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Doing your PhD step by step

Below, you can find a step by step overview of the PhD trajectory at the Graduate School FRT VU. This overview is a general overview, other steps or procedures may apply for individual cases. All member PhD candidates and FRT staff have access to a more detailed overview on Canvas.

Since there are two cohorts starting every year, the deadlines for both the summer and winter cohort can be found in the left column. The steps described below are applicable to both cohorts.



The applicant searches for a research team that specialises in their field of interest and that has places available for PhD candidates. Specialisations and members of the research teams can be found here, as well as the research agenda, research topics and (when applicable) the number of PhD candidates each research team takes on every year.

STEP 2 APPLICATION – deadline: February 1st, September 1st

Send your application to the office of the Graduate School FRT VU ( before the application deadline (February 1st and September 1st).

Include in your application the documents as specified on this webpage.


The Graduate School FRT VU forwards all applications that meet the formal admission requirements to the research teams. Based on their supervision capacity, research agenda and assessment of the applicants’ qualifications, the research teams give a recommendation to the Graduate School FRT VU on who to accept to the PhD trajectory. Furthermore, the research team assigns supervisor(s) to the applicants.

STEP 4 CONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE – deadline: April 15th, November 15th

The Graduate School FRT VU informs all applicants about the recommendations of the research teams. If the research team has given a positive recommendation, the Graduate School will provide the contact details of the assigned supervisor(s) to the applicant.

STEP 5 TRAINING AND SUPERVISION PLAN – deadline: May 15th, December 15th

The PhD candidate adjusts and signs the preliminary TSP together with the supervisor. In the TSP, the PhD candidate formally agrees with the supervisor on the planning of the PhD trajectory, including the courses to be taken and how the supervision will be conducted. The signed TSP must be sent to the office of the Graduate School FRT VU (via email) within one month: before May 15th (summer cohort) or before December 15th (winter cohort).

From now on, PhD candidates will be present at the gatherings of the research teams. As a member of one research team, they are also welcome to visit the gatherings of other research teams.


The Graduate School FRT VU returns the TSP to the PhD candidate fully signed (supervisor(s) in CC) and includes the official letter of acceptance and further information documents.

The office of the Graduate School FRT VU will make an account for the PhD candidate in Hora Finita, the online PhD administration system of the Vrije Universiteit. PhD candidates will receive a ‘request for additional information’ to access their account. Here, PhD candidates can check the information that the Graduate School FRT VU has already filled in. After the research proposal has been approved by the Dean (see step 11 below), the registration as a PhD candidate at VU will be completed through Hora Finita.

The office of the Graduate School FRT VU will add all PhD candidates of the cohort to a special Canvas page for PhD candidates. A separate group will be made in this Canvas page for PhD candidates from each cohort.

The portfolio of the accepted PhD candidates will be added to the online FRT-PhD portal, including the research focus, email address, and portrait (this portal is not yet available).

STEP 7 PAYMENT OF MEMBERSHIP FEE – deadline: September 1st, February 1st

The PhD candidate pays the membership fee (when applicable). The yearly membership fee is €500 (2022) and can be paid via this link. The annual fee must be paid every year before September 1st. PhD candidates in the winter cohort pay half of the fee for their first year. Visit this webpage for more information about the fee.

STEP 8 RESEARCH DESIGN AND RESEARCH PROPOSAL – deadline: September 1st, February 1st

The PhD candidate starts writing the official research proposal (by using the research proposal form), and following courses (as laid down in the TSP). On September 1st (summer cohort) or February 1st (winter cohort), the mandatory Research Design course will start. The Research Design course is specially designed to help PhD candidates with writing their research proposal and PhD thesis. PhD candidates can subscribe to this course by using this link.

Arrangements made in the TSP (concerning supervision and the courses which are going to be followed) determine which activities are carried out in this stage.


The PhD candidate sends the finished research proposal to the supervisor(s). The supervisor forwards the research proposal to the research group, where it is discussed. The PhD candidate and supervisor(s) will be present during this meeting. The PhD candidate will have to elaborate the feedback that was given before the proposal can go to the PPAC (see below, step 10).

STEP 10 SUBMIT RESEARCH PROPOSAL – deadline: September N+1, February N+1

The PhD candidate uses the feedback from the research team to improve the research proposal. This is done in cooperation with the supervisor(s). The supervisor will submit the final version of the research proposal to the PPAC (PhD Proposal Advisory Committee), whose members represent the FRT Professors’ Board. The PPAC convenes every month to discuss PhD proposals, and advises the dean about acceptance of the research proposal. The dean bases the decision to approve the research proposal on the advice of the PPAC.

The PhD proposal must be submitted to the PPAC within one year after acceptance to the Graduate School FRT VU.


The supervisor informs the PhD candidate about the advice of the PPAC.

- When the PPAC gives a negative advise about the research proposal, it must be improved using the feedback from the PPAC. After this, the supervisor can resubmit the proposal (resume at step 10).

- When the PPAC gives positive advise, the office of the Graduate School FRT VU will start the official registration via Hora Finita. Every stakeholder, such as the supervisors, the dean, the beadle’s office and the rector, will have to approve your registration. This usually takes three or four weeks.


When the registration has been completed, the PhD candidate receives an email stating that they are now officially registered at VU as PhD candidate.[1] The PhD candidate can start/resume writing the dissertation and following the remaining courses that are planned in the TSP. Again, the arrangements made in the TSP are leading.

PhD candidates also get access to their personal dashboard in Hora Finita (click here for the manual). Here, they must upload the courses that they successfully completed in their portfolio. All details of the course must be filled in, and evidence that the course was successfully completed must be uploaded, for example a certificate or email from the coordinator.[2] The supervisor or the Graduate School FRT VU must approve all courses individually.

When all 30 ECs are completed and all courses are uploaded in Hora Finita, the PhD candidate must request the graduate school to approve the portfolio as a whole. The graduate school will compare the portfolio to the TSP of the PhD candidate, and, when everything is in order, approve it.

STEP 13 GO/NO-GO moment – deadline: September N+2, February N+2

Within two years after acceptance to the Graduate School FRT VU, the PhD candidate plans a go/no-go moment with the supervisor(s). During this meeting, it is determined whether to continue or discontinue the PhD trajectory. A special form is filled in by the supervisor and PhD candidate during this meeting, and must be uploaded on Hora Finita.


Only when the portfolio has been approved, the PhD candidate can upload the final version of the manuscript. The manuscript should only be uploaded after approval of the supervisor(s). The supervisors will receive a notification when the PhD candidate has uploaded the document.


The supervisors, doctorate committee, Dean of Research and Dean assess the dissertation. The final decision is communicated by the doctorate committee to the supervisors, who will communicate it to the PhD candidate.

STEP 16 DEFENCE – deadline: September N+8, February N+8

The PhD candidate plans together with the supervisor(s), the secretariat of the Faculty of Religion and Theology, and the Beadle’s office the defense of the dissertation. More information about planning a dissertation defence can be found here.

PhD candidates can apply for a reimbursement of €500,- from VU for the costs of your PhD defence. Please contact the faculty secretariat for more information.

[1] According to the VU Doctorate Regulations, you can only be registered as PhD student at VU when your research proposal has been approved by the dean of the faculty. Therefore, you are not officially registered as PhD student at VU at this stage. However, you are a member of our graduate school, and we treat you similar to our other members. Your official registration will be arranged through Hora Finita, our online PhD portal, after your research proposal has been approved.

[2] When during your trajectory you decide to follow another course than stated in your TSP, this must be approved by your supervisor and the Graduate School. You can upload the emails with approval in your portfolio as evidence.