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Application and Admission FAQ

Starting date of program:  starting in the winter term (1 October), 3 year course programme, 1 year writing phase Starting date for applications: mid-September in the previous year before intake Deadline for submitting applications: mid-November in the previous year before intake Final applications decision: mid-May of the same year Start of Department Admission: June of the same year Start of Enrolment: Augustof the same year

We will occasionally admit visiting students from partner institutions and/or funded by external scholarships who may study at the GEAS from several months up to one or two years if they receive permission.

If you want to become a visiting student, the same conditions as stated in the guidelines will apply, and we will need all documents listed for general applications. If you only want to stay for several months, our conditions may differ, so please contact the associate director for specifics first:

  • Are you from one of our partnering institutions?
  • Is your supervisor in contact with the graduate school?
  • How long do you want to stay?
  • Will you get permission?
  • Will you apply for funding/receive external funding?

Visiting students do not have to apply via the online portal, unless they want to be admitted to the general cohort with external funding.


You can apply once a year (between September and November to start in October the following year).

GEAS will announce details on its website and on East Asian Studies mailing lists and on other sites of relevance. Applications will be submitted online via the Dahlem Research School web portal. Individual applications by any kind of mail will not be considered at any time.

Please note that you need references and need to contact referees in advance before applying!

The web portal will send a mail to both of your referees after you have finished your application at the portal, and referees will upload their letters themselves.

Please make sure to contact them before applying, as referees will also need time to write a reference, and will only receive the link for upload after you have submitted your application.

We will consider your application in the selection process only when the application is complete.

Applications to GEAS will be submitted online via the internet portal by Dahlem Research School.

We expect you to write a research proposal for your dissertation project of not more than 6 pages.

Please upload original copies and English translations of your documents to be (scanned) uploaded in .pdf or .jpg (not larger than 2MB).

The list of necessary documents includes:

  • CV/Resume
  • High school diploma
  • BA transcripts and official BA diploma/certificate (or equivalent)
  • MA transcripts (transcripts should be updated if graduation is scheduled after the application period)
  • official MA diploma/certificate, if applicable
  • English language proficiency (C1), if at hand. Can be handed in later.

A screenshot of preliminary test results for TOEFL/IELTS, etc. can be uploaded. However, for successful admission to FU, you will need a paper copy of the test results, so please make sure to order one in advance.

Please note that there is no TOEFL code for the GEAS. The TOEFL code for FU Berlin should not be used.

  • East Asian language proficiency
  • 2 Letters of reference (need to be uploaded by the referees themselves)
  • Additional certificates, publications, internships, etc., if available

The research proposal is an outline of your doctoral project. The research proposal and the topic are the main part of your application, and a bad or unfocused title or a research question can be crucial for the review process. The outline of your proposed dissertation project should have a maximum of six pages and should include the following ideas. This is only an outline of what you should think about when writing your proposal.  Keep in mind that this proposal reflects your personal style as well as your research interest and potential.

Please use a common citation style and do not write more than 5,000 words. Please do not just copy and paste this outline as a framework for your research proposal in the application.

    1. Context, research questions and objectives of your research project
    • Describe the context of your research proposal.
    • Pose a central research question you aim to answer in your thesis and explain its academic relevance.
    • Explain the hypotheses relevant to answering your question.
  • 2. Current state of research and most relevant literature
    • Place your topic in the current academic debate
    • literature review
  • 3. Tentative theoretical framework and research methods
    • Address the methodology and theoretical framework you want to use and explain why this framework was chosen.
    • Explain the relevant sources of information (sources, archives, interviews, databases) and explain how your fieldwork will be conducted.
  • 4. Source material (6th page in general, not counting within the 5,000-word limit)
    • References and Bibliography
  • 5. Time schedule (not counting within the limit)
    • A detailed schedule with milestones and fieldwork plan

GEAS, and the FU Berlin departments you will apply for, will only admit students with adequate English language proficiency, equivalent to the GER C1, and at least one Asian language (Japanese, Chinese or Korean) equivalent to GER B2. Proficiency in German is not necessary, but a basic understanding will be helpful in everyday life.

If you want to do comparative or transregional research in East Asia, we strongly recommend having proficiency in more than one Asian language.

This is a good question.

Structured programs are full-time programs for people who want to develop better skills in their doctorates, receive institutional support, and - if they get successful funding, also get support in planning and coordinating mobility phases from the institution. 

As part of a graduate school or research training group (or similar), early stage researchers take part in a program that differs from the traditional way in both its formal framework as well as the focus on better integration of doctoral researchers in a group and the wider academic community.

No. A structured doctoral program at Freie Universität is a full-time program with a 3-year curriculum for a 4-year procedure, and a part-time PhD is not (yet) possible in a structured program. The graduate schools are not the right programs for you.

However, there are individual PhD possibilities: Please leave this page and program and ask the Dahlem Research School for more information.

