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Stages of Doctoral Studies

Doctoral studies are roughly structured along four milestones:

  1. the decision on the topic, the supervisor and the signing of the dissertation/Ph.D. agreement (in general after the first year of studies)
  2. the dissertation's preparation
  3. the handing in of the dissertation/Ph.D. project and
  4. the defence

The file (download on the right side) illustrates the stages of the doctoral studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna from the very beginning to graduation. Each phase is explained in greater detail below. The processes described reflect the new curricula of our doctoral/Ph.D. studies which apply to all those who have enrolled in a doctoral course (Dr. phil., Dr. rer. nat, Ph.D. in Practice) since the winter semester of 2013. The stages of the doctoral studies in Architecture (Dr. techn.) deviate in some points, which is, however, mentioned in the respective text passage.

Please also note our FAQs, which provide you with information on many topics concerning the doctoral/Ph.D. studies.

In the Doctorate Handbook you will find all the necessary information on doctoral studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. In addition, the handbook offers a guide for the preparation of the exposé as well as information on how to start a doctoral program.

Doctorate Handbook


You will need to enroll personally at the Registrar's Office. Please find a list of the documents required under Admission to doctoral studies. Additionally, please note that for doctoral studies of Architecture, you will have to submit confirmation of supervision already at this stage.

For admission to the Ph.D.-in-practice program, you need to pass the admission procedure; please inform yourself about the process and the deadlines: Ph.D.-in-practice.

Applicants who have not completed their diploma or Master's studies in Austria must submit proof of the equivalence of their international degree before admission. Please contact our Registrar's Office for further information and consider that the proof for equivalence takes two months.

Specification of Topic/Title and Supervisor(s), Drafting of the Exposé

After enrolling successfully, you are required to specify the topic of your doctoral thesis and the name of your supervisor (and possibly that of your second supervisor) and begin to draft your exposé.

PLEASE NOTE: Please use your official Academy e-mail address as you will receive all relevant information on your studies, on job advertisements etc. via this address, or, alternatively, arrange for having your e-mails forwarded to another address (Forwarding).

Dissertation Agreement

Within your first year of enrolment of a Dr. phil., Dr. rer. nat., and Ph.D.-in-practice program, you are required to prepare a Dissertation Agreement (Dr. phil & Dr. rer. nat.; Ph.D.-in-practice) and to submit it to the Registrar's Office. However, you are not required to submit a Dissertation Agreement if you register for doctoral studies in Architecture (Dr. techn.). It is possible to request a deadline extension for the submission of the dissertation agreement under certain conditions. For this purpose, please consult this information sheet.

PLEASE NOTE: You will be notified of the authorization of your Dissertation Agreement via e-mail to your Academy e-mail account. Therefore, please make sure that you check this account regularly, or have it forwarded to another email address of yours.

Entry of the Abstract and Profile into the Academy Online System

After receiving your Dissertation Agreement, the Registrar's Office will enter the data of your doctoral thesis into the Academy Online System. You can see your thesis data in your Academy Online account one to two weeks after submitting your Dissertation Agreement. From then on, you will be able to enter all required texts (abstract, profile, and full-text version of your thesis) yourself. Please provide your abstract in German and English; your profile (a short biography) must be either German or English.

Please note: Before submitting their thesis, doctoral candidates themselves may change any of their data that has been fed into our online system.

Writing of the Doctoral Thesis

In addition to doing research, writing your doctoral/Ph.D. thesis and passing several courses relevant to your doctoral studies, you are advised to acquire relevant skills and competencies by e.g. attending workshops etc. You will find some detailed information on workshops for doctoral candidates hosted by the Center for Doctoral Studies here. Additionally, exchanging information and networking with other Ph.D. candidates (by attending relevant conferences, talks, etc.) have often proven very useful in the past. The Center for Doctoral Studies regularly sends out newsletters providing more information on such events; therefore, please make sure to check your Academy e-mail account at regular intervals.

Submittal of the Doctoral Thesis

After completing your doctoral thesis, you are required to add a title page and an abstract in both German and English as well as a profile. Please find a template for your title page here.

As soon as you have completed your doctoral thesis, you can submit it electronically. For this purpose, please log onto the Academy Online System and upload a PDF of your thesis. Please note that after submitting the PDF, you are not permitted to make any changes to your thesis! The bound copies must correspond exactly to the submitted PDF. This is why you are not allowed to correct any typos afterward.

