university of amsterdam phd programs

Doctoral programme

Have you found a doctoral position? Before you get started, familiarise yourself with the steps that are required as part of your doctoral programme.

Doctorate Regulations 

In the Doctorate Regulations, the UvA’ s Doctorate Board has set out the procedures, tasks and responsibilities associated with obtaining a doctorate. Every PhD candidate and doctoral conferral at the UvA must comply with the provisions of these regulations. You must therefore familiarise yourself with the provisions of these regulations before embarking on your doctoral programme. The Doctorate Regulations (incl. the roadmap) summarise what you need to do when.

From 1 September 2020 the new Doctorate Regulations 2020 will be effective. The Transitional arrangement explains what this means for your doctoral programme.Doctorate Regulations 2020Transitional arrangement, Summary of changes and FAQs for Doctorate Regulations 2020

Extension of the right to supervise PhD candidates

As per 1 September 2017, the right to act as supervisor to PhD candidates (ius promovendi) has been extended to staff who are not full professors. Previously only full professors held this right. The Doctorate Board has laid down the arrangement in the Regulations extending ius promovendi.Regulations extending ius promovendi

PhD research in the arts

The Doctorate Board has decided to adopt provisions that make it possible to facilitate doctorate research in the arts. These provisions have been included in an addendum to the 2020 Doctorate Regulations.

PhD research

PhD research is at the heart of what we do as a University. Around 2000 PhD candidates are involved in research and education at the UvA and around 400 doctorates are conferred each year. Two-thirds of these are in the Sciences or Medicine.

Obtaining a PhD at the UvA

Why do a PhD at the UvA?

You’re thinking of doing a PhD and are looking at various options. So what are the benefits of doing your doctoral programme at the UvA?

Excelling in research

If you choose to do a PhD at the UvA, you will be joining an organisation that recognises the key importance of excellent doctoral research. Research carried out by the UvA’s academic community ranks among the best of the world, and the University competes very successfully for external research funding, both in the Netherlands and beyond. The UvA’s research priority areas represent the very best the UvA has to offer in terms of research and are also areas in which the UvA is a worldwide leader.

Employment benefits and housing

Another important benefit of doing a PhD at the UvA is that most PhD vacancies are paid positions. This means that, while doing your doctoral research, the University employs you as a staff member. This means you benefit from the UvA’s terms of employment. The UvA also has a housing service for international PHDs, postgraduates and UvA guests.

Stimulating environment

When you do research at the UvA you work in a stimulating and innovative environment where your talents can be optimally developed. The UvA has a critical, creative and international climate and welcoming atmosphere. Join a community of independent thinkers who love research and who have the courage to ask questions and disagree with one another.

European connections

Joining the UvA also means joining an international research community. As one of Europe’s major universities, the UvA is a member of various international consortia of universities and research institutes. It is also a member of the League of European Research Universities (LERU) and the global network Universitas21.

Facts and figures

  • Around 500 doctoral degrees (PhDs) are conferred annually at the UvA.
  • Two-thirds of PhD positions are in the sciences and medicine, and a third in social and behavioural sciences, humanities, economics and law.
  • In total, around 2,000 PhD candidates carry out doctoral research at the UvA.

What does a doctorate involve?

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In the Netherlands, PhD candidates are classed not as students but as researchers.

As a PhD candidate, you will make an original contribution to science and scholarship. A doctoral programme usually lasts four years (full-time) but in some cases, a programme may be shorter or longer. Some doctoral programmes take just three years full-time, while for some external PhD candidates, who carry out their doctoral research alongside or after their work, it may take more than four years.

Original and independent research 

During the doctoral programme, the emphasis lies on performing original, independent research with the help of a supervisor and a co-supervisor. As a PhD candidate you may also have teaching responsibilities, you will take specialised and more general courses and you will attend conferences. The aim of obtaining a doctorate is to acquire the skills you need to carry out independent academic research.

Doctoral thesis 

At the end of your doctoral programme, you will present your results in a doctoral thesis (dissertation). Once your supervisors have approved your thesis, it will be submitted to a Doctorate Committee for assessment. If the assessment is positive, you will be asked to defend your doctoral thesis before this Committee. The successful defence of a doctoral thesis results in a doctorate (PhD degree).

Is a doctorate right for me?

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  5.  Is a doctorate for me?

People choose to pursue a doctorate for a number of different reasons. How do you know if a doctorate is right for you and what entry requirements do you have to meet?

You should start by asking yourself the following questions: why are you considering a doctorate, what exactly does a doctoral programme involve and what skills will be required? As a PhD candidate, you must be able to work and write independently and have:

  • an above-average interest in academic studies
  • an analytical mind
  • determination
  • suitable prior qualifications (see entry requirements below)

A doctoral programme primarily involves research. You must enjoy getting your teeth into a subject and exploring it in depth. And as you pursue your research further, it is important to be able to distinguish between primary and secondary issues and to make connections between the data you obtain and the insights you acquire.

