A longitudinal study of doctoral candidates and doctorate holders

Nacaps is a long-term study of doctoral candidates and doctorate holders and includes regular surveys on career paths of highly qualified academics in Germany – for the use of researchers and academic policy makers.

The study is a joint project of the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW) and more than 50 doctoral degree-granting universities across Germany. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). For the first time, doctoral candidates were surveyed for this study in February 2019. The second round of the survey has closed in April 2021. The first cohort of participants of the panel study was invited to participate in the follow-up survey in June 2021. The latest survey took place in spring 2022.

The third round of the survey will start at the end of February 2023, also at Goethe University. If you receive an invitation, we encourage you to participate!

Even if you feel that you did not follow the usual path to, or during your doctoral studies, your participation is very important because only with a wide range of respondents can we gain a full picture of the doctorate landscape. This also applies if you discontinue your doctorate in the meantime or if you only came to Germany for your doctorate or if you intend to leave Germany after completing your doctorate.

Scientific research, HEIs and educational policy will benefit from this information – and so will you yourself as a doctoral candidate!

Survey results from 2019 and 2021

How well do doctoral students feel in regard to their supervision? How much time can they devote to working on their doctorate? How has their employment and funding situation changed in recent years?

With interactive graphics, the Nacaps data portal provides an overview of the living and working reality of doctoral students in Germany. It is based on the data of more than 30,000 doctoral researchers at over 60 universities who participated in the surveys of the longitudinal study Nacaps in spring 2019 and 2021. Focus analyses on topics such as #IchBinHanna, funding, employment or health of PhD candidates as well as the press response to the study can also be found on the Nacaps website.

For now, the results are only available in German language.

The results are presented in the portal in the form of indicators. These are clustered into seven thematic areas:

  • Working and employment conditions
  • Supervision situation
  • Type and structure of the doctorate
  • Motives for doing a doctorate and the course of the doctorate
  • Career paths and perspectives after the doctorate
  • Mobility
  • Living situation / personal background

The results can be differentiated according to gender, migration background, educational background, parenthood, subject group and membership in a structured program. With the broader data base, it is now possible to filter results according to doctoral cohorts or to the time of the survey. The anonymity of the survey participants is always guaranteed.

If you would like to be informed about the publication of study results in a timely manner, we recommend you to subscribe to the Nacaps newsletter. Publications obtained from the survey will also be announced on Twitter and on the Nacaps website.


Who can / should participate?


7 good reasons for taking part

We encourage all PhD candidates of Goethe University
who have started with their PhD project after
November 30, 2018 to take part in the ongoing survey
rounds. Participation is voluntary.

With your participation you will support a project in
the context of higher education research and science
study, directed above all at the scientific community.

  • You will be actively supporting a research project.
  • Your experience will influence future decisions.
  • You will help to underpin arguments with facts.
  • Your personal path counts.
  • You can refelct on your own career.
  • You will be part of a unique study.
  • There is a thank you for participation...

How do you participate?

You will receive a personal invitation via email including a link that grants you access to the online survey.

The third round of the survey will start at the end of February 2023. For this round, persons who have been newly registered as PhD candidates between 02.12.2020 and 01.12.2022 will be invited.

You receive a personal invitation to each round of the survey, if your contact data is valid and recorded by one of the following procedures:

  • Acceptance as a PhD candidate at one of Goethe University's faculty
  • Registration as doctoral student
  • Participation in the GRADE program
  • Member of a structured PhD Program at Goethe University

The contact information are pooled to get a list of all PhD candidates at Goethe University. If you receive a personal invitation with an access link, your data will be added to this list. This contact information is used only for survey invitation and will be deleted afterwards.

The procedure has been reviewed and verified by Goethe University's data security representative.

Study Design

Since 2019, new doctoral candidates (from 2021 also doctoral holders) are included in the panel at regular intervals. Their consent provided, existing participants will be invited to the survey repeatedly.

If you agree to resubmit the follow-up questionnaire when registering for the first time, your contact details will be stored in compliance with the privacy policy. After two years, you will be invited again as a doctoral candidate or as a postdoc for a follow-up questionnaire.

The survey is carried out in cooperation with over 50 higher education institutions, including Goethe University. Doctoral candidates and doctorate holders throughout the country are surveyed at regular intervals on the study conditions for their doctorates, career aims and professional development, as well as on their general life situation. Consequently, the panel history will give an overview of career paths and the biographical development of doctoral candidates beyond the immediate phase of the dissertation. Detailed information on the study design can be found on the Nacaps website.

Data protection

Cyber security 3400657 640

What happens to your data?

If you give your consent, Nacaps will save your personal contact data so they can contact you for follow-up surveys. This information will be saved separately from your survey answers in a protected area of DZHW’s in-house server. The information given in the survey is pseudonymised before being processed (i.e. cleared of names or addresses).

Sensitive information and all open statements are specially protected to ensure that they cannot be traced back to individual participants.