Upon arrival in Göttingen, PhD candidates accepted into the IMPRS are guided through the enrolment process by the IMPRS coordinator. Most students of the Solar System School are enroled as PhD students in the doctoral programme of the Faculty of Physics at the University of Göttingen. By special request, they may instead be enroled in a different doctoral programme at the University of Göttingen or at a different partner university. The establishment of a thesis committee is a prerequisite for admission and enrolment at the university. To request admission, accepted IMPRS candidates have to apply to the faculty ("step 1"). Candidates with acceptance/confirmation by the faculty then continue the enrolment process with data entry via internet and subsequent steps ("step 2" to "step 5").
The programme is research-oriented and includes a curricular structure with seven modules.
The research programme comprises a scientific project towards a doctoral thesis guided by a thesis committee (with yearly progress reports), scientific presentation and communication (presentations at conferences in the form of posters or talks), and scientific writing (publication of peer-reviewed papers in international scientific journals). The training programme comprises advanced and additional scientific qualification in theory and practice (scientific lectures or courses at the graduate level). The teaching programme comprises tutorial teaching such as tutoring of exercises, seminars, labs or theses. The training programme in key competencies comprises qualification courses with a broader scope including the annual retreat of the IMPRS.
The scientific project is guided by a Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC), consisting of two to three senior scientists of which one typically is a member of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and at least one is a Full Professor at the University of Göttingen (in most cases in the Institute for Astrophysics or the Institute for Geophysics) or another university. The regulations for the Thesis Advisory Committee include a yearly seminar talk in conjunction with a TAC meeting and written reports. Attendance of the weekly doctoral seminar (Solar System Science "S3" seminar) is mandatory; and attendance may also be recommended for institute seminars, department seminars and group meetings. Scientific exchange is further encouraged through journal clubs and attendance of international conferences on topics in astronomy, astrophysics or the planetary sciences. Students in the IMPRS are expected to publish a minimum of two papers during their PhD period, based on the results of their research project. The scientific lectures comprise a compulsory graduate-level two-semester course on Solar System Science (Part I: The Central Star, Part II: The Planetary System). At least one of these lectures must be outside the PhD candidate's own field of research. Further scientific lectures on elective subjects in physics and astrophysics may be attended at any time in the course of the whole PhD period. The elective subjects can be selected from the full range of graduate-level physics lectures offered by the Faculty, including those given by lecturers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research on stellar astrophysics, solar physics, planetary science and more. The qualification courses comprise the three compulsory courses "Good Scientific Practice", "Writing of Scientific Papers", and ''Career Development". Further elective qualification courses can be selected from a wide range of topics offered both by the IMPRS as well as by its academic partners.
The prescribed period of study is six semesters, i.e. three years. The courses in the physics/astrophysics curriculum are offered in English language, and all examinations required can be performed in English language. The Faculty, represented by the Dean, therefore routinely waives any requirements for a German language certificate for IMPRS PhD candidates. The PhD regulations are available in German language and in an English translation, and IMPRS PhD candidates are guided through the enrolment, thesis submission and examination process by their Thesis Advisory Committee and the IMPRS programme coordinator.
Students must successfully complete all curricular requirements before submission of their thesis. The PhD thesis has to be written in English or German. The default format is a monograph. By special request, students can submit a cumulative thesis instead.
The thesis defense includes an oral presentation of the major results in form of a formal scientific lecture, followed by a scientific discussion with all attendants, which may subject the broader area of the Research School. The doctoral committee decides whether the student has passed the thesis defense and grades the performance during the defense.
The Ph.D. or Dr. rer.nat. degree will be granted by the University of Göttingen, according to the PhD regulations, after acceptance of the PhD thesis by the thesis committee, a successful defense and subsequent publication of the thesis.
A smaller fraction of the IMPRS students are not enroled in the GAUSS PhD programme in physics, but are enroled in the GAUSS PhD programme in geosciences or in the GAUSS PhD programme in computer science instead. Within the overall framework of GAUSS, the curricular requirements of the IMPRS translate to the curricular requirements in these closely related disciplines without difficulty.
By special request, a student may compile the thesis in the Research School, but receive the PhD from another university.