Doing a PhD

What does it mean to do a PhD?

As a PhD candidate, you will execute original scholarly research under the supervision of a professor and you will contribute to the development of our knowledge in the field of humanities. In this way, PhD candidates make an important contribution to the faculty’s research and will be welcomed within the Faculty of Humanities.

Under normal circumstances, a PhD track will take four years. There are various kinds of PhD candidates. Some candidates are employed by the university, but others bring their own grant, for example a teacher’s grant for high school teachers who execute PhD research. The faculty also has a large number of external PhD candidates, who work part-time on their research. The website of VU Amsterdam regularly features vacancies for new PhD positions at the faculty, for which you can apply. On Academic Transfer, PhD positions are also advertised.

If you are interested in doing PhD research, you would do well to look first into the Departments of the Faculty of Humanities, to see which specialisation best accommodates your own interests in scholarly research. You can contact the researchers directly or via the Graduate School of Humanities, to review the possibilities.

Are you curious what doing PhD research at VU Amsterdam is like? Read more about it on the VU Amsterdam's website.

To ensure good progress in your PhD track, several assessments and contact meetings have been included in it. The overall conditions and criteria are described in the VU Doctorate Regulations.

At the beginning of his or her track, each PhD candidate writes a Training Plan (OBP). Part of the OBP is the mandatory education programme of 30 ECTS the PhD candidate has to follow. The Graduate School also has a training track worked out, see Education programme PhDs. This OBP can be submitted for approval to the Graduate School.

After 10 months, a stop/go assessment follows, on the basis of a first report of the results and an updated work plan. At this assessment are present: the PhD candidate, the supervisor(s) and the director of the Graduate School. In the following years, there will be annual assessments between the supervisor(s) and the PhD candidate. There are no annual assessments for external PhD candidates. Each year, they will submit a succinct annual report to their supervisor(s) and to the Graduate School. For the format of this report, see Form annual assessment external PhD candidates.

You can always go to the PhD coordinator with questions or problems. The coordinator can explain the required forms to you, can coach you in your research track, mediate between the PhD candidate and the supervisors and help with difficult decisions.

PhD candidates do not only execute research, they also get an education, both to acquire a more profound knowledge in close contact with (inter)national peers from their field of research, but also to train various skills and to position themselves optimally for the next step in their career. Each PhD candidate devotes 30 ECTS (840 hours) to education and training. This concerns both education aimed at content, arranged for by the fifteen national research schools, and education in skills, provided in the form of courses by the Graduate School of Humanities or by other research groups of VU Amsterdam.

PhD candidates follow part of their training with the national research schools. There, they can follow courses on subject matter, summer schools, workshops and masterclasses in the field of their specialisation. PhD candidates are expected to follow 10 ECTS with the national research schools. The registration with the national research schools is arranged through the Graduate School.

Application Forms Courses (Manditory)

  • Key Issues in the Humanities
    All PhD candidates in the Faculty of Humanities follow the methodology course Key Issues in the Humanities, which is given every year of every other year, organised by the Graduate School in cooperation with the interfaculty research institutes CLUE+ and the Network Institute. During this course, the PhD candidates get acquainted with (specifically VU Amsterdam) core problems and debates in the humanities.
  • Research Integrity
    Every year or every other year, the Faculty offers a course on ethics and scholarly integrity. This course consists of a two-day programme with independent study prior to the first meeting and in between the two meetings. This course is compulsory for all PhD candidates in the Faculty of Humanities.

Because VU Amsterdam considers it important that its PhD candidates are excellently qualified for the (academic) job market, there is space in the PhD track for teaching within the faculty of Humanities. In the second and third year of their appointment, PhD candidates are called in to provide teaching. A condition for teaching is that the subject matter is linked to the PhD candidate’s expertise, so that the preparations will not demand too much of his/her time. Agreements about teaching to be done by the PhD candidate will be included in the OBP. Teaching can be combined with the acquisition of the Basic Teaching Qualification (BKO, 150 hours, 5 ECTS).

PhD researchers will follow part of their degree programmes at the National Research Schools. Here they can take part in courses, summer schools, exhibitions and master classes in their field. PhD researchers are expected to follow courses worth 20 ECTS at a National Research School. The application procedure is coordinated by the Graduate School.

A current list of relevant National Research Schools can be found on the website of LOGOS (Council of Dutch research schools in the Humanities).

All PhD students of the Faculty of Humanities are cordially invited to participate in the meetings of the PhD colloquium. On an average of four times a year, lunch meetings and workshops will be organized around themes such as time management, intellectual property, open access, data risk management, presentation skills and career orientation. Invitations are sent by email.