What is a PhD?

A PhD is the highest academic degree that can be obtained at a research university in the Netherlands. Unlike a Master’s degree with its compulsory subjects, doing a PhD gives you the freedom to devote your time to conducting independent research. In the Dutch university system, a PhD programme is accessible after completing a (Research) Master’s degree and it takes about four years to complete a PhD degree. The PhD title is awarded once you have succeeded in publicly defending your PhD thesis before a PhD committee.


High Quality Research

All HAEC member universities are committed to providing excellent quality of education to their PhD candidates. In fact, the high quality of PhD research and dissertations published has earned the Netherlands a place in the ranks of the world’s top universities: international impact scores show that Dutch research occupies a third place at global level, and the country ranks second in the world in terms of numbers of publications per researcher. Obtaining your PhD in the Netherlands will allow you to fully develop your talent and maximize your potential for building your future career in academia, industry or the public sector.


How to obtain a PhD position?

In the Netherlands, there are several ways to obtain a PhD:

• PhD candidates are generally recruited in open competition for a specific research project. The procedure may be so designed that those who have responded to an advertisement and who seem to be suitable candidates, are asked to submit a research proposal. This proposal will be a deciding factor in filling the PhD position.

• It may also be possible to create a PhD position by writing a proposal and arranging the necessary funding yourself. Such funding can be sought by submitting an application to, for example, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), or the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), or by seeking funding from external financiers. Please note that it is necessary to have a supervisor.

• Another option is to start as a so-called external PhD candidate, which means that you write a thesis on a subject of your own choice at your own cost. You are required to find a supervisor yourself. Although you are not employed by a university, you may be registered as a guest employee of your supervisor’s department, which will allow you to make use of a range of facilities. 


Please be aware that options to pursue a PhD may vary and that specific conditions may apply, so please make sure you always contact the university of your choice for further information.