing your Master's degree on the way. The program is thus structured into two phases: a two-year study phase in which you obtain your Master's and simultaneously lay the groundwork for your PhD, and a second, three-year research phase which is dedicated fully to your PhD project. Therefore, although you will finish the program with two different degrees, the focus of both phases is to work towards the completion of your own specialised research project in the form of a PhD.

Can I apply for the study phase of the program only?

The purpose of the MPSP program is to provide a five-year program with the overall aim of obtaining a PhD. Notwithstanding the integrated study phase, the program is not envisaged solely for obtaining a Master's degree without the intention of advancing to PhD research.

How many students does the MPSP accomodate?

We accept up to 20 students into the study phase and 40 graduates into the research phase annually. As such, the MPSP currently accommodates approximately 40 students in the study phase and 120 graduates in the research phase.

Can I choose the university at which to complete the study phase?

Yes, you can. Before you apply, please familiarise yourself with the various Master's programs offered at the three partner universities in Erlangen, Jena and Karlsruhe, in order to find out which program best suits you. You can then indicate your preference in your application listing one university only, or a ranking of preferences. Providing a ranking will ensure you receive an offer from a different university if, exceptionally, we cannot provide you with an offer from your first choice. We will take your indicated preference into serious consideration. Please note that you cannot change your preference after submitting your application.

Can I choose the university at which to complete the research phase?

Which university you complete the study phase of the program at depends on your area of research and with which institute your supervisor (Fellow) is associated. Potential PhD research topics offered by our Fellows can be found here. Please look into the topics available and indicate up to five that interested you in your application for the study phase. Minor changes to the topics can be discussed with the respective Fellow during the interview. We will do our best to accommodate your preferences and to find a suitable match of Fellows and PhD students. Students that start the program in the study phase will have ample opportunity to figure out where their research interests lie and to identify potential PhD topics with the help of our Fellows.

Do I automatically transfer to the research phase after the completion of the study phase?

The transfer from the study phase to the research phase is subject to the student's final mark in the study, the availability of an MPSP-Fellow suitable for the supervision of the PhD project envisaged and a face-to-face interview with MPSP-Fellows towards the end of the study phase. 


Who can apply for the MPSP program?

By the time of admission to the program, applicants must have completed a Bachelor's and/or Master's degree with significant exposure to physics, engineering or a related subject (B.Sc., B.Eng., or B.Tech. and M.Sc., M.Eng. or M.Tech.) depending on the program for which you are applying. More information on the required documents is available here.

Can I apply although I have not (yet) finished my current academic degree?

Yes, you can apply with a Transcript of Records (ToR) including the marks of all completed courses so far. However, if you are offered a place in the program, the original of your final ToR as well as your degree certificates (including certified translations if necessary) will be required by the start of the program at the latest.

Am I required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test and the GRE subject test?

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) general test and the GRE subject test are not mandatory and your application will be considered without them. However, your application will be much stronger if you provide a GRE general test or a GRE subject test (either in mathematics or physics), and we therefore highly recommend you do so. Test scores are considered alongside other application criteria.

Is there a minimum GRE score?

No. We consider the GRE score amongst other criteria based on the whole application. 

Am I required to submit a certificate of proficiency in English?

Yes, solid knowledge of the English language is crucial for the successful participation in the MPSP program which is conducted entirely in English. Proof of proficiency in English can be provided by

  • TOEFL, or an equivalent English test (minimum points/grades): TOEFL PBT (550), TOEFL CBT (215), TOEFL IBT (85), IELTS (6.5), or
  • Cambridge English Proficiency (CPE) exam or Cambridge English Advanced (CAE) exam, or
  • German "Abitur" with comprehensive coverage of the English language.
  • Language exemptions: The following students are exempted from providing the proof of English proficiency: nationals from the USA, U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or Canada; or B.Sc. or M.Sc. graduates who obtained their qualification in one of these countries.

Application process

When and where can I apply?

Applications can be submitted via an online platform during the application phase which will start on October 1st 2019 and close on December 15th 2019 (academic year 2020/2021). Applications can only be submitted during this time.

