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The Graduate School of Social Sciences

Welcome to the Graduate School of Social Sciences of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam!

Our aim is to provide a stimulating scientific environment in which young researchers, experienced staff and international scholars can mutually inspire one another. VU-GSSS focuses on some of the most pressing challenges to society, related to topics such as societal resilience, integration & diversity and security & conflict. 

VU-GSSS monitors the application and admission procedure, a review procedure at the end of the first year, annual progress reports and the final stages of the PhD, leading to the actual defense. At the same time VU-GSSS stimulates all supervisors to achieve a high quality of supervision through training and annual evaluations by our PhD candidates. 

VU-GSSS organizes a PhD Study Programme providing Phd candidates solid theoretical and methodological knowledge and strengthening academic skills. VU-GSSS favors an adaptive PhD programme in which PhD candidates can flexibly choose their own set of courses and organize small group tutorials from renowned experts on specialized topics.

Doing your PhD at the Faculty of Social Sciences

See the video for more information about the VU Graduate School of Social Sciences. 

More information about VU-GSSS

  • Starting your PhD trajectory

    Application

    There are two ways in which PhD candidates can be admitted to VU-GSSS:

    1. Through recruitment as an employed PhD candidate. Available PhD positions are advertised in different ways, including on the VU website and on international platforms like Academic Transfer, on behalf of an already determined supervisor or supervisory team. The supervisor (promotor) of the proposed candidate sends all necessary documentation to VU-GSSS for further admission and registration of the PhD candidate. See Admission documents for a list of the documents that must be submitted.
    2. As an external PhD. External PhDs will fund their project either through a(foreign) bursary, public organization, or privately. External PhD’s should first find a supervisor (look for a full professor or associate professor with ius promovendi), have the supervisor's agreement to supervise them, and then formally request admission to the VU-GSSS. See Admission documents for a list of the documents that must be submitted.

    If you have an occupational disability, we invite you to follow the procedure on the page Funding and guidance for PhD students with an occupational disability.

    When you send your admission documents to the VU-GSSS, please make sure to include all necessary attachments as we won’t be able