Doing a PhD

There are several ways to move through a PhD. Universities and other research institutes may offer fulltime, part-time, and dual programs. Finally, it is possible to use own funding for your doctoral research, in that case no appointment is obtained. At the bottom of this page you can read about the different forms of employment.

When an appointment is obtained at an university, university medical center, or other research institution then automatically the collective agreement comes into play. On the CAO page of this website, PNN provides extensive information and advice on the three Collective Labour Agreements. In the Netherlands, PhD research often takes place within graduate schools. To find out which graduate school there are, take a look at our graduate schools page. Explanation of the system of financing and references to a number of grant websites, can be found here. Our vacancies page provides an overview of job websites where you can find interesting vacancies for PhD Candidates. Finally, PNN gives some tips for (future) PhD candidates to go through their project smoothly and successfully.

Employed PhD Candidates
In the Netherlands it is the most common for PhD candidates to be employed by the university or another research institute. They have a fixed-term appointment, receive salary, pay social security contributions and build up pension, they also obtain an employment history, which is important for disability, unemployment and pensions. These PhD candidates are covered by the CAO-NU, and are entitled to secondary benefits.

PNN believes that all PhD Candidates funded by Dutch institutions should be appointed as employees. A PhD Candidate is a young professional researcher and should be rewarded accordingly. Moreover, the employee-status is a unique selling point of the Netherlands in terms of attracting talent from abroad.

PhD scholarship
PhD scholarship – also called student or ‘bursary’ – are not employed by the university and receive no salary for their work. Instead, they get a personal scholarship as compensation. No social security and pension contributions paid, not even an allowance for medical expenses. There is no accumulation of employment, and therefore they are not entitled to sickness benefits, unemployment or pension. PhD scholarship are not covered by the CAO-NU and not entitled to secondary benefits. Furthermore, they are not entitled to a workplace and may not provide education at the university.

The PNN is opposed to the appointment of PhD scholarship rather than an employee. A PhD Candidate has an employment relationship with the institution for which he / she works. The bursary system provides the candidate only with drawbacks, is full of contradictions, is against the law, and also constitutes an additional barrier to the development of the Dutch knowledge economy. In December 2008, the ‘tweede kamer’ (lower house) adopted a motion against the appointment of PhD students.

External PhD candidates
External PhD candidates are doing their PhD research, without having to be appointed to an university. They do their research unpaid and in their own time as a hobby or for a business company. Anyone who wants to be an external PhD candidate, should contact a possible promoter themselves. Information for external PhD candidates and associated rights and obligations can be found on the websites of the universities.

The following websites may be helpful to start doctoral research without appointment:

Erasmus University Rotterdam

Radboud University Nijmegen
VU University Amsterdam
Open University