Your potential supervisor does not need to be contacted before application. The selection committee will recommend a team of supervisors for your research project based on your suggestions, your research focus, and availability of faculty members.

As English is the main spoken language at GEAS, you need to be able to have certified language skills equivalent to GER C1.

You will not be admitted to Freie Universität Berlin if you are not able to give proof of your C1 abilities.

We accept language certificates from Cambridge (IELTS, CAE and CFP) and TOEFL:

  • CAE/CFP: any
  • IELTS: 7.0 and higher
  • TOEFL: 100 and higher
  • The IELTS and TOEFL certificates should not be older than 2 years. The CAE/CFP should not be older than 5 years.
  • Native speakers do not have to prove their language ability.

There are some exceptions:

The Freie Universität Berlin will also admit candidates who have spent a year abroad studying in an English-speaking country, or who are enrolled in an English-speaking master’s program (with admission requirements B2 or higher). Proof of this (website, regulations) are necessary. 

A master thesis written in English (without having attended a master's program held entirely in English) will not be regarded as equivalent.


Native speakers do not have to prove their language ability.

Chinese: We accept language certificates for HSK 5 and TOCFL 4 or higher.

Japanese: We accept language certificates for JLPT 2 or N2 and higher.

Korean: We accept language certificates for TOPIK 4 and higher.

HSK 4 or a master’s degree in Chinese, Japanese or Korean studies are sufficient only when you have been abroad for about a year, have been active in translation, or possess other additional language skills. We recommend an actual assessment by a language teacher or language centre if you cannot provide a certified language proficiency.

You can hand in the English TOEFl/IELTS or other certificates later to date. In case you are invited, the day of the interview is the latest day possible to hand in your results. 

Proof of East Asian language skills should be at hand at the time of your application. If you are still enrolled in a master's course and completion is pending, an actual assessment of your language skills (by language teachers) is necessary for us to take your application into consideration.

Candidates can apply even if they have not graduated their master’s yet. However, the predicted date of graduation should not be later than July, 1st of the year they intend to start the programme.

Applicants should be able to provide transcripts and/or statements of their supervisors about their progress to that date.


Freie Universität Berlin offers a fast-track program for highly exceptional B.A. students. To qualify, B.A. students need to provide evidence of an exceptional academic record during the B.A. program with an A grade point average (in German: 1.3 or higher, without any exception), two letters of well-known scholars, and successful completion of an entrance exam as required by the statute for PhD programs at Freie Universität Berlin.

This entrance exam is designed by the examination committee after application; we do not know the details of this exam before the application for admission to the PhD proecedure.

For GEAS, fast-track students should ideally have at least one year of experience living and studying in East Asia and have high-level language skills in one of the respective languages, according to the rules of admission to GEAS. 

You are applying for a PhD programme in the social sciences, so, in order to assess your academic abilities, it is highly recommended to ask academic representatives, such as your thesis supervisor, to write a letter of reference.

A reference letter should contain a short description of your academic performance and discuss your qualifications and interest in the PhD programme.

We will consider other references, provided that they can give us fundamental information about your suitability to the PhD programme.

It is recommended that the letters of reference need to show the letterhead of the corresponding institution, and preferably should be signed.If your referees live in a country without regular internet access or if they have technical problems, they are allowed to send pdfs or postal letters to the GEAS Application team.

Postal letters will not be accepted after the application date, as you will not be able to submit your application without both letters having been uploaded.

It is highly recommended that you ask for a reference letter in advance. Please explain to your referees that you are going to apply for GEAS and that they themselves have to upload their letters of reference online and in time (!).

*Update*Nov 2020: The application system will automatically send an e-mail with a generated link to your supervisors after you have submitted your application.

The field is case-sensitive and sends out the links for upload of the reference letters to the email addresses provided. Please also spell-check the address and correct mistakes if necessary.

Your referees will receive a link for upload to the application system to upload the letters in PDF format (not larger than 2 MB). The file can only be uploaded once. A successful upload will be immediately confirmed on screen. A second upload is not possible.  If they fail to upload their file for the first time, or if there is no onscreen confirmation, they should contact application[at]geas.fu-berlin.de to await further instructions.

If any other technical mishap occurs, they can also contact the above email address. You will be able to see if your referees have uploaded their letters during the time of application at the portal.

The programme does not provide grants or scholarships in general. Please note that GEAS is a full-time structured programme without part-time option for now. We do not think it reasonable to accept fellows who have not been granted institutional funding.

Fortunately, in 2023 and 2024, there are scholarships available for 2 international scholars through DAAD-GSSP program. We also offer nominations for Chinese citizens through the FUB-CSC partnership. These scholarships will not be announced, and you cannot apply for them individually: the selection committee will nominate suitable candidates to the scholarship foundations after the selection process in March.

