Q+Promotion of early-career researchers The heiDOCS project

Quality assurance and quality development for early-career researchers

heiDOCS diagram

heiDOCS is being developed as an integrated quality programme to promote doctoral students and early-career researchers at Heidelberg University. The overarching goals of heiDOCS are:

  • enhancing and optimising outstanding conditions for the research activity and career development of up-and-coming researchers by merging and reinforcing all previous measures and instruments in the field of services, advice, career development and funding at the level of the whole university,
  • establishing and consolidating a lively culture of quality in support for doctoral candidates and post-docs through specific quality programmes held at both the institutional and the faculty level,
  • building a distinctive identity of doctoral students as a clearly defined group of university members. An essential precondition for this is the electronic listing of all those enrolled for a doctorate.


Electronic data collection

The amended State Higher Education Act in Baden-Württemberg (April 2014) provides new general conditions for supporting doctoral students. For the first time in a German federal state it is now possible, and required, to collect data on all doctoral students and at the same time build up a separate identity for a clearly defined group of university members. Hitherto, doctoral students were basically assigned to a professor, a research group or a faculty; in addition to that, they are now a visible group in the whole institution as doctoral candidates at Heidelberg University.


Optimization through quality programmes

The institutional integration of doctoral candidates provides the framework for strategically oriented quality development in this field. Heidelberg University is a pioneer in this regard and is supported by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science and the Arts in devising a model for the promotion of doctoral candidates for the whole state. The specific goals in quality development for the university’s young researchers are:

  • opening up the best career chances worldwide for the up-and-coming academics
  • promoting innovative research projects and institutionally fostering the transfer of results
  • strengthening the visibility and participation of the doctoral candidates in central strategic projects of the university (e.g. in projects of the Excellence Initiative)
  • sharpening the profile of doctoral candidates as a focal group with their own identity, and
  • expanding the role of Heidelberg University as a leading producer of doctoral students with an international outreach.

These goals are spelled out and implemented in hands-on quality programmes that the faculties primarily devise themselves, in the framework – and with the support – of the Graduate Academy. The required benchmark is the training of doctoral students to meet the highest standards, with consideration for the different subject cultures.



The heiDOCS project is informed by scientific criteria and requires for its application – besides a reconfiguration of existing university finance – additional public and private funds and the engaged support of strong partners. The state of Baden-Württemberg is investing considerable resources into developing the project’s essential administrative structures, such as:

  • registering all doctoral candidates university-wide in a uniform database
  • developing a central online portal for the support of doctoral candidates
  • establishing a central office for doctoral candidates to facilitate the delivery of services as required
  • continuing to develop the Graduate Academy as a central academic facility that supports the faculties in furthering the individual and academic progress of young researchers.