PhD How-to

This page is intended as a guideline for students explaining the ideal timeline for their PhD as well as the steps they have to take to ensure timely and correct administration of their studies.






















After you have been approved for a position in the Doctoral School, your first step is to get admitted to our PhD program (Life Sciences for research fields Biology and Molecular Biology, or Natural Sciences for research fields Environmental Sciences and Geosciences). Please note that this is not connected to your employment as a PhD student. Start the admission process as soon as possible, as degrees from universities abroad can take some time to get evaluated and approved by the admission center.

Please find links to the curriculum in Life Sciences and Natural Sciences, respectively, here:

Take care to renew your enrollment on time every semester. If you are employed as a PhD student, the study fee will be waived (conditions apply) and you will only have to pay the student union fee (approximately 20€/semester). Make sure to enter your Austrian social security number in your student account's personal data, so that your employee data and student data can be linked.


First year


Your first year constitutes the entry phase of your PhD. During this time, you will familiarize yourself with your thesis project, read literature and start preliminary experiments. 

Our doctoral school aims to ensure consistent feedback for each student's research projects and questions. To this end, every student should assemble a thesis advisory committee with the help of their supervisor. The committee should consist of your supervisor, another faculty member and one researcher from outside the faculty (they can either be from the University of Vienna or from an entirely external university/research centre). Your committee should meet with you at least once a year to give feedback and suggestions on your project.

Before the end of your first PhD year (ideally after 9-10 months), you are expected to prepare an exposé and present your project to your thesis advisory committee. This is referred to as the "prelim" and is often the first meeting of the thesis advisory committee. A recommended document structure that you can use for your exposé can be downloaded here.



Please refer to our prelim checklist for details on how to prepare for and organize your prelim.
During your prelim, you will first present your project (max. 30 minutes), followed by a discussion (ca. 30 minutes), and finally an evaluation of your project. 
The evaluation criteria are:
  • knowledge and understanding of the research field
  • research performance
  • quality of future research plans
Your thesis advisory committee will give you extensive feedback. On a positive prelim, your committee will inform the doctoral school via our feedback form and you will be able to present your research to your peers at the next New PhD Science Day. Your supervisor fills and signs the form for the entire committee.
At least 1 month before the New PhD Science Day, please send your exposé (reworked with the feedback you received from your committee) to the Doctoral School at 
In addition, please prepare the following documents together with your exposé:
  • Regulations relating to good scientific practice (SL/W1)
  • Registration of the doctoral thesis topic and announcement of the supervisor(s) (SL/D11)
  • if applicable: Approval of financial support of the doctoral thesis topic (SL/W4)

New PhD Science Day


The New PhD Science Day takes the place of the "FÖP" / faculty open presentation. Here you present a short version of your prelim talk, adapted with the feedback you received from your thesis advisory committee, to your peers. We are aiming to make this an event focused on student networking and community building and plan to host it in person in the future, as soon as the current pandemic situation allows.

The dates for the next New PhD Science Day are announced on this page.


Doctoral thesis agreement


After your participation in the New PhD Science Day, you and your supervisor can submit the doctoral thesis agreement. This agreement serves as a framework for the rest of your PhD. Please fill and sign the form and then hand it in to for approval by the head of the doctoral school.

You can view and download division-specific templates for the doctoral thesis agreement here:


The following years


After you and your supervisor have signed the doctoral thesis agreement, it's time to fully delve into the research phase of your PhD! 

You are required to submit a yearly report of your progress to . We also ask that you and your supervisor fill our committee meeting information form after each yearly PhD committee meeting and send it to us.

We suggest the following procedure to keep your administrative efforts to a minimum:

  • Fill the annual report template 
  • Discuss it in the meeting with your committee
  • Adapt the report based on the feedback of the committee, sign it and hand it in to the doctoral school

You will be reminded to organize your yearly committee meeting 2 months before the meeting is due to take place.