First, applicants are required to submit their online applications. Shortlisted applicants will then be required to take an online test. In a last step, applicants that succeeded in the online test shall be interviewed per Skype or telephone. 

For more details see below, as well as on the application page here.

How does the online application process work?

The online application process has two steps. In the first step, you will have to complete the registration form. After completing the registration form, you will receive an automatic email confirmation of receipt. This email will contain your MPSP registration ID, which is required in the second step of the application process where you upload your application files.

Applicants will be asked to provide personal information and submit the relevant documents including school leaving certificates, a certificate of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, a comprehensive curriculum vitae, a letter of motivation, two letters of recommendation, proof of English language proficiency and (if available) GRE score (general test or mathematics/physics subject test). 

Applications can only be submitted via the online platform within the indicated application period. Applications via email cannot be considered.

Which documents are required for the application?

The list of all documents required for the application process can be found here.

Can I start my application and complete it later?

The first step in which you are required to provide your personal information in an online registration form has to be completed in one run. Please therefore make sure you have all relevant information available when you start the process. However, the second phase, i.e. uploading all relevant documents required for your application, can be completed at a later point. You can login at any date before the deadline to upload the remaining documents using the ID provided for in the confirmation email received after completing the online registration form.

Once you have submitted the application including all uploads, no further changes can be made. Note also that unfinished applications cannot be completed after the application deadline and will not be considered.

What does the selection test for the study phase comprise?

The selection test for the study phase can be taken from any location with internet access. It is wide-ranging and comprises a catalogue of questions relating to photonics, physics, maths and electrical engineering that must be answered within a specified time span. Practice questions are available.

What should I include in the curriculum vitae (CV)?

Please list all stages of your education in chronological order. The CV must contain a clear statement about your current status and/or occupation including information on current employment, unemployment, or parental leave. Any prizes, scholarships, extraordinary social, cultural or sportive activities may also be part of your CV.

What is a "school leaving certificate"?

It is the school certificate with which you gained qualification for admission to a university or another higher academic institution (e.g. the Abitur in Germany, International Baccalaureate, the graduation of a high school in the USA, the A-Levels in the UK, etc.).

Do I need to upload transcripts from my Bachelor and/or Master studies?

Please upload transcripts from all your degree-level studies. In fact, these documents are highly relevant for your application.

How should I provide my letters of recommendation?

A template for this is available here; however, it is not mandatory to be used by the referees. Please make sure that each letter of recommendation is signed. If one or both referees prefer personalized recommendation letters, they should contain a date and an official letterhead/stamp from the higher education institution with which the referee is affiliated.

What if one of my references will not provide a letter?

You need two letters of recommendation for your application. We cannot make any exceptions, please therefore ask another person for the letter of recommendation.

How many potential supervisors or research topics from the school should I mention in the application?

During the application process applicants for the research phase can identify up to five different research topics. If you start the program in the study phase you will be able to find an appropriate supervisor for internships and your Master's thesis during the course of the study.

When will I get feedback on my application?

You will receive an automatic confirmation of receipt after completion of your online application. All applicants shall receive notice on the success of their application as soon as possible. Shortlisted applicants shall then also be provided with details regarding the next steps of the selection procedure. Final decisions shall be made by April next year.

Life in Germany

How do students finance the study and research phase of the program?

During the study phase of the program, students receive generous stipends with a minimum of 1365€ gross per month from the Max Planck Society. During the research phase of the program, students are employed full-time by the university or research institute of the respective MPSP-Fellow (the salary is granted according to the tariff agreement for the public civil service of the federal states (TV-L/TVöD E13, 100%) and is slighlty higher than the amount of the stipend granted during the study phase).

Where do students live during the duration of the program?

Students are expected to arrange their own housing for the duration of the program. However, we are happy to help in finding appropriate accommodation in a student dormitory, or in a private or shared flat to rent.

Do I need a visa to study in Germany? 

Students are responsible for checking their own visa requirements. For some guidance, see here for the Federal Foreign Office's FAQs on living in Germany. 

Who can I contact if I have any further questions?

Please feel free to contact our coordination team at any time via email .






Go to Editor View