Entry requirements

The main criterion for admission to a doctoral programme is academic quality: you must be fully conversant with the theory and methodology of your discipline. There is also a legal educational requirement: you must have a Dutch Master’s degree (or an old-style initial university degree) or a foreign equivalent.

Not all foreign qualifications, including Master’s degrees, will gain you access to a doctoral programme in the Netherlands. The same applies to prior studies abroad which grant access to a doctoral programme. These are not by definition equivalent to a Dutch Master’s and will not grant access to a doctoral programme in all cases.

As well as a good prior education, you must also have a good command of English, since this is the lingua franca of the academic world. Moreover, the relevant Graduate School or research institute may have its own specific requirements. These can be found in the PhD vacancy description.

Further information

To help you decide whether doctoral research is really for you, you can:

  • Think about your Master’s thesis: what was the research and writing process like? What feedback did you receive from your supervisor? Did you find the process enjoyable and fulfilling?
  • Talk to current and former PhD candidates and ask them about the advantages and disadvantages.
  • Take a look at the Album Academicum, which contains the names and fields of study of PhD graduates of the UvA.
  • Read books which offer guidance to young researchers (P. Gosling, L.D. Noordam, Mastering your PhD or Herman Lelieveldt, Promoveren: een wegwijzer voor de beginnend wetenschapper [Doctoral research, a guide for the starting scientist]).
  • Make an appointment with the relevant research institute/Graduate School.

Career prospects

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A doctoral programme generally prepares you for knowledge-intensive jobs in society, where highly analytical and specialist knowledge is required.

Once you have obtained your doctorate, a number of different career opportunities will be available to you. You can stay in academia and find a job as a lecturer and researcher. But industry is also an option. Your expertise in a specific field may be of real value to the public sector and business. The majority of PhD graduates pursue their careers outside the university.

It is advisable to consider your future career while pursuing your doctorate and to obtain career-related information from the relevant Graduate School (see below) or research institute where the doctoral courses are taught. The UvA also offers various types of career counselling, including workshops and training courses. 

Graduate School of Sciences

Graduate School of Social Sciences

Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research

Amsterdam Business School

Amsterdam School of Economics

Amsterdam Law School

How do I find a doctoral position?

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  5.  How do I find a doctoral position?

There are various ways of finding a doctoral position, with or without an employment contract.

Many PhD candidates are employed by the University as doctoral researchers with a view to completing a doctoral programme. Consult the list of vacancies for available doctoral positions.

Obtaining a PhD without an employment contract

It is also possible to obtain a doctorate without being employed by the UvA. Contract PhD candidates are those who have concluded an agreement with the UvA or a third party with a view to obtaining a doctorate. They may be funded by, or given time to pursue their studies by, an employer. Or they may receive a scholarship from the University or from another organisation. In both cases, they themselves are responsible for finding a supervisor.

It is also possible to obtain a doctorate from the UvA as an external PhD candidate. In this case, candidates do not enter into an agreement with a third party and do not receive a salary, but sometimes receive some material and/or financial support.

Specific doctoral programmes

For specific doctoral programmes, consult the website of the relevant research institute or Graduate School.

Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research

Research Institute of Child Development and Education

Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research

Graduate School of Sciences

Amsterdam Law School

AMC Graduate School (Medicine)

ACTA Graduate School (Dentistry)

Funding and scholarships
Home Research PhD Obtaining a PhD at the UvA Funding and scholarships
A number of different grants are available for the purposes of doing research in the Netherlands, going abroad for a temporary stay or research period, organising academic conventions or attending conferences.

If you are employed as a doctoral researcher by the UvA, you can sometimes apply for an additional grant to carry out fieldwork abroad, for example. Once you have completed your doctoral programme, you may also be able to apply for a grant to pursue an academic career after graduation.

A wide range of different grant options is available. Some of the more popular scholarships are listed below. This list is in no way comprehensive. You are therefore advised to contact the coordinator of the Graduate School or research institute that covers your discipline. They will be able to advise you on the most relevant grant providers in your specialist field.

General grants

China Scholarship Council (agreement)
China Scholarship Council PhD Programme (factsheet, PDF)
Nuffic grant finder
Grant finder scholarships
COS Pivot opportunities
NWO grants
Open Society Foundations
Scholarship Times

Dutch grant providers

NL Agency
Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM)
Applied and Engineering Sciences (AES)
The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw)
Fulbright Center

Dutch charity funds

Diabetes Fonds
Maag Lever Darm Stichting
Fonds Psychische Gezondheid
Nederlandse Brandwonden Stichting
Prinses Beatrix Fonds
Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Stichting Aids Fonds
Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland
KWF Kankerbestrijding
Stichting MS Research

European grant providers

Horizon 2020
Axa Research Fund

US grant providers

National Science Foundation
Rockefeller Foundation