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Help and support in case of problems and conflicts

Conflicts between doctoral candidates and supervisors

While working on your dissertation project, disagreements with your supervisor may arise. If so, make an appointment with your supervisor and raise your concerns as early and informally as possible.  Misunderstandings or unspoken expectations are often the reason for negative tension and conflicts between people.

If despite everyone's best efforts problems remain unresolved, you may consider approaching or inviting a third person for a joint discussion.

The following ombudspersons can be contacted in cases of conflict in the respective faculties:

Do not hesitate to contact us in case of conflicts with your supervisor. We will discuss possible next steps confidentially and/or find a mediator.

Violation of Good Scientific Practice – What to do in suspected cases

If you suspect your advisor or one of your colleagues of infringing the Principles of Good Scientific Practice, you are encouraged to contact the Ombudsperson who has been commissioned by the University of Cologne to provide assistance in such cases.

With the Ombudsperson you can, as a first step, discuss your suspicion. These meetings are strictly confidential and do not automatically induce any formal process. The Ombudsperson will then examine the case in more detail. If he or she finds effective evidence of scientific misconduct, the Ombudsperson will inform the internal Committee on Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice of the University of Cologne. The Committee will examine and discuss the case in still further detail and – if necessary – also hear the persons involved. If a violation of Good Scientific Practice is verified, the Committee will inform the Rector of the University of Cologne.

Should you hesitate to apply to the Ombudsperson directly, you can certainly also contact us at first. Together, we can confidentially discuss how to proceed.

Ombudsperson is:

Prof. Dr. Otto Depenheuer
Faculty of Law
phone: +49 (0)221 / 470 5613 (assistant)

Committee on Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice

Guidelines on Good Scientific Practice and Dealing with Academic Misconduct (University of Cologne; in German)

Memorandum of the German Research Foundation (DFG) on Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice (English and German)

Discrimination and harassment

The University of Cologne strives to be a safe, non-discriminatory and non-violent place for studying, teaching and working. Any member of its community is encouraged to take responsibility for themselves and for others. The University of Cologne does not discriminate, nor does it permit discrimination or harassment of, any individual on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, disability, citizenship, or any other classification protected by law in matters of admissions, employment, housing, or services or in the educational programs or activities it operates.

Please contact the Gender Commissioner (GC) of the University of Cologne for help and counsel.

Each faculty at the University of Cologne has a liaison officer or an advisor (in German) who deals with issues of discrimination and harassment. Feel free to make an appointment to discuss your concerns.

If you are uncertain whom to contact or need help, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Personal issues

Pursuing a doctorate can bring challenges that you do not feel able to meet. If you experience a lot of stress, e.g. due to a conflict, make sure to seek support. The University of Cologne offers counseling services to assist you in difficult situations.
Enrolled doctoral candidates with mental health problems or stress-related complaints may turn to the Beratung & Soziale Angebote des Kölner Studierendenwerks (in German).

Employees of the University of Cologne can receive coaching and counselling at the Betriebliche Mitarbeiter*innen- und Führungskräfteberatung (in German).

If you are looking for further assistance and counseling services, please contact us.