I am in the process of finishing my PhD thesis (at a university in Germany) and one of the things I am not sure about is how to correctly name the members of the PhD defence committee.

I have seen other students write:


Prof. Dr. X

Prof. Dr. Y

and this seems to be correct, but I have not found a site where one could check this. The PhD thesis is written in English, but the first couple of pages (containing the list of members of the committee, the name of the university etc.) are in German.

Is the above naming ok? Any suggestions would be very appreciated (especially if supported with references where one can check them).

  • Is this a question about the word "Gutachter" or about the "Prof. Dr."?
    – Carsten S
    Nov 4, 2014 at 9:12

3 Answers 3


Such things vary across universities in Germany and maybe even faculties (Academia always varies more than you think it does) and thus the only way to get a definite answer is to look into your faculty’s regulations or ask the office to which you hand in your thesis (in my university that would be the dean’s office). If anybody is picky about this, it’s usually this office and thus their opinion matters, no matter how well-reasoned your choice is. Another good choice is looking into recent theses of other persons (what seem to have done) or asking your supervisor. All these sources will give you more helpful information than this platform can ever do.

That being said, namings that I am aware of are (first examiner, second examiner, examiner):

  • Erstgutachter, Zweitgutachter, Gutachter
  • Erstprüfer, Zweitprüfer, Prüfer
  • Referent, Korreferent
  • Hauptberichter, Mitberichter

As you may have already guessed, the prefixes Erst- and Zweit- mean first and second. Also note that if one examiner is female, some persons are offended if you do not use the female variant (e.g., Erstgutachterin), some are offended if you do use it – once again you have to ask the people mentioned in the first paragraph.


To add to Wrzlprmft's answer: check out whether it is required to mention not only the title (Prof. / Dr.), but also the academic degree, e.g. Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Max Schlaumeier. IMO one would usually do this, but I am long out of the academic business.

  • Also it might be relevant to mention them as "Herr Prof. Dr. ..." just like you do in letters or mails to them. We can only guess, you have to ask the responsible people at your university.
    – user10954
    Nov 3, 2014 at 22:52

"Gutachter" applies to the People who were evaluating your thesis. These two are usually part of the PhD defence committee, but at least in my field (natural sciences) it is very unusual (or even impossible) that the PhD defence committee is limited to these two people.

What you should write on the first couple of pages usually includes both "Gutachter". I made a mistake on the formalities and was later given the chance to correct my error. However, if you are unsure, I would first ask your secretary for help/ directions whom to ask.

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