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PhD at the HfG

Portrait about Pia Scharf

Film und Music: Daniel Herzog

Why embark on a doctorate at an arts university?

In addition to university research on the arts, there is also a research program that develops in closer exchange with the arts. Here creative, artistic and design strategies, corresponding ideas and discoveries are not only interpreted, but within a meshwork of artistic-creative practice and scientific reflection they are themselves part of the research. Addressing both forms of knowledge has the potential to generate productive new insights.
This is why we offer HfG Offenbach graduates of art, design, media studies or related sciences the option to obtain a Doctor of Philosophy in a model that merges science with art. There are two main subject areas:

Art and Media Studies

Design Studies

HfG Offenbach

As an arts and design university of the State of Hessen, HfG Offenbach teaches some 600 students in the two departments Visual Communication (VC) and Product Design (PD). Studying at HfG Offenbach allows students to combine different artistic and creative subjects. Moreover, a comparison of art universities reveals an unusually high proportion of theoretical study.

Combination of science/theory and art/design

The close interlinking of scientific-theoretical and artistic-creative spheres at HfG Offenbach is also reflected in the doctoral degree. The research projects doctoral students tackle consist of a scientific part (two-thirds) and an artistic-creative part. These two parts are not separate, but enter into a complementary relationship with each other. Consequently, the research-based structure of the artistic-creative part and the artistic-creative inspiration of the theoretical work become evident.
In keeping with two-thirds/one-third division, doctoral students are supervised by two professors from scientific/theoretical fields of teaching and one professor from the artistic-creative fields of teaching.Departing from the 50/50 models, HfG Offenbach acts on the premise that a focus on science and research work is indispensable and adopts a two-thirds/one-third model​. This is the only way that students have good prospects of obtaining the skills needed for fields of work at universities, art universities, or in the curatorial or journalistic fields.
At HfG Offenbach there is the possibility to choose between two doctoral regulations. If the research projects of the doctoral students consist of two-thirds scientific work and one-third an artistic-creative project (Offenbacher Model) the 'Allgemeine Promotionsordnung' (A-PO) apply. For a purely theoretical dissertation project, the 'Theoriepromotionsordnung (T-PO) apply.

Doctoral studies at HfG Offenbach

  • ​Doctoral colloquiums: on a regular basis​
  • The possibility of participating in and using the seminars offered by HfG

  • Studio and library study areas: at HfG Offenbach for doctoral students (depends on availability)

Study requirements

In order to be accepted as a doctoral student candidates must generally have completed studies and gained either a Diplom, Magister Artium, Master of Arts or first degree in a scientific or artistic-creative course of studies at a university or art university.
Selected candidates must present their doctoral project to the doctoral committee at HfG Offenbach.

Positions for doctoral students

The university has set up three (Art) and two (Design) part-time research assistant posts, each of which is to be filled for three years by doctoral students at HfG Offenbach.


Application process for doctoral studies

Application documents

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • if applicable, list of publications
  • indication of language skills
  • copies of all relevant qualifications
  • if applicable, artistic/creative portfolio

and an approx. ten-page research outline containing a

  • brief explanation why the Offenbach Ph.D. model is especially appropriate for your particular project
  • detailed project description (approx. 7 pages, common formatting)
  • study plan (approx. 0,5 page)
  • bibliography on the research topic (approx. 2 pages)​


We would ask you to understand that we can only accept application documents in a digital format (the application link follows at the beginning of each semester).

The next application deadline is May 13, 2024. Link to the application form here.



Prof. Dr. Tom Bieling 


Riccarda Weih 

Research Assistant

T +49 (0)69.800 59-296​


Art and Media Studies

In keeping with the four theoretical subjects of the Department of Art relevant to the doctoral degree

  • History of Art ​
  • Philosophy/Aesthetics 
  • Sociology/Media Theory 
  • Theory of Perception 

    The term »Art and Media Studies« covers various options. For example, the scientific part of the dissertation can both concentrate on the subject areas and methods of just one of the subjects listed above (see the description of these subjects) and combine these subjects; ultimately it is possible to combine them with one of the two scientific/theoretical subjects of the Department of Design.

    However, in keeping both with the context of an art university and with the special fusion of science/theory and artistic-creative practice in line with the Offenbach Model, the focus is decidedly on the Modern Age through to the present day, and the spectrum of subjects involved would suggest systematic and interdisciplinary issues. Moreover, as students are required to combine them with one of the artistic-creative subjects from Visual Communication, research topics also tend to reflect the types of arts and media taught in Offenbach.

    »Art and Media Studies« questions the reasons and motives of the more recent development of art and media production, their typologies, ways of dealing with them, social functions, dependencies and repercussions of more recent arts and media, and manners of perception in terms of both physiology/psychology and cultural theory/philosophy. Crossovers between free artistic work and applied design can be examined.

    The specific meshing of theory and design after the Offenbach Model can also include transformations from the merely analytical recording of trends to initiating and helping shape developments with a promising future – say, in the framework of creative experimentation.

Design studies

A doctoral degree in Design Studies aims at researching and expanding design theory and history, aesthetics and theory of perception, as well as cultural and technical theories. The focus of research is on the area of product language and product semantics. In particular, it encompasses research relevant to design in the field of aesthetics and semiotics (semantics and symbolism). In addition, how users handle products is proving to be an increasingly important field of research. Meaning develops both on a purely symbolic level and in everyday use. As such, interaction between people and objects represents a further field of research that is to be emphasized at HfG Offenbach.

Focusing on these research areas not only promises new insights into the constituent field of design studies, but also has repercussions on design education. This effectively links onto insights and previous research achieved at the university: In the 1980s an Offenbach approach to product language was developed, which has since attained great international renown and receives significant attention from the design research community
While internationally the area of design research​ has already been institutionalized for some 20 years (university institutes, specialist congresses, expert associations), the process of establishing design research in Germany has only just begun. There is a growing need for a more scientific approach to design given that it has become ever more important in the context of more recent cultural, economic, social and technical developments. And this fact is being increasingly emphasized both by politicians and the business world, as well as by those training to become designers at universities and art academies.

Dissertation themes


Dissertation themes