Information for Mentors: Research Proposal Scholarships

To attract qualified doctoral candidates to pursue their studies in the humanities and social sciences at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz and to provide support for young academics during the preparatory and initial phases of their doctorate, the GSHS regularly offers research proposal scholarships for doctoral degree preparation. The aim of these scholarships is to help candidates prepare a strong research proposal with a clear and concise outline of the key aspects of the research in order to maximise the applicant’s chances of obtaining a scholarship or doctoral position.
Before applying for a proposal scholarship, the candidate must have the consent of a mentor who has agreed to guide them through the six-month funding period.
The mentor must be authorised to supervise doctoral procedures in the chosen doctoral subject at the Johannes Gutenberg University in accordance with the applicable doctoral regulations. Particularly in the case of interdisciplinary projects, we strongly recommend that before submitting the application, the mentor and the applicant should clarify the field/subject in which the doctorate is to be written – the supervision should also be undertaken by a mentor in this subject.
Of course, this does not exclude others (e.g. supervisors from other subjects/departments, from another university, from abroad or even persons not formally authorised to supervise) from providing advice and support to the applicant during the funding phase. However, they cannot take on the formal mentoring function within the framework of the scholarship.
The commitment to act as mentor to the scholarship holder during the funding phase, does not constitute a commitment to supervise a later doctoral degree. Rather, this time should also be used to assess whether the planned doctoral project will best be served by maintaining the given general framework, or whether other options need to be considered. The GSHS selection committee will also check whether the applicant’s profile and qualifications match their chosen study field, the intended doctoral topic and the mentor's field/subject area.

Nevertheless, in advance of any mentoring commitment, the mentor should aim to clarify any questions relevant to a possible later supervision of the doctoral project:

  • Does the applicant possess the requisite formal and subject-related requirements for a doctorate in the chosen subject at the JGU? The provisions of the applicable doctoral regulations must be observed here. In order to apply for a research proposal scholarship, certified evidence of completed studies in a relevant degree programme must be provided, either in the form of the degree itself, (e.g. masters) or proof that such can be obtained before funding commences. In this case, the thesis at least must be submitted at the time of application, except where a thesis is not a requirement of said degree programme. Those interested in a doctorate and undergoing aptitude assessment (fast-track) in accordance with the applicable doctoral regulations may also apply, but only if the procedure has already been initiated at the faculty, school or Academy of Fine Arts.
  • Is the applicant’s doctoral project well conceived and feasible within the given parameters? Does the mentor have sufficient free capacity for later supervision of the applicant?+
  • Is there a convincing fit between the profile and qualifications of the applicant, the chosen doctoral subject, intended thesis topic, specialised knowledge and research focus of the mentor? In what way can the project be most meaningfully integrated into the JGU or faculty/chair?
  • Are there sufficient opportunities for the applicant to obtain doctoral funding (position or scholarship) with the submitted doctoral project?
The mentor’s acceptance of the applicant may be documented by means of an informal signed letter, which can be made available to the applicant as a scan.

We recommend that each mentor look after one applicant only during a funding phase.

If the mentor is neither a (junior) professor nor a Privatdozent at the JGU, we ask that they should provide brief evidence of their authorization to supervise. (e.g. in the case of a post-doctoral student working with a junior research group (Nachwuchsforschungsgruppe) or similar).

Applicants also require a letter of recommendation from either a JGU lecturer, or a lecturer from their home university (for applicants from abroad). The writer of the letter and the mentor can (but must not) be the same person. The letter of recommendation should address the applicant's suitability for admission to a doctoral programme and preferably also the suitability of the chosen topic with regard to the JGU's research profile. The letter of recommendation can also be sent directly (electronically) to the GSHS office.

During the funding phase, the GSHS offers an interdisciplinary training and qualification programme along with individual advice on all non-subject-specific/ non-topic-specific questions. We also actively support interdisciplinary networking between scholarship holders and graduate school members. Mentor support is equally particularly important for the successful achievement of funding objectives during the project phase.

The scholarship holder's final report must include evidence of at least two consultation sessions during the funding period, however additional mentoring sessions are strongly encouraged.

The following topics should be discussed in regular sessions between mentor and scholarship holder:

  • Developing the research proposal, particularly in relation to subject-specific aspects
  • Individual funding strategy: what (including subject-specific) are the available funding options? In addition to the general scholarship databases and job portals that the GSHS holds information on, where else can information on subject-specific scholarships/grants be found? Which funding opportunities (foundations, etc.) are best suited to the candidate’s research project and background?

Given the low funding quotas from many funding bodies and the often lengthy selection procedures, alternatives to the main funding source and possible options for transitional funding need to be considered.

A research assistant post (Wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft) should only be considered to bridge funding gaps, not as a funding option for the entire duration of the doctorate.

  • Acquiring the necessary skills: which methodological or language skills are needed for the doctoral project and how can these be acquired or consolidated?
  • Applications to doctoral programme at the respective faculty/department/school (if not already done). Except in cases where there are justifiable reasons for not doing so – e.g. where greater clarification is required in the case of binational doctorates – applications should be submitted as early as possible at the beginning of the funding phase. Where necessary, the additional time required for accreditation of foreign qualifications also needs to be taken into account.
  • Preparation of the supervision agreement. This should be completed within six months from the time of acceptance as a doctoral candidate. We also recommend arranging a second supervisor.The GSHS provides checklists for the student-supervisor interviews held at the beginning of the doctoral studies project as well as for the regular supervisory meetings to follow. The checklists can help with ideas and in giving a structure to the meetings.
  • Networking of the scholarship holder in the department/research group/at the institute (e.g. inclusion in doctoral colloquia) and in the academic community (e.g. young researchers’ groups within associations or societies)
In accordance with the provisions of the JGU Scholarship Guidelines, the recipient must devote him/herself fully to the purpose of the scholarship. Part-time work must not exceed in scope or extent the terms for marginal employment as defined in accordance with the German Social Security Code IV §8 and if it is reported to both the mentor and the GSHS and neither objects. Confirmation of approval of the part-time work being carried out by the scholarship holder can be sent in an informal email to the GSHS office.
If the part-time job is carried out at the JGU or University Medical Center Mainz (e.g. as research / artistic assistant), it must, for tax and social security reasons, be clearly distinguishable from the scholarship project. As a rule, this means that the scholarship mentor cannot be one and the same person as the part-time work or research assistant supervisor. In some cases, the separation can also be proven in a different way. Please contact the GSHS in good time if you are unsure.

Answers to frequently asked questions about the GSHS Research Proposal Scholarship and the application process can be found on our FAQ page. Please do not hesitate to contact the GSHS office should you have any further questions.