The International Max Planck Research School for Successful Dispute Resolution (IMPRS-SDR) is a doctoral school located in Heidelberg (Germany) and Luxembourg. Founded in 2009, the Research School’s aim is to examine and analyse different mechanisms for solving international disputes. The participating institutions are the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for International, European and Regulatory Procedural Law, the Heidelberg University, the University of Luxembourg, the Max Planck Foundation for International Peace and the Rule of Law, and the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law (both in Heidelberg). Furthermore, in cooperation with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the IMPRS-SDR runs a funded internship program in international arbitration for doctoral students.

Research Focus

The IMPRS-SDR’s research topic focuses on major and increasingly important aspects of international relations in the public, private, and public/private spheres. In the public sphere, for example, various disputes between states, such as those pertaining to maritime delimitation, require dispute settlement institutions to find peaceful solutions that could not be achieved through negotiations or other nonviolent means. In the private sphere, globalisation, along with political, commercial and technological developments, means that parties are increasingly mobile and active on the international stage. As international mobility and activity increase, so does the number of disputes that must be brought before courts or other arbitral bodies. In the public/private sphere, substantial quantities of foreign direct investment are dependent on investment treaties that guarantee the legal protection of investment interests through arbitral tribunals.

In light of the possible EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the efficiency and fragmentation of international dispute resolution has become even more relevant. Matters relating to this topic will continue to be a significant focus of the Research School.

The IMPRS-SDR examines and compares international dispute settlement procedures primarily from a legal perspective, while also considering wider political, sociological and psychological aspects. One major issue is, for example, assessing why parties turn to dispute settlement rather than negotiation in order to achieve a particular outcome. The reasons may be internal to a state or due to differences between the relative economic or political power of the states concerned. Another important issue to consider is how the decisions of international courts or tribunals are implemented.

Complementing this multidisciplinary approach, a multinational student body has so far conducted outstanding research from a truly international standpoint. The IMPRS-SDR is now seeking up to ten new PhD students for its second working period, starting in June 2015, and an additional five in early 2017.

Educational Concept

The core educational concept of the IMPRS-SDR is to recognise that international legal research extends beyond any national legal approach. Every domestic legal culture has developed perspectives, objectives and rationales in a particular context. In the wider international context, however, researchers require broader perspectives in order to analyse problems insightfully and to conceive of feasible solutions.

1. Student Body

A core feature of the IMPRS-SDR international research environment is its international student body, which in the first working period from 2009 to 2015 was composed of 14 different nationalities (Belgian, Chilean, Chinese, Colombian, German, Greek, Icelandic, Italian, Mexican, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, and Ukrainian). The IMPRS-SDR is committed to maintaining this diversity. With all IMPRS-SDR students having a solid international background, their breadth of experience perfectly positions the IMPRS-SDR to realise a genuinely international and comparative approach, while their depth and variety of experience allows it to bridge the public-private divide in international law.  

2. Enrolment and Workspaces

IMPRS-SDR students are enrolled either at Heidelberg University or the University of Luxembourg and are given workspaces either at Heidelberg University or the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg, allowing them access to some of the most extensive legal libraries in the field of international law. Enrolment, as well as the distribution of workspaces to individual doctoral students depends upon different factors including the location of their supervisor, and most importantly, the focus of their research topics. Students are also invited to pursue part of their research abroad, as visiting researchers at other universities and research institutions, or to undertake fieldwork.

3. Supervision

Supervision takes places in two ways: first under the student’s primary supervisor; and second, under other participating professors. Participating professors and students have monthly Research School meetings that take place alternately in Heidelberg and Luxembourg. Students present their current research or, for example, a recent legal decision or other development which is important to their research (in English, the working language of the IMPRS-SDR). These meetings take the form of an open discussion to which faculty, supervisors, visiting professors and other legal experts also regularly contribute. The different legal backgrounds and shared perspectives of all participants generate a significant appreciation and understanding of the complexity and nuances of international legal issues. Furthermore, all doctoral students present and report on the progress of their research projects in biannual seminars. These also provide a comprehensive review of the IMPRS-SDR research position, which allows the School’s future agenda to be thoughtfully and carefully structured, according to student requirements. This avoids the need for unplanned adjustments.

4. Permanent Court of Arbitration

A unique feature and a cornerstone of the IMPRS-SDR is its cooperation with stakeholders in legal practice. The Research School offers selected doctoral students the opportunity for funded six or twelve-month internships at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and is in the process of extending this program to include the European Court of Justice and other institutions in the future. The internships at the Permanent Court of Arbitration are an exceptional opportunity for students pursuing arbitration research to complement their work by gaining experience in practice. The interns are fully integrated into the working processes of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. IMPRS-SDR staff will ensure that each internship closely relates to each student’s research.

