The structure and the program of Cologne Graduate School are ideally suited for the training component of the school. Most of the coursework is concentrated in the first year. PhD students are supposed to acquire a defined number of credits. This practically implies that they will spend most of the first year acquiring the knowledge and skills they need to do independent research. As the focus of the school is on behavior, PhD students can deepen their knowledge in experimental design, behavioral theory or data analysis. As we immediately integrate PhD students into the research environment of the Max Planck Institute, they can early on identify fields of application or specialization that might be of particular interest for their intended projects. Depending on interests, this might imply that they also use the first year to deepen their topical knowledge, say in labor relations or industrial organization; that they lay theoretical foundations, say in mechanism design or welfare theory; or that they acquire additional skills, say in machine learning or Bayesian econometrics. All graduate teaching is in English. It is a deliberate feature of the Cologne program, as opposed to programs at other universities, that PhD students have freedom to put together a curriculum that fits their individual needs and research questions.
We are particularly pleased that U Cologne will make it possible for us to also organize a structured introductory phase for lawyers. In the predecessor school, attempts at organizing such a program within the school itself have failed as the number of PhD students in law was too small. Attempts at organizing such a program internationally (the Tinbergen Institute in Amsterdam would have been willing to run the program) have failed as not enough partners were willing to pledge participation. We will now use a combined approach. For the challenging translation of insights from economics, and of experimental findings, into legal discourse we will use the summer schools, and ad hoc events at the institute, as needs present themselves. Yet we will complement this exploration of the interface between the two disciplines with upfront training in economic concepts and methods. To that end, legal PhD students will be supposed to participate in a selection of (bachelor or master) courses offered by U Cologne through its regular program. Specifically this upfront training will cover
- mathematical foundations
- game theory
- (frequentist) statistics
- behavioral economics
- experimental design
All master courses at U Cologne are in English.
Every year we run a two-week long summer school. PhD students are required to participate in at least two summer schools. They are welcome to participate in a third one. The combined purpose of the summer school is exposure and team building. Every week we offer three week-long courses, with a focus on topics and methods that are particularly important for the analysis and the design of smart institutions. As all PhD students go through the training year, in these two weeks we do not focus on basics. We rather expose PhD students to latest trends, or to methods or paradigms off the trodden paths. These two weeks are also a natural opportunity for bringing in our international partners. We also intend the summer school to be a breeding ground for new research projects. Every year we reserve a certain number of positions at the summer school for PhD students from other contexts.
A second event that we hold every year is a thesis workshop. At this workshop, each PhD student presents (part of) her project, and gets feedback from Faculty as well as other PhD students. This workshop not only provides a natural moment for getting projects ready, and for improving presentation skills. It also informs every member of the school about the research that is emerging. This further facilitates collaborative endeavors.
The third event that we want to repeat every year is a topics workshop. This is meant to be a joint endeavor with some research community outside our school. Obviously this has also proven a good opportunity for networking.