High-quality and groundbreaking research in the field of economics is one of the main pillars of the school's claim to excellence. The doctoral program at WHU produces an average of 35 graduates per year, and 50 publications in top business magazines have been produced in cooperation with WHU doctoral students. Professor Dr. Christian Andres, Chair of Empirical Corporate Finance and Associate Dean Research, and Claudia Heymann, Head of the Doctoral Program, breathe life into these figures in an interview.
1) WHU is currently the only German private business school that is a member of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, short DFG). How is the high quality of research guaranteed and what makes a doctorate at WHU special?
Andres: As a member of the German Research Foundation, WHU follows the guidelines of good scientific practice of the DFG.
Heymann: This is ensured by the Commission of Good Scientific Practice at WHU, which meets regularly and - based on the guidelines of the DFG - has developed guidelines for WHU. All doctoral students are obliged to work according to these guidelines.
Andres: What makes the doctoral program at WHU special is the hybrid of theoretical scientific doctoral training at an international level and a global research network. In regular seminar discussions, at research conferences and during exchange visits to partner universities, our doctoral students can present the current status of their work to other researchers and thus obtain feedback continuously.
2) Doctoral students have to meet WHU's high research standards. What requirements should someone applying for a doctoral position have?
Heymann: The formal basic requirement is of course a completed Master's degree or a diploma program at a university with an above-average overall grade.
Andres: In addition, interested people should first and foremost be enthusiastic about research and want to work in an international environment. This means that they should not only be fluent in English, but also be able to express themselves scientifically. Although the doctoral program includes courses on scientific expression and scientific publishing, we do expect a certain level and feel for language. In direct exchange with the applicants, we also recognize whether there is a real desire to gain knowledge.
Heymann: Our doctoral program is also open to graduates of non-economic courses of study, provided that they are interested in the interfaces between their fields and the economy. For example, we have some psychologists here.
3) What career opportunities does a doctorate offer outside the academic sector? To what extent is it also of interest to those who want to pursue a career in the economy after their studies?
Andres: A doctorate certifies the ability to carry out independent scientific work. Graduates are therefore predestined for working at universities, scientific institutes and associations. However, scientific work is also in demand in many areas of application in the industry, for example in banks and supply chain management. Likewise, consulting firms cannot only sell solutions off the peg. User-customized solutions often require scientific approaches.
Heymann: Many people are not even aware that there are still so many possible applications outside university research.
4) Which research topics are currently particularly popular and are there any insider tips, i.e. less prominent topics that offer great research potential and could drive science forward?
Andres: Insider tips as such do not exist. However, there is an increasing trend towards topics that are located at interfaces, i.e. that bring together economics with other scientific disciplines. Examples can be found in the subject areas of business/behavioural research, law/financial economics and business/health care. These interface topics reflect the increasing demand on the fact that companies should be aware of their social, ecological and ethical responsibility. As in any other industry, all topics relating to digitization are also very much in demand.
5) Anyone interested in a doctorate must also think about financing. What opportunities are there at WHU in this regard?
Andres: Internal doctoral students who are employed at the chair do not have to worry about financing. On the one hand, they do not pay any fees for the program and on the other hand, they receive a salary that makes a good living.
Heymann: Even if the internal doctoral students change to external status at the end of their employment contract, they are exempt from fees for two more years. In case, the doctorate takes longer than expected.
Andres: External doctoral students have the same financing options as students, such as the KfW student loan from Sparkasse Koblenz and the Reverse Generation Contract from the WHU Brain Capital Initiative. Participation in research conferences is also financially supported through the Dean's Research Fund and in part by the corresponding WHU chairs and groups.