Participating Institutions

1. Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for International, European and Regulatory Procedural Law

The Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for International, European and Regulatory Procedural Law is the first Max Planck Institute dealing with legal matters to have been opened outside Germany. Located in Luxembourg, which is known for its role in the constant development and expansion of the legal systems of EU Member States through the application of European law, and for being the location of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the institute is ideally positioned to focus on procedural law. One major emphasis of the Max Planck Institute is on establishing a continuous and productive dialogue with the European courts and institutions.

2. Heidelberg University

Founded in 1386, Heidelberg University is a leading German university. It is well known for its strong and comprehensive research focus and is a member of the League of European Research Universities (LERU). Heidelberg University participates in the IMPRS-SDR mainly through its Institute for Comparative Law, Conflict of Laws and International Business Law. With a strong reputation for cutting edge research in private international law, the Institute has in recent times played a major role in the publication of the Heidelberg Report on the Application of Regulation Brussels I and the Heidelberg-Vienna Report on the Application of the Insolvency Regulation (the latter in close co-operation with the MPI Luxembourg).

3. University of Luxembourg

The University of Luxembourg was founded in 2003 and aspires to become one of Europe’s most highly regarded universities. It has a distinctly international, multilingual and interdisciplinary character. The University will participate in the IMPRS-SDR primarily through its Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance. The Faculty is closely connected to and has established privileged partnerships with the European institutions in Luxembourg. Its international faculty includes 51 professors from 17 different countries and this is complemented by an extensive network of partnerships with over 25 leading universities around the world.

4. Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg

The Institute was founded in 1924 and located at the City Palace in Berlin. In 1949, it was established anew as the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg by the Max Planck Society. It focuses on basic research in public international law, European Union law and comparative constitutional and administrative law. The Institute's research examines legal issues from the perspective of legal doctrine and theory, systematizes and compares, and contributes to the development of law and to addressing current problems. In addition, the Institute hosts many visiting scholars from around the world who pursue their own research. The Institute also advises national, European and international institutions.

5. Max Planck Foundation for International Peace and the Rule of Law

Located in Heidelberg, the Foundation provides advice regarding reconstruction or restructuring of internal organization to states that are attempting to re-establish public order, are undergoing a change of direction, or have seceded from other states. It is mostly composed of foreign scholars with different educational backgrounds (for example, international law, foreign relations and political science). IMPRS-SDR doctoral students are invited to use the Foundation’s research facilities and in some cases are given the possibility to take part in the Foundation’s practical work.

Professors Involved

1. IMPRS-SDR Speakers and Supervisors

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Burkhard Hess, MPI Luxembourg/Heidelberg University
Prof. Dr. Thomas Pfeiffer, Heidelberg University
em. Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Rüdiger Wolfrum, MPI Heidelberg/Heidelberg University

2. IMPRS-SDR Supervisors

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans-Jörg Albrecht, MPI Freiburg/University of Freiburg
Prof. Dr. Gilles Cuniberti, LLM (Yale), University of Luxembourg
Prof. Dr. Dres. h.c. Werner Ebke, LLM (Berkeley), Heidelberg University
Prof. Dr. Matthew Happold, University of Luxembourg
Prof. Dr. Herwig C. H. Hofmann, University of Luxembourg
Prof. Dr. Christoph Kern, LLM (Harvard), Heidelberg University
Prof. Dr. Dres. h.c. Herbert Kronke, The Hague/Heidelberg University
Prof. Dr. Séverine Menétrey, University of Luxembourg
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Peter-Christian Müller-Graff, Heidelberg University
Prof. Dr. Anne Peters, LLM (Harvard), MPI Heidelberg/Heidelberg University
Prof. Dr. Andreas Piekenbrock, Heidelberg University
Prof. Dr. Ekkehard Reimer, Heidelberg University
Prof. Dr. Marta Requejo Isidro, MPI Luxembourg
Prof. Dr. Hélène Ruiz Fabri, MPI Luxembourg/University of Paris I Panthéon – Sorbonne
Prof. Dr. Marc-Philippe Weller, Heidelberg University

Advisory Board

The Advisory Board of the IMPRS-SDR currently consists of six internationally renowned professors and practitioners. Each is invited to take part in the IMPRS-SDR monthly meetings and biannual seminars and to offer their opinions and feedback on the research agenda of the IMPRS-SDR.

The members of the advisory council currently are:

Mr Alexis Mourre, Paris
Judge Prof. Dr. Allan Rosas, Turku/Luxembourg
Prof. Dr. Christoph Schreuer, Vienna
Judge Prof. Dr. Mark E. Villiger, Zurich/Strasbourg
Judge Prof. Dr. Andreas Voßkuhle, Freiburg/Karlsruhe
Sir Michael Wood, KCMG, Cambridge/London

Evaluation Report 2009 - 2014

Call for applications April 2015

Call for applications to the IMPRS-SDR: The deadline for applications for PhD positions in 2015-2018 expired on 2 April 2015. The selection process for all positions is already finished.

Click here to view the (expired) call for applications.