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PhD programme

PhD programme Faculty of Science

The Faculty of Science (BETA) at VU Amsterdam has a broad range of research. One of the binding factors between the 10 departments / graduate schools of the faculty is the combination of fundamental and applied research. Approximately 700 PhD candidates are working and studying at the faculty and contribute to the high quality research of the faculty.

General information on the PhD programme at VU Amsterdam can be found here.

Career development tips and good practices for PhD candidates & Postdocs can be found here.

More information on the PhD programme

  • Promotion trajectory

    Appointment/duration.
    PhD programmes at VU Amsterdam generally last three to four years, depending on the scientific discipline, type of appointment and funding. The VU Doctorate Regulations and the admission procedure apply to all PhD candidates, regardless of their type of appointment. The Doctorate Regulations cover matters as admission to the PhD programme and the responsibilities and authority of those involved in the programme.

    The admission process begins when an employee is hired as an internal PhD candidate, or, in the case of researchers with a scholarship, externally financed PhD candidates, or external PhD candidates, when the supervisor agrees to supervise the PhD candidate. Generally, graduate schools/departments are responsible for the admission process. The admission process starts after the application for the doctorate is successful.

    Registration
    The PhD candidate and the supervision team are registered in the registration and tracking system Hora Finita. Follow-up steps in the PhD programme are also registered in this.

    Training and supervision plan (TSP)
    As soon as possible after registration, the agreements about supervision, research and education are registered in the training and supervision plan (TSP).

    Supervision
    Good supervision of PhD candidates is crucial; it contributes to the well-being of PhD candidates and an open, safe and inclusive research culture, high research quality, and it prevents delays and dropout of PhD programmes. To facilitate adequate supervision for PhD candidates and supervisors, Golden rules for supervision have been established. There are also suggestions for a go/no go procedure at the end of the first year.

    For supervisors of PhD candidates, a PhD supervisors starting page has been prepared with relevant links. All supervisors of PhD candidates are obliged to follow the basic training course Supervising PhD candidates (starting or senior version) (offered by HRM). This also applies to experienced supervisors, unless they receive permission from the dean to follow a customised trajectory.

    There are more (in-depth) training courses aimed at supervising PhD candidates from the VU Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). In the flowchart Training for supervisors of PhD students you will find more information on which training is the best match. For more information on the courses: Personal development VU employees - Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. [RH1] 

    Education
    The educational programme for PhD candidates provides for a variety of activities that strengthen the academic, professional, and general skills of PhD candidates. During the doctoral period, each PhD candidate must obtain 30 EC. Guidelines for following PhD candidate education can be found here.[RH2] 

    Teaching
    Teaching is a skill that PhD candidates need to acquire as academics, and should preferably be an integral part of PhD trajectories. Teaching can have a positive effect on their academic training and future career steps. However, it is important to keep teaching time limited, to assure timely completion of the doctoral programme.

    The teaching includes, but is not limited to, giving tutorials, practical classes, lectures, and providing support in writing theses and doing research to Bachelor and Master students. Faculty guidelines for the time and activities dedicated to teaching for the different categories of PhD candidates are given here.[RH3] 

    Thesis and Plagiarism Scan
    Guidelines and suggestions for dissertation composition and scope can be found here. Authorship of scientific articles should be well agreed upon between PhD candidate and supervisors. A presentation on authorship can be found here.

    All PhD candidates starting from 1 September 2022 are required to submit one written product in the first phase of the PhD programme to a plagiarism check. In addition, all PhD candidates, who started before September 2022 can voluntarily use the tool up to once a year.

    Reimbursement
    The regulation regarding reimbursement expenses incurred during a PhD trajectory can be found here.

  • Training and Supervision Plan (TSP)

    Background
    Each PhD candidate develops an individual Training and Supervision Plan (TSP) that is uploaded to the VU Hora Finita. This plan is tailor-made for the PhD candidate with the aim of becoming a well-qualified and independent researcher.

    Content
    The TSP contains the agreements between the PhD candidate and supervisors on several issues, including:

    1. Supervision. This defines who will act as supervisor(s) (under whose daily supervision the PhD candidate will work and who will be the promotor). It also includes agreements on the structure and frequency of supervision by the promotor and daily supervisor(s). If the supervisor is not also the promotor, it is also registered that at the start of the doctoral research, as well as those moments that are decisive for the progress of the research, the PhD candidate has a conversation about the doctoral research with the promotor. The promotor and PhDl candidate shall meet at least once a year.
    2. Research. This concerns the topic and overall approach to the research.
    3. Training. This refers to the training plan which consists of four parts:

    A. Mandatory components (minimum 4 EC).

    • The course Scientific Integrity, taken preferably in the first and no later than in the second year. The faculty board admits students to this course only after full registration in Hora Finita.
    • A visit to at least one international conference

    B. General skills (together with C: minimum 8, maximum 20 EC)

    C. Scientific specialization (together with B: minimum 8, maximum 20 EC)

    D. Research-related activities (minimum 8, maximum 20 EC)

    Procedure
    The first version of the TSP together with Form I is submitted to the department (PhD coordinator and vice dean) within the first month after admission of the PhD candidate. The TSP is reviewed during each PhD candidate’s annual interview with the supervisor(s).

