CS@max planck is a highly selective doctoral program that grants admitted students full financial support to pursue doctoral research in the broad area of computer and information science, with faculty at Max Planck Institutes and some of the best German universities.

To qualify for the program, students must hold a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in computer science (or a related field) and have an outstanding academic record.  We especially encourage applications from students who wish to explore research across the CS spectrum before committing to a topic and advisor.

Students normally start their graduate studies at the Saarland Informatics Campus in Saarbrücken.  While taking courses, they have the opportunity to explore research in different areas as part of immersion labs at different MPIs and universities. Latest in the 4th semester, they take the qualifying exam and start work with their chosen research advisor(s) at any of the participating MPIs or universities.

Why choose CS@max planck?

  • CS@max planck offers an internationally renowned research community, with world-class faculty across the full spectrum of computer and information science.
  • CS@max planck offers a stimulating environment that includes the top research institutes and universities in Germany, including the MPI for Informatics, MPI for Intelligent Systems, MPI for Software Systems, and their partner universities.
  • Before committing to a research topic, admitted students have the opportunity to explore different areas across the full spectrum of computer and information science. After committing to a group, students may continue to collaborate with other groups throughout the program. 
  • All admitted students are offered full financial support.
  • There are opportunities to transfer technology developed as part of graduate research with support from the Max Planck Society.
  • CS@max planck offers an English-speaking, multicultural, and diverse working environment.


Admission to the program is highly competitive. A Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree in CS or a closely related field from a top-tier institution of higher education is required. Applicants should have an outstanding academic record (at or near the top of their class), proficiency in spoken and written English, and strong letters of recommendation from their past academic advisors or work supervisors. Prior research experience is welcome but not required.

Application Procedure

Applications are accepted beginning September 1st through the online application system. You will need to provide the following material:

  • CV
  • transcripts
  • statement of purpose
  • contact information of at least two references providing recommendations
  • English test scores (TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge Test) are required unless you are a native speaker or have received a significant part of your education in English.
  • GRE scores are encouraged

You need to submit a complete application before we can process it. (The website displays missing fields in red.) Completed applications can be updated subsequently, e.g. to add an additional reference. We request references only for those applicants that pass a first round of review, i.e., we do not request references automatically.

Application Deadline

Applications for Fall admission must be completed by December 31 of the previous year. Phone or Skype interviews may be conducted with candidates short-listed for admission.

Program Structure

The program is divided into a preparatory and a dissertation phase.

Preparatory Phase

During the preparatory phase, students take courses to build on their existing knowledge of core computer science areas. Depending on a student’s prior academic background (e.g., MS degree), course requirements may be partially or completely waived at the time of admission. Students also have the opportunity to take specialized courses that focus on the development of scientific writing and presentation skills. These courses may be taken at any time during the program.

All incoming students are assigned an initial faculty mentor, but have the opportunity to explore different research areas through research immersion labs at different groups, institutes, and universities.  Students need not commit to an area, topic, or doctoral advisor until the end of the preparatory phase.

In addition to taking courses, students conduct research from the day they enter the doctoral program. Based on their initial research, students are required to pass a research qualifying exam, which is designed to evaluate the student’s ability to successfully obtain a doctoral degree. Completing the course requirements and passing the qualifying exam concludes the preparatory phase.

Dissertation Phase

During the dissertation phase, students do research and work towards their dissertation. Specific research projects can be done individually between student and primary adviser, or as part of collaborative teams that may span groups, institutes, universities, and include multiple faculty and external collaborators from around the world.

Teaching is both an important part of the academic training of a doctoral student and a uniquely effective learning experience. A student may complete the requirement to serve as a teaching assistant for two courses at any point in the program.

Students complete their doctoral studies by submitting a thesis and taking a public oral thesis defense exam. The exam consists of a scientific presentation by the student followed by a period of questioning by the thesis committee and the public.



Do students receive financial aid?
All doctoral positions are fully funded, including social benefits. Students also receive funding to attend conferences and other events related to their research, and have access to outstanding facilities.

Do I need to know English?
Yes, English is the program’s working language. Test scores are strongly encouraged for the application unless you are a native speaker or have completed a significant part of your prior studies in English.

Do I need to know German?
No, knowledge of German is not required, but you have the option of taking free German language courses during your graduate studies.

How long does a doctoral program usually take?
Graduate studies in the CS@max planck program usually last for 4-5 years.

Can students travel to conferences/summer schools?
CS@max planck provides funding for travel, and students regularly attend conferences or summer schools related to their research.

Can students go on research/industry internships?
Yes, internships are encouraged.

When can I start?
Graduate students normally begin their studies in early September. However, students may be able to start their research early, if agreed upon by student and initial advisor.

Do I get a degree from an MPI?
MPIs are not degree-granting institutions. Students obtain a doctoral degree from one of the program’s partner universities as well as a certificate of doctoral research from CS@max planck.

Do you provide help with visa proceedings?
Admitted students from non-EU countries receive documentation to support their application for a visa.

Where will I live?
During the preparatory phase, students normally stay in Saarbrücken. They may move temporarily for research immersion labs. Once a student commits to an area and primary research advisor, they move to the city of the advisor.  The program offers assistance in locating accommodation on a best-effort basis.

Your question wasn’t answered?
For more information regarding the CS@max planck graduate program, please contact the program coordinator: csmaxplanck@cis.mpg.de

Life in Germany

Living and Working in Germany

The booklet Living and Working in Germany from the Max Planck Society has most of the important information regarding visas, health insurance and medical care, finding and renting an apartment, and public transportation. It also includes useful checklists for what you need to bring and what you will need to take care of initially.