PhD in Netherlands – Your Complete Guide

The Netherlands is one of the prestigious destinations for all international students for higher education. It has some of the well-known and top-ranked universities in Europe. It is a country that has developed rich traditions of artistic, cultural, and scientific achievement. The country’s multicultural and multilingual population also means that most of its doctoral programmes are taught in English.

Like in the UK, doctoral research in the Netherlands is carried out on a specific topic and documented in a thesis that presents the student’s results and conclusions. In most countries, a doctoral candidate is considered a student who studies and does research. But in the Netherlands, PhD candidates are traditionally researchers employed by a university to complete a dissertation or thesis. Since these jobs allow you to complete your PhD degree while earning a salary and without paying tuition fees, they are highly competitive. Once you are hired, your research will be conducted on the topic specified in the vacancy and in conjunction with a faculty, research institute or research school. Most candidates complete their PhD within four years. So, this means you have social security, build up retirement funds, pay taxes, and are expected to perform like an employee, fulfilling certain functioning criteria.

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.

PhD Supervision in Netherlands

PhD students have a supervisor, who is an expert academic university professor, responsible for overseeing your research and thesis writing. They will also need to approve your final thesis for submission.

Depending on the specific structure and requirements of your doctoral programme, this supervision may involve regular progress checks and formal review points. You may also have a co-supervisor.

Length of PhD in Netherlands

PhD in Netherlands generally lasts for a minimum of four years. This is partly due to the employment status as a doctoral researcher and the additional teaching and administrative responsibilities that this entails.

Doctoral researchers that are not formally associated with a university (i.e., external doctoral candidates) may take longer to complete their studies.

Cost of PhD in Netherlands

Most PhD students in the Netherlands are considered university employees and therefore receive a salary to fund their research. Therefore, there are no traditional tuition fees for doctoral candidates or doctoral fellows. However, there are other types of doctoral candidates that may not be considered university employees. These are:

  • contract doctoral research associates have their research sponsored by an external source such as a scholarship or external employer
  • external doctoral candidates are self-funded and work on their PhD research in their free time

Scholarships/ Funding for PhD in Netherlands

In Netherlands, there are generally 3 ways to fund PhD studies:

  • employed by the PhD-awarding institution;
  • with a fellowship or grant awarded by a supporting body;
  • with sponsorship from the 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.

Application Process for PhD in Netherlands

Admission for a Ph.D. programme in Netherlands involves various steps which are discussed below:

  • Finding a supervisor: the PhD programme involves one-on-one interaction with the supervisor and the college or university may not assign a faculty for your guidance. You should make sure that you find a guide in your area of study from the college/ university that you want to apply for.
  • Once the supervisor agrees to act as your guide and to support your application for the School’s Ph.D. programme, you will be required to submit an official application to the university.
  • You will be asked to provide your contact details, curriculum vitae and supporting documents including the research proposal, personal statement, transcript and references.
  • Prepare a Research Proposal: This holds the key in the application process for the Ph.D. programme. Normally a proposal should be between 1,500 and 2,000 words. The proposal should explain your area of study, the aim of your research and your hypothesis.
  • Personal statement: The most important challenge is to put down in words the reason for pursuing the particular programme, what attracts you to the subject area and how your studies or work experience has influenced you to take up PhD studies. It is a very important document and holds a lot of value in eyes of the admission committee.
  • References: All programmes will ask for referees who can provide details about your academic abilities and motivation. In some cases, there will be specific referee forms available on the school site. And in other cases, a referee may be asked to provide a letter of reference in his/her own words.

Post-Study Work Visa in Netherlands

Graduates of higher education or university studies (bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD degrees) can apply for a Dutch orientation year visa within three years of graduating. This gives you one year to look for employment, during which time you can work without any restrictions or the need for an employer to hold a work permit for you.

Family visa norms in Netherlands

This depends on the conditions of the residence permit held by your partner in the Netherlands. The back of your own residence permit will tell you if you are allowed to work in the Netherlands, and if so, under what conditions.

Broadly speaking (but not always – see below), as a non-EEA spouse/partner of a person based in the Netherlands, you will be given the same rights to work as your partner.

If your partner is a Dutch citizen, whether, by birth or acquisition, the back of your residence permit should state the words ‘arbeid vrij toegestaan. TWV niet vereist’, which means “work freely allowed. TWV not required”. TWV stands for ‘tewerkstellingsvergunning’, which means work permit.

If your partner in the Netherlands is not a Dutch citizen, but they have a residence permit, the Dutch immigration service will give you the same work rights as your partner.

If your partner in the Netherlands requires a TWV to work, then you will also need a TWV to seek employment.

If your partner in the Netherlands is not permitted to work, then you will also not be able to work.

Can I work in Netherlands part-time during my studies?

Most PhD students in the Netherlands are employed by their universities, and therefore there may not be much scope for additional work. Nonetheless, in some cases, you may wish to undertake additional employment.

EU / EEA / Swiss students are free to work alongside PhD studies without restrictions. Other international students will require a work permit from the UWV (which is generally applied by the employer and not the student) and are permitted to work a maximum of 16 hours per week and full-time during the summer.

How can “Road to Abroad” help you?

We provide the best PhD Assistance across the globe. We provide the right guidance and support needed to complete the tedious and time-consuming PhD admission process. Our flawless track record and very high success rate have fulfilled the dreams of many students who aspire to gain a doctoral degree. We will help you secure a fully-funded PhD position and help you in all the steps from application to immigration. For more information, visit our PhD Consultation Page.

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