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Fully Funded Volkswagen Foundation Freigeist Fellowships - Germany

Volkswagen Foundation Freigeist Fellowships 2021 – Germany

  • University or Research Institution
  • Fully Funded
  • Germany
  • Any Subject
  • International Young Researchers
  • April 01, 2021

Applications are invited for Fully Funded Volkswagen Foundation Freigeist Fellowships at Germany.


The Freigeist funding initiative provides an opportunity for outstandingly qualified, creative and inde- pendent early career researchers to conduct their own research. It aims to encourage exceptional research personalities to embark on visionary, risk-taking research projects at the intersections between established fields of research. The flexible funding scheme and clear time frame are designed to ensure maximum support for their self-chosen research topic and thus help them develop an en- tirely independent research profile.

A ‘Freigeist’ Fellow: for the Volkswagen Foundation this means a young researcher with a strong personality, a creative mind, an ability to identify and use freedom, dedicated to overcoming obstacles. A ‘Freigeist’ Fellow opens up new horizons and combines critical analysis with imagination and innova- tive solutions.


Depending on the nature of the Freigeist Fellowships project, up to €2,200,000 for two funding phases is available.

  • The first funding phase can encompass either five or six years. This allows the Fellow to be hired as a W1 Junior Professor for the duration of the grant. It is expected that Fellows participate in academic teaching (including examinations), involving generally a teaching load of between two and four weekly hours per semester.
  • A second funding period of two or three years is possible, whereby the total funding period (including the first funding phase) must not exceed eight years. The prerequisite is a positive evaluation carried out by the Foundation and a clear perspective for the continuation of the Freigeist Fellow’s position on the part of the host institution. Flexibility is ensured by allowing a change to another institution for the second phase.


To be eligible for Freigeist Fellowships, applicant must:

  • Have obtained a doctorate not longer than four years but at least one year previously (with regard to the date of the defence relative to the deadline of the initiative)
  • Ensure that the Fellowship will be integrated within a university or an extra-mural research institution in Germany
  • Have already changed your academic environment and moved to a new location – at the latest when starting the Fellowship. A return to the working context of the doctorate will only be accepted under exceptional circumstances
  • Have completed a previously research sojourn abroad, at the latest integrated in the proposed research project

Selection Criteria

  • The applicant’s personal qualifications
  • The scientific quality and originality of the project
  • Accuracy of fit between the project proposal, applicant’s personal profile, and aims of the fund- ing initiative
  • A capability for independent research
  • The potential for breakthroughs, new methodological approaches, interdisciplinary cooperation
  • A constructive approach to possible risks


The following documents need to be uploaded as attachments (pdf-files; in English unless otherwise specified) within the Electronic Application System for Freigeist Fellowships:

  • Cover letter including Self-Assessment: “Why Freigeist?“ (max. two pages)
  • Summary of the project in German (max. one page)
  • Summary of the project in English (max. one page)
  • Illustrative and creative presentation of the project in layman’s terms, e.g. video, podcast, newspaper article etc. (max. 2 minutes/1 page)
  • Project proposal (in sum not more than 15 pages, 12 pt, 1.5 lines) containing:
    • Project description
    • Teaching concept
    • Reasons for choosing the host institution and description of research infrastructure
    • Details of cooperation partners
    • Information, if this or a similar application has been or will be sent to other funding organiza- tions
    • Schematic working plan and time schedule
  • List of references/bibliography
  • Justification of budget (explanation for costs applied for) including host institution’s contribution
  • Where applicable, quotations for equipment costing more than 10,000 Euro (one pdf-file if pos- sible)
  • CV (including date of thesis defense or doctoral viva) and list of publications
  • Copy of doctoral degree award/PhD certificate
  • Binding declaration on the part of the host institution (English if possible)
  • Optionally: up to three publications/manuscripts authored by the applicant (as separate pdf- files)