PhD in the Czech Republic
General information about Czech education
The Czech Republic is located in the centre of Europe making it a very convenient location for work and study. European education has always been very popular with international students. It is no surprise that fifteen Czech universities are included in the QS World University Rankings 2022: Top Global Universities | Top Universities. The oldest Czech university, Charles University in Prague, ranked the highest (266th) out of a total of 1,300 universities on that list.
The Czech Republic is part of the European Union and Czech diplomas are highly valued all over Europe and in the USA. In the USA, similar to many other countries, Czech qualifications need to be nostrificated by the internal governing bodies. Usually, it is a very straightforward process.
Doctoral degree in the Czech Republic
Doctoral degree, often referred to as PhD, is the highest level of higher education system, which follows the Bologna process and consists of a total of three levels: Bachelor’s degree (3-4 years), Master’s degree (1-3 years) and Doctoral degree (3-4 years). The Czech Republic joined the Bologna process in 1999, taking time to adapt the Czech education system to reflect the European standard.
Which universities offer PhD programs?
In the Czech Republic there are 26 public and 44 private universities, offering higher education courses to students.
Only public universities are allowed to offer PhD programs to students. Students can choose to study in Czech or in English. If the chosen PhD program is in Czech then students can study free of charge, regardless of their nationality, provided their level of Czech is sufficient for their studies. Often students are required to be able to speak English in any case as international conferences require participation and presentation in English.
If international students choose to enrol in a PhD program in Czech language, they must be able to provide proof of their knowledge. Usually, a Czech language state examination document is required or if this is not available then the students will be asked to sit a Czech language exam at the university as part of their admission requirement.
What you need to know before you apply
In order to enrol in a PhD program, students need to have completed their Master’s degree program. A PhD is aimed at independent scientific research in the area of interest and possible further development.
In order to apply for a PhD program, students should submit their application at the right time. Normally there are two intakes during the year (April and October), however, this depends on university. The application should also contain an up-to-date CV and a motivational letter, nostrificated educational documents, proving the current level of education (usually Master’s degree certificate), as well as a list of published works (if any) and gained experiences. Applicants must indicate their intended study program, research area of interest for their doctoral thesis and a name of their intended supervisor, which can usually be selected from the list of names available on the university website.
Humanities or Natural Sciences
PhD programs in Humanities and Natural Sciences are very different. Students of the Faculty of Science at Charles University, for example, usually join supervisor’s research group and spend a lot of time in laboratories.
Students of the Faculty of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities or Faculty of Social Sciences, on the other hand, work on their projects independently and only occasionally consult with their supervisor.
PhD programs in Natural Sciences imply teamwork, whereas programs in Humanities are focused on individual work.
Therefore, PhD programs in Natural Sciences take a great deal of time, so students rarely have an opportunity to combine study with work. Humanities degree students, on the other hand, attend university only a few times a month and are able to find employment more easily.
28% of doctoral dissertations in the Czech Republic are written in technical disciplines, 20% in natural sciences and 14% in social sciences.
Personal study plan: seminars, conferences and publications
The standard PhD program takes between 3 to 4 years to complete (depending on the field of research). This period is included in the study guide and a student is expected to submit a personal study plan for the whole period.
At the beginning of the studies, a PhD student writes up a personal study plan for the entire period of study. It includes compulsory and additional courses, publications, internships, conferences. The personal study plan is then signed by the supervisor and approved by the appropriate Academic Board. The plan must include not only the minimum requirements specified in the guide, but also the personal ambitions of the student. A PhD student is expected to present at an international conference at least once a year and publish at articles in peer-reviewed journals.
An internship abroad is generally not a requirement, but it is highly recommended that PhD students take this opportunity wherever possible. An internship can take between 1 to 12 months and is fully or partially funded by the faculty.
PhD students also have an opportunity to write their dissertation under joint-supervision.
PhD programs imply scientific activities. As a rule, teaching is not usually required, however, a lot of PhD students take on some teaching duties in their departments. Lectures or seminars held by a PhD student for undergraduate or postgraduate students are often rewarded.
Unlike Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs, PhD programs (in most fields) are not based on a credit system. The fulfilment of the personal study plan is the most important thing for a PhD student. The assessment takes place once a year, rather than once per term.
Once a year PhD students are expected to speak at a Doctoral Seminar and talk about the progress of their research. At the end of the academic year, students are required to write a report, where they describe the progress of the research to date, list all of the publications, internships, trips abroad, and subjects studied.
At the end of the year, the Supervisor carries out an assessment awarding a corresponding grade (A, B, or C). The final assessment is made by the Academic Board on the basis of the student’s annual report. The Academic Board also decides whether a student can continue the study, as well as defines the amount of the scholarship.
Every year over 45,000 of international students choose to study in the Czech Republic.
Statistics from the Ministry of Education indicate, that 2020 saw an increase of over 20% in overall enrolments from international students, including students from India and Iran.
Czech education is traditionally considered to be of high quality. There are a total of 26 public and 44 private universities in the Czech Republic. 9 public universities and 36 private universities are based in Prague, which makes it the best Czech city to study in.
Bachelor’s degree in the Czech Republic
In order to enrol in a Bachelor’s degree program, students need to present their certificate of completion of the full secondary education. International students are required to have this document nostrificated either through the university of their choice (many universities now offer this service as part of their admission procedure) or independently though other authorised organisations.
Usually, students are admitted based on their previous academic achievements, however, sometimes students must sit entrance exams to prove their suitability for the program.
International students, wishing to take advantage of free higher education in the Czech Republic, must sit Czech language state examination to confirm their Czech language proficiency (level B2 or above).
Master’s degree in the Czech Republic
To enrol in a Master’s degree program, students are required to present their Bachelor’s degree certificate, which must be nostrificated if it was issued by an international higher education institution. International students may be required to sit entrance exams to make sure their knowledge is in line with the program requirements. These can differ depending on university.
Typically, there is no strict requirement for students to follow the specialisation of their Bachelor’s degree as long as they satisfy all other requirements and successfully pass all necessary examinations, including Czech language proficiency examination, where required.
Advantages of PhD in the Czech Republic
Many international students come to the Czech Republic to complete their PhD degrees. Some students choose their university based on opportunities to conduct scientific research. Many Czech universities have state of the art laboratories and enjoy well established communication channels with other universities in different countries around the world.
According to Report on Research at Czech Universities, many Asian students enrol in programs in Health and Welfare (12.3%) or Natural Sciences (9.6%). Other popular specialisations include Business, Administration and Law (20%), Engineering, Construction and Manufacturing (15%).
One of the major advantages of getting your PhD degree in the Czech Republic is the opportunity to do it absolutely free of charge, as long as you study in Czech.
This said, many international students prefer to study in English and although all PhD programs taught in English are tuition based, they are still more affordable than elsewhere in Europe or in the USA. As an example, the set tuition fee for international students studying in English at the faculty of Electrical Engineering at the Czech Technical University in Prague is only 500 CZK per semester, which is equivalent to only 20 Euro.
How to prepare
When students know what specialisation they would like to pursue and at what university, they can start preparing to apply to study there. GoStudy is an education provider, offering Czech language classes and university preparatory courses to help students prepare for admission to Czech universities. From 2020 it became possible for international students to attend integrated online preparatory programs, offered by GoStudy. Students can choose from Medical, Humanitarian, Economics, Technical or Creative Arts study programs.
Tutors at GoStudy do their utmost to help international students achieve their dreams of being able to study at one of many universities in the Czech Republic!