After uploading your thesis, you and your supervisor(s) will receive notification that your thesis can now be assessed and graded.

After uploading your thesis, you are required to submit the following documents to the Registrar's Office:

  • Two bound copies of your doctoral thesis (no spiral binding!)
  • Form "Declaration on Oath" (to be found here)
  • Form "Admission for Approbation" (to be found here)

The Registrar‘s Office proves the formal aspects and qualifications. According to a strict order they send requests to the potential appraisers. Please note that this process might take a while.

Preparation for the Admission for Approbation of the Dissertation

Together with your supervisor(s) you have to prepare a list of five or three potential external appraisers (depending on the curriculum), who you have to indicate within the form "Admission for Approbation" (to be found here). One of them will then be chosen to provide the second evaluation. Beforehand, please ensure that each of the external appraisers listed in the mentioned form is willing to provide such an evaluation and travel to Vienna for your Thesis Defense. You also can discuss with your supervisor(s) who might be eligible as an external appraiser. Basically, such appraisers have to be professors or members of faculty of the Academy or another university who are officially qualified to supervise dissertations there (venia docendi), who are experts in the respective field of your doctoral thesis, and who have not been involved in your supervision. The Registrar's Office will prove the qualifications formally. Please find the form here. Please note that obtaining the “venia” will extend the whole process of your submission.

Please be aware of the so-called “Venia,” which is stated by law (UG) regarding potential appraisers (normally, this means a habilitation and/or a professorship; lecturers from UK or Scandinavia need to prove that they have already successfully supervised Ph.D. candidates).

Appraisal and Assessment

Two appraisals are required for the assessment of your thesis: an appraisal by your supervisor (should you have two supervisors, they will submit a joint appraisal) plus an appraisal by an external appraiser who has not been involved in the supervision of your thesis. If you are registered in the curriculum of 2013, the final say in the choice of the external appraiser lies with the Vice-Rector for Art | Teaching.

The supervisor and the external appraiser will receive the thesis paper from the Registrar's Office as a PDF. Please note that your supervisor(s) and the external appraisers have a maximum of four months to assess and evaluate. To ensure that you can keep your preferred Thesis Defense date, you should submit your thesis at least six months before the scheduled day.

(Each of) the supervisor(s) is required to evaluate the thesis. Therefore, the final grade of the thesis is the mean value of both grades given by the respective appraisers/supervisors.

You are notified via email as soon as both appraisals have been submitted to the Registrar's Office. You can register for your Thesis Defense on the next calendar dates.

Registration for the Thesis Defense

The Thesis Defense is an oral and public presentation and defense of your thesis before an examination panel (“Prüfungssenat”). 

You are allowed to register for the Thesis Defense as soon as you have

  1. successfully completed all the courses required by the curriculum and
  2. both appraisals have been submitted, with a positive final grade for your thesis.

After submitting both appraisals, the Registrar’s Office informs your supervisor to nominate an examination panel and save the date for your defense. The examination board must be approved by the committee (Curricularkommission). Please fill in the form “Application for Admission to the Thesis Defense” (to be found here) and submit it to the Registrar's Office.

Before submitting these two forms, please clarify the desired date of your defense with all examination panel members. The best way to do this is to first contact the relevant institute secretariat.

If your examination panel comprises members who are not employees of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, they will be required to submit the forms "Data Sheet for External Examiners" as well as the "Confirmation of the External Examiners' Venia": (forms and documents)

Announcement of your Defense

The examination panel and date of your defense must be approved by the Vice-Rector for Art | Teaching.

The Defense must be held in public according to the law and therefore announced in advance. The Center for Doctoral Studies will be notified of your date by the Registrar’s Office and will announce it on the Academy's website, in the Academy's newsletter, and in case of the Ph.D.-in-Practice via SAR Announcement.

For the announcement, please send the following documents/information in German and English to the Center for Doctoral Studies (

  • Title of your dissertation thesis/project
  • Abstract of your dissertation thesis/project
  • Short biography
  • Optional: Images, incl. copyright information and description of the image


After successfully delivering your Thesis Defense, you have completed your doctoral studies. Congratulations! As soon as your final certificate is ready, you will receive an email from the Registrar's Office (please read this email carefully as you will have to obtain some statistics and a confirmation from the library). Then you can come and pick up your certificate. Please also notify the Registrar's Office whether you wish to participate in the degree award ceremony at the end of June.