German universities do not take any tuition fees, apart from the semester contribution and public transport ticket (about 300 EUR per semester (October-March, April-September).

Living and accommodation expenses are about 1,000-1,200 EUR monthly.

The rent in Berlin has risen to about 700-800 EUR and more.

Food and leisure should be about 300 EUR monthly.

In addition, you should have health insurance (about 50-250 EUR monthly, depending on the insurance provider), and liability insurance (starting from 20 EU to about 50 EUR annually). 

Also do not forget that you will need to be able to apply for or probably save up for expenses for resources, materials, fieldwork, travels, conferences, papers, publications, and also electronic devices (laptops do not live forever).

A scholarship from funding institutions may only just cover the living expenses.

If you cannot fund your PhD procedure through a fellowship, you should not do a structured procedure.

After being admitted to the GEAS doctoral program, the next step is to apply for admission to the department your supervisor belongs to.

You cannot start your research project until you have been accepted by the department ("Zulassung").The application is made to the respective department’s Dean and PhD office. Candidates can find the application form and a list of required documents on the website of the respective graduation office.

The GEAS Application team will proceed your online applications to the PhD offices after the admission to the GEAS doctoral program.

A committee decides whether your qualifications suffice for admission as a doctoral candidate. The department’s committee usually meets at regular intervals.

After acceptance by the department, doctoral candidates must formally enroll as doctoral students with the central student administration office. It is easier to apply for a visa after the admission (Zulassung) is granted.

To conclude the admission process and to enroll, please have your originals or certified copies at hand to present them to the corresponding offices.

After having been approved by the PhD office of your department, the PhD Office will send you an official "Zulassung" (admission certificate), proving your eligibility to enroll as a PhD candidate at FUB. 

Within the following 30 days you should officially enroll as PhD candidate via postal mail. You may also visit the Info Counter if you live nearby. Should you not able to enroll within this time frame or if the letter of admission has expired, please contact the GEAS Office or the PhD Office. The enrollment time can be extended for reasons such as visa applications or moving plans.

For enrollment, please enroll online for a studentship at FU Berlin. Note that enrollment fees are about 300 EUR per semester (6 semesters in total):

  • Acceptance Letter/ Admission Certificate
  • DRS enrolment confirmation (issued by GEAS)
  • Completed enrollment application (online form)
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Original and copy of passport or ID (including  visa)
  • Withdrawal certificate from the last (German) university (if applicable)
  • Original documents or copies (as the PhD Office will ask for originals or certified copies, simple copies can be attached):
    BA and MA or letter from your university
    Proof of proficiency in English (C1)
  • Enrollment fee

You will receive a student ID which provides access to the public transport system, benefits for cafeteria, sports and other cultural stuff, etc.

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Yes, these include:

  • Passport or equivalent ID for yourself and any family members.
  • Birth certificate(s) and certified translations in German or English for yourself and any family members coming with you;
  • Marriage certificate, if applicable, and certified translations in German or English;
  • Certified copies of your graduation documents and degrees AND translations thereof in English. For enrollment at the university you will need to present certified copies of your high school graduation certificate and other university degree certificates, in original and English;
  • Proof of admission/ acceptance by your department/Hosting Agreement from the university or institute;
  • Several (biometric) passport photos;
  • copies of your work contracts and proof of employment.

Yes. Even though the regulations may have been more flexible as of late, it is necessary to do the program in Berlin. A structured program is different from the individual PhD or a part-time PhD - GEAS offers a full-time course and work program for researchers who aim to finish their PhD within 4 years. Most scholarships are also only granted for the purpose of full-time study in Germany, and some are only available for FU students who reside in Berlin.


We highly recommend submitting scholarship applications with funding institutions either before applying to our programme or while applying for our programme. Please note that GEAS is a full-time structured programme without part-time option for now. We do not think it reasonable to accept fellows who have not been granted institutional funding.

The steps for successful arrival (after a successful selection process) are:

1. Receive the admission letter from the PhD Office of the respective department (in May/June).

2. Make an appointment to apply for a visa at the German Embassy or Consulate in your country. Receive the Hosting Agreement from our graduate school.

3. Prepare to apply for accommodation with the admission letter at either Studierendenwerk or the exchange Accommodation Service Berlin (Registration starts generally in June).

4. Prepare German basic courses (if interested) with either FUB-CSC or the Language Center at Freie Unviersität Berlin. Registration for the language centre courses starts usually mid-June.

5. Take out health insurance. It is necessary to either choose statutory health insurance or private health insurance if you stay in Germany for longer than 6 months. We recommend statutory health insurance, even if it may seem more expensive. If you want to choose private, check out the DAAD insurance or the Vela private insurance (please do not go for the cheapest packages. It is your health, after all!

5. Prepare your flight/train ticket for arrival in July/August. The semester starts October 1st. Please be in Berlin in time.