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Graduate School of Humanities - Doing a PhD

On this page you will find information on what doing a PhD entails at the Graduate School of Humanities.

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.

Doing a PhD

  • Arrangements and Supervision

    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 and Supervision 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 must 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), the director of the Graduate School and the PhD coordinator. 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 will 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.

  • Education and Teaching

    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.

    Application Forms Courses (Mandatory)

    • Year: 2022
      Coordinator: Krishma Labib, (Not reachable via!)
      ECTs: 2
      Schedule: Every Tuesday from September 13 to October 25  at 15:30-17:30 (excluding September 20 and October 4). Instead of the session on September 20, there will be a session on September 22 (Thursday) at 15:30-17:30. There is no session in the week of October 4.
      Location: The course will be offered in hybrid format, due to the high number of external PhD students not residing in the Netherlands. If you do live in the Netherlands, we expect that you will join us live for all sessions.
      Assignments: portfolio consisting of 3 parts (due November 22 at 23:59), as well as a peer review assignment (due November 15 at 23:59).

    Research Integrity – Arts and Humanities (2EC):

    Researchers are frequently faced with moral dilemmas such as ‘Should I agree to adding X as an author on my paper or not?’, or ‘Should I write information about research participant Y in my article or should I keep that information private?’. The aim of this course is to equip PhD students to reflect on:

    1. The purpose, relevance and political situatedness of research, both more generally as well as specifically in their discipline
    2. Daily research integrity and ethics dilemmas that arise in their research practice.

    We start the course by reflecting on the purpose, relevance and political situatedness of research, as well as exploring  concepts and practices related to responsible research conduct, research misconduct, as well as questionable research. We then zoom in on a couple of topics in detail, including replication in the humanities, open science, data management, and bias in research. To ensure that the sessions are interactive and insightful, you are required to prepare well for each session by reading the mandatory literature and completing the preparatory assignments ahead of time. At the end of the course, you will submit a portfolio illustrating what you have learned during the course. Please be aware that in addition to the portfolio, attendance during the sessions is compulsory to obtain the certificate needed to complete your education program as a PhD in the humanities. 

    Registration for this course must be done via the website of the Graduate School of Humanities.

    If you have any questions, please contact the Graduate School,

    Course manual – Writing a Data Management Plan – Faculty of Humanities

    • Year: 2022
      Coordinator: Tycho Hofstra (
      ECTs: 1,5
      Schedule: Two workshops. The first workshop will be held on 15-11-2022 and the second on 06-12-2022.
      Location: The course will be offered in online format, due to the high number of external PhD students not residing in the Netherlands.
      Assignments: Three assignments due on 22-11-2022, 13-12-2022, and 24-01-2023.

    Writing a Data Management Plan – Faculty of Humanities (1,5 EC):

    A data management plan (DMP) is a document that helps researchers to formulate and plan their research. It is meant to offer guidance throughout a research project and a detailed DMP is often the first deliverable after having received a grant from a funding agency. A DMP covers topics such methods used for data collection, licenses, ethical guidelines, storage, and archiving.

    In this course you learn how you write a good Data Management Plan (DMP) for your research project, in which you discuss:

    • which laws and codes of conduct your research should comply with,
    • where you are going to store your data,
    • where you are going to archive them for the long term,
    • how you can make them FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable).

    This mandatory course is aimed at PhD students at the beginning of their research project (± 1st year) from the Faculty of Humanities (FGW).

    Registration for this course must be done via the website of the Graduate School of Humanities.

    • Key issues in the Humanities (2EC):
      In the course on Key Issues in the Humanities we will identify and discuss current topics in the Humanities and how they might affect your own research project and career perspectives. We will use books, scholarly articles, policy papers and your own experience. This will take three sessions in hybrid format.
      The course concludes with a Graduate Seminar for Master’s and Research Master’s students in the Faculty of Humanities, on Wednesday 25 January 2023, afternoon. If possible this Seminar will be on campus, if not (due to corona measures) it will be organized online. The seminar is an integral part of the course and will be prepared by the course participants (in smaller groups). Each group will present one of the topics that were discussed in the preceding sessions of Key Issues in the Humanities, and discuss this topic with (groups of) students in an interactive and engaging way.
      The dates of the workshops are: Wednesday 30 November (15.30-17.00), Wednesday 14 December (15.30-17.00) and Wednesday 11 January (15.30-17.00).
      If you want to participate, make sure that you can participate in all three sessions as well as the Graduate Seminar. Registration for this course must be done via the website of the Graduate School of Humanities and will be possible until 15 November.
      If you have any questions, please contact the Graduate School,

    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 could be 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).

  • National Research Schools

    PhD candidates follow part of their training at the National Research Schools. Here they can take part in courses, summer schools, exhibitions and master classes in their field. PhD candidates are expected to follow courses worth 10 ECTS at a National Research School. The registration with the National Research Schools is arranged through 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).

  • PhD Colloquium

    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.