This is also the time to attend conferences and workshops as well as University courses to gather the required number of ECTS points for completing your studies (see below). The University also offers a range of soft skill seminars free of charge at the Center for Doctoral Studies (workshop program). In addition, you will most likely write a number of scientific papers/publications.


ECTS requirements


Your PhD curriculum requires you to collect a number of ECTS points according to your doctoral thesis agreement before handing in your thesis. ECTS can be gained in a number of ways:

  • by attending courses relevant to your curriculum at the University of Vienna (course directory - find VDS-MES specific courses at number 57) or other universities
  • by attending workshops
  • by attending and presenting (poster/talk) at conferences

ECTS for conferences, workshops and external courses have to be approved by the head of the doctoral school. Please hand in documentation of your attendance and/or presentations to the doctoral school office at . You will then be informed about the amount of ECTS awarded to you.

Please note that you might be required to complete certain courses or attend conferences specifically outlined in your doctoral thesis agreement.




For many of you, your PhD will be the first time you are writing a scientific publication. As part of our soft skill curriculum, the doctoral school is offering intensive courses on paper writing every semester. 

The Center for Doctoral Studies also offers workshops on the topic of scientific writing.

As a member of our doctoral school, the University of Vienna's Affiliation Policy (only in German) requires you to list the doctoral school as an affiliation when you submit a publication that resulted from your PhD project. Please list the doctoral school like this:

University of Vienna, Doctoral School in Microbiology and Environmental Science, (optional address: Djerassiplatz 1, 1030) Vienna, Austria.




The format of your dissertation is agreed upon by you and your supervisor and outlined in the doctoral thesis agreement. Most likely, you will be required to write a cumulative dissertation, as is the norm in the field of Life Sciences and Natural Sciences. This form of thesis usually includes 2 to 3 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, which might need to be in a certain status by the time you hand in your dissertation (e.g. one published, one accepted, one submitted), as well as an introduction and discussion part.

Please find the formatting requirements for your thesis here, as well as the obligatory template for the title page here.




Your thesis needs to be reviewed and graded by experts in the field. Together with your supervisor, you need to make a suggestion of three potential reviewers, of which two will be chosen. Reviewers must have a habilitation (or equivalent teaching qualification) and must not be in a close scientific relationship with your or your supervisor(s). This is defined as not having published papers together with you or your supervisor(s) in the last five years. External reviewers are strongly preferred.

Please contact your reviewers and make sure they are available and willing to review your thesis before you officially hand in the reviewer suggestion form! If they have questions about the process, you can also send them the link to our short information page. After you have confirmed with the reviewers, hand in the following documents to the study service center:

In general, your reviewers have four months to hand in their final reviews to the study service center. In mutual agreement, shorter timeframes can be arranged. Timeframes of 1-2 months are common.

Please take note that the assignment of reviewers takes about a month to complete from the side of the University of Vienna. Therefore, it is advised to start this process before you hand in your dissertation to save yourself time. You can start the process as early as 6 months before you hand in the dissertation, if desired.


Final thesis submission & defensio


After you have finalized your dissertation, it first has to go through a plagiarism check. After this evaluation has been successfully completed, you can officially hand in your dissertation (as long as you have completed your ECTS requirements by that point!). Please prepare the following forms and hand them in to your study service center (not to the doctoral school administration):

In addition, you need to deliver 3 hardcover bound copies of your thesis to the study service center. Costs for printing and binding might be covered by the doctoral school - please contact us for details at 


After the plagiarism check is complete, the study service center will send your thesis to the reviewers and collect their reviews for you. 

After you have received your dissertation reviews, it is time to organize your defensio, the final step of your PhD.

Please prepare the form Registration for doctoral thesis defense (Defensio) and send it to your study service center at least 2 weeks before the date of your defensio. You have to organize your own thesis committee. It usually consists of your two thesis reviewers as well as one other professor working in the field. The doctoral school can help you with booking a room or setting up a Zoom meeting for your defensio.

After your successful defensio, the only thing left is to collect your PhD diploma from the study service center. Congratulations!