Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellowship programs

A presentation of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellowship programs was held online on the 1st of July. This workshop was a part of a joint HSE University and FUB project “Populism and New Conservatism in East and West: Socio-Economic and Political Patterns at the Beginning of the 21st Century” supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

During the workshop three main speakers presented different aspects of the fellowship programs: Steffen Mehlich, the head of Sponsorship and Network Department at the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AhV), and two former AhV fellows Andrei Yakovlev, the ICSID and IIMS director, and Alexander Chepurenko, academic supervisor of the School of Sociology at the HSE University.

The video of the presentation is available in Russian:

Here is a brief statement of main points:

Steffen Mehlich explained the difference between the two types of Humboldt Research Fellowships. Both programs aim at highly-qualified postdoctoral fellows of all nationalities and research areas. The first program is more suitable for postdoctoral researchers who completed their doctorates less than four years ago. The second one is for experienced researchers who got their postdoctoral degree less than twelve years ago.

Humboldt research fellows are encouraged to spend long periods of time in Germany to work on their projects (from 6 to 24 months for postdoctoral fellows and from 6 to 18 months for experienced scholars). The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation takes care not only of the main expenses but also helps to establish scientific network with other AvH fellows. In total around 34% of applications submitted by Russian scholars were approved positively by the Foundation in some recent years.

The German Chancellor Fellowship for Future Leaders aims at people with at least Bachelor Degree and leadership experience. The AvH steering Commission is looking for motivated candidates with strong vision for the future, who want to develop partnership with German institutions (universities, firms, NGOs, etc.) while designing and implementing their individual projects and careers.

The IIMS and ICSID director Andrei Yakovlev commented on his own experience with the German Chancellor Fellowship and shared some practical tips on submitting a compelling application. 

While the Humboldt Research Fellowship is focused on scientific research only, the German Chancellor Fellowship has much to do with nurturing prospective leaders. Thus, it provides exceptional opportunities in terms of improving one’s German, immersing in the German way of life and making new connections. 

Global competition presented within the Research Fellowship context may challenge the majority of researchers in the fields of humanities and social sciences, yet it is somewhat easier for those to receive the German Chancellor Fellowship.

The 3 pillars of a good research project : 

  1. Make very clear why the project is relevant to both Russia and Germany; 
  2. Explain why the project must be implemented in Germany;
  3. Describe the impact this project would have on your academic career.

Finding an academic host could pose a certain challenge, that's why it’s important to put enough time and effort into building effective communication with an academic host.  

Three important things to know according to Alexander Chepurenko:

  • A good German language is welcomed, but isn’t compulsory, especially for scientific fellows
  • Family members are able to visit Germany for the whole time of the fellowship and their stay is also supported with small scale
  • “Once Humboldtian, always Humboldtian”: the Foundation has a program of long life contact with former fellows supporting their career development in different forms and maintaining the networking of members of the “Humboldt family”.

Should the application be rejected, the first thing is to analyze the possible reasons, pointed out Alexander Chepurenko. With the German Chancellor Fellowship applications, it’s best to scrutinize one's form and re-apply in a year. In the case of the Research Fellowship, one should go over the recommendation letters and the communication with their academic host to see what can be improved. 

Recommendation letters are crucial to a successful application. It’s vital to have impressive recommendations from colleagues outside of the applicant’s academic immediate circle, added Steffen Mehlich. 

The application deadline for The German Chancellor Fellowship for Future Leaders is 15 October of each year. Filling out the application form and making contact with an academic host takes time so it’s advised to start planning and preparation in advance. 

Visit the Humboldt Foundation website for details. All applicants are encouraged to contact the Foundation via email to receive consultation on the application process (in English or German).