The programme is research-oriented, and its curricular structure rests on four pillars: the research programme, i.e. a scientific project towards a doctoral thesis, the training programme comprising scientific lectures and seminars, qualification as part of the training programme, meaning courses with a broader scope including a yearly one-week retreat (summer school), and the teaching programme. Scientific exchange is further encouraged through journal clubs and attendance of international conferences on topics in astronomy, astrophysics or the planetary sciences. The scientific project is guided by a Thesis Advisory Committee, 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 meeting and written report. 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). Further scientific lectures on elective subjects in physics and astrophysics may be attended at any time in the course of the whole PhD period. At least one of these lectures must be outside the PhD candidate's own field of research. 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. Attendance of the weekly doctoral seminar (Solar System Science "S3" seminar) is also mandatory; and attendance may be recommended for institute seminars, department seminars and group meetings. 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.