    More information
    More information can be found on the website of the graduate school/department where the research is conducted and from the graduate school's key user(s) of Hora Finita or PhD coordinator(s).

    Department /

    Graduate school

    Key user(s)PhD coordinator(s)
    A-Life

    Tanja Elzer (main key user) / Ilonka Werkhoven / Caroline de Graaf / Jacqueline Cransberg / Winny Filet

    secretariat.a-life.beta@vu.nl

    Jurgen Haanstra
    phdcoordinator.a-life@vu.nl
    Athena Institute

    Justine Hazenkamp-Browne / Lotte Snellenburg / Evelyne Griffioen / Vanessa Borgart

    secretariaat.athena.beta@vu.nl

    Barbara Regeer
    b.j.regeer@vu.nl 
    Chemistry & Pharmaceutical Sciences

    Nadine Wijker / Lyan Kas

    secretariaat.sf.beta@vu.nl

    Daan Geerke
    phdcoordination.sf@vu.nl
    Computer ScienceMojca Lovrencak (main key user) / Cynthia Bijl de Vroe
    informatica.secretariaat.beta@vu.nl

    Fabio Massacci 

    director.graduateschool.informatica@vu.nl

    Earth Sciences

    Fenny Bosse

    f.bosse@vu.nl

    Monica Sanchez Roman
    m.sanchezroman@vu.nl
    Health SciencesDiana de Rooy/Emily Cijntje
    horafinita.agw.beta@vu.nl
    Hanneke van Dongen
    j.m.van.dongen@vu.nl
    Institute for Environmental Studies Marjolijn Staarink
    marjolijn.staarink@vu.nl
    Paolo Scussolini
    paolo.scussolini@vu.nl
    MathematicsMariëlle van der Aa (main key user) / Angela Evenhuis
    m.vander.aa@vu.nl; a.evenhuis@vu.nl
    Christian Bick
    c.bick@vu.nl
    NeurosciencesBrigitte Borgman / Gerda Berkhout / Kim Hubregtse / Kelsey Ax
    hf-neurowetenschappen.beta@vu.nl

    Matthijs Verhage / Kim Hubregtse

    m.verhage@vu.nl
    k.hubregtse@vu.nl

    Physics & AstronomyMarja Herronen (main key user) / Brigit Derks
    natsecr.beta@vu.nl
    Rick Bethlem
    h.l.bethlem@vu.nl
  • PhD courses

    An overview of PhD courses can be found here. Here you can select for courses supplied by the different departments (Graduate schools) of the Faculty of Science.

    For general questions on education, PhD candidates can contact the PhD coordinator of the department (see schedule under Training and Supervision Plan (TSP)).

    Below you will find the description of the Research Integrity Course of the Faculty of Science.

    Course Research Integrity

    All PhD candidates that started after 1 April 2015 are required to take the course on Research Integrity. Preferably, the course is taken in the first year and no later than the second year.

    This PhD course is only for PhD candidates of the Faculty of Science.

    The aims of the course are to:

    1.  introduce you to the topic research integrity;
    2. help you identifying any potential grey areas in your research field;
    3. stimulate an open discussion on research integrity matters on the work floor.
    Part I 2024
    13.00 - 17.15
    Part II 2024
    13.00 - 16.30
    30 January 2024     
    18 March 2024        
    23 April 2024           
    24 June 2024              
    16 September 2024    
    5 November 2024
    17 December 2024 

    13 February 2024     
    8 April 2024              
    14 May 2024              
    8 July 2024  (Online)
    7 October 2024 
    26 November 2024

    You can register for the course Research Integrity after registration in Hora Finita and receipt of the promotiebesluit/doctorate admission document.

    For registration in Hora Finita you can contact your department secretary office.

    After receipt of the promotiebesluit/doctorate admission document, you can register for the course Research Integrity by mailing the board secretary, Maaike Croes, hora.finita.bestuurssecretariaat.beta@vu.nl.

    After you have been registered for this course, you will receive an email of Techincal@Epigeum.com with login data for the online course Epigeum, which you have to complete before following the Research Integrity course part I.

    Please send the certificate that you receive after completing the Epigeum online course ultimately two weeks prior the start of part I of the Research Integrity Course to Maaike Croes, hora.finita.bestuurssecretariaat.beta@vu.nl

    For information on the course: Brochure Research Integrity Course.

    For more information, contact Maaike Croes: bestuurssecretariaat.beta@vu.nl.

    Information will also be sent after registration for the course.

  • Hora Finita

    Registration of the promotion trajectory
    The promotion trajectory has to be registered in the tracking system Hora Finita. Hora Finita supports the processes starting from admission of the PhD candidate until the PhD defense and makes the PhD candidate's progress transparent.

    This trajectory has to be started by the Hora Finita key user(s) of your department/Graduate school (see schedule below) from the secretariat. After this has started, the PhD candidate will receive an email with the request to fill in all information needed and to upload the required documents. The whole process of the beginning to your defence will be registered in Hora Finita. For questions, please contact the secretariat of your department.

    Hora Finita Login
    Go to horafinita.vu.nl and then click the button 'login with VUnetID'.

    More information
    More details can be found here.

    Departments / Graduate schools and Hora Finita key users

    Afdeling/Graduate schoolHora Finita key users
    A-Life

    Tanja Elzer (main key user) /Ilonka Werkhoven / Caroline de Graaf / Jacqueline Cransberg / Winny Filet

    secretariat.a-life.beta@vu.nl

    Athena

    Justine Hazenkamp-Browne / Lotte Snellenburg / Evelyne Griffioen / Vanessa Borgart

    secretariaat.athena.beta@vu.nl

    Chemistry & Pharmaceutical Sciences 

    Nadine Wijker / Lyan Kas

    secretariaat.sf.beta@vu.nl

    Computer ScienceMojca Lovrencak (main key user) / Cynthia Bijl de Vroe
    informatica.secretariaat.beta@vu.nl
    Earth Sciences

    Fenny Bosse

    f.bosse@vu.nl

    Health SciencesDiana de Rooy / Emily Cijntje horafinita.agw.beta@vu.nl
    Institute for Environmental Studies Marjolijn Staarink
    marjolijn.staarink@vu.nl
    MathematicsMariëlle van der Aa (main key user) / Angela Evenhuis
    m.vander.aa@vu.nl; a.evenhuis@vu.nl
    NeurosciencesBrigitte Borgman / Gerda Berkhout / Kim Hubregtse / Kelsey Ax
    hf-neurowetenschappen.beta@vu.nl
    Physics & AstronomyMarja Herronen (main key user) / Brigit Derks
    natsecr.beta@vu.nl
  • PhD support

    General courses
    In addition to subject-oriented courses, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers PhD candidates a variety of general education courses. The complete set of courses can be found in the Learning Management System (LMS). The Quick Reference Card (QRC) ‘Search and register for courses and update your learning plan’ explains how LMS works. This QRC can be found via the link to LMS.

    General VU courses for PhD candidates are:

    • Career orientation for PhD candidates and postdocs
    •  Peer coaching for PhD's and postdocs
    • PhD success and personal efficacy
    • Advanced academic writing for PhD researchers
    • Concise formulation

    Help, support and advice
    To ensure that PhD candidates are feeling well and less likely drop out, there are PhD candidate advisors for each department. The PhD candidate advisor is independent, and knows the faculty and PhD procedures well. With the PhD candidate advisor, the PhD candidate can discuss wellbeing, work environment, the PhD programme, and other issues. The PhD candidate advisor can advise and refer the PhD student to other people and help.

    The PhD candidates will meet the PhD candidate advisor at different times, starting with a welcome interview.

    A list of the PhD candidate advisors is found here.

    For help, support and advice PhD candidates have different options, please consult Help, support and advice for PhD candidates.

    Healthy working conditions for PhD candidates are described in the UNL (formerly: VSNU) document: Healthy working conditions in the Dutch PhD system.

  • PhD council

    The Science Faculty PhD Council consists of PhD candidates from various departments within the Science Faculty. The PhD Council aims to support the social and professional interests of the faculty's PhD candidates. Visit the PhD Council website for more information (English only).

  • Preparation on career after PhD

    When a PhD  candidate enters the final phase of the promotion trajectory, the question of what to do after the PhD becomes increasingly urgent. The PhD programmes at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam are an excellent stepping stone for a career both inside and outside academia. The PhD candidates have the opportunity to discuss various career prospects during the duration of the PhD programme.

    The VU offers PhD candidates career orientation courses in the early stages of their promotion trajectory, and encourages them to work strategically towards their professional goals.

    A career outside of science
    The vast majority of the PhD candidates will have to pursue his/her career outside universities after the PhD. It is therefore essential that early-stage researchers orient themselves to suitable positions in industry or a social context in good time, before their contract expires.

    A career in science
    Most scientific positions at Dutch universities are funded by external research funds. Being able to acquire research grants is crucial for a career in science. The VU Grant Desk offers professional advice and dedicated support to researchers in acquiring external funding.

    It also offers a special support program for PhD candidates wishing to apply for a Veni grant, the most widely awarded grant for conducting independent research after obtaining a PhD. Many researchers also apply for the NWO Rubicon grant, which allows them to gain experience at leading research institutes abroad.

    It is also possible to apply for a postdoc position. This is a temporary research position of 2-4 years. For an overview of all postdoc positions (and other possible positions for a PhD, such as junior lecturer or researcher) please refer to the academic job site www.academictransfer.nl.

    Relation with VU after PhD
    Regardless of the career path taken after receiving the PhD, all PhD candidates are offered a lifelong relationship of mutual benefit by inviting them to join the alumni network and remain part of the VU community.