Pursuing a PhD in the Netherlands
Why choose the Netherlands for your PhD?
The Netherlands has:
- excellent graduate schools;
- a large variety of research fields and extensive interdisciplinary collaboration;
- world-class research: ten Dutch research universities are ranked in the top 200 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022;
- mostly paid employment contracts for PhD candidates.
Research schools and graduate schools
All PhD candidates are part of a graduate school or research school. Research schools are partnerships between multiple research universities and research institutes, while graduate schools are organised within universities. Both provide an inspiring research environment, offering tailor-made study programmes, master classes, seminars and conferences.
A Dutch PhD is highly regarded
Once your dissertation is approved for publication, you will attend the public defence of your research and will be awarded the PhD at a ceremony steeped in tradition. A PhD from a Dutch university is highly regarded because of the high academic standards. The Netherlands has an excellent international ranking for the number of publications per researcher (2nd) and for the impact of research publication (4th).
Where are PhDs offered?
In the Netherlands, research is carried out by research universities, research institutes and companies, but only research universities can award PhD degrees. Other research institutes that work in close collaboration with a research university may also offer PhD positions.
Most PhD posts will often be advertised on job boards, such as AcademicTransfer, in scientific journals, or on notice boards at other institutions. If you see a PhD position that interests you, contact the institution directly about the application procedure.
Your own research proposal
If you have a specific research proposal of your own and cannot find a vacancy to match it, you may pitch your idea to universities or research groups that conduct research in the relevant field and are able to provide funding.
Admission and funding
Admission criteria for PhD positions are rigorous, and potential candidates must have a solid background in the theory and methods of their field as well as a recognised master’s degree. PhD students from other countries generally choose to write their dissertation in English and will therefore need to demonstrate a good command of English idiom and grammar before the dissertation begins.
Funding your PhD position
In the Netherlands, there are generally 3 ways to fund your PhD:
- employed by the PhD-awarding institution;
- with a fellowship or grant awarded by a supporting body;
- with sponsorship from your employer.
Employed by an institution
The majority of PhD candidates in the Netherlands have an employment contract with the institution where they will be conducting their research.
Fellowship or grant
About one sixth of PhD candidates in the Netherlands find funding in the form of a fellowship or grant, and many of these come from abroad. Once you have found a fellowship or grant, you will need to find a supervisor at a research institution willing to support you. Organisations offering fellowships and grants can be found on the EURAXESS website and at our Finances overview.
Sponsored by your employer
It is sometimes possible to study for a PhD part-time while working. If you and your employer are interested in this option, you should contact the institution of your choice for more information.
Some Dutch institutions charge fees for enrolment, supervision and access to laboratories and other facilities. Each research university is free to decide on how much it charges and fees do vary from one discipline to the next, depending on whether expensive equipment is required or not.
The EURAXESS website provides detailed practical information useful for researchers (including PhD candidates) coming to the Netherlands, covering immigration procedures, social security, taxation, healthcare insurance, etc. If you need an entry visa, your prospective institution will advise you on the correct procedure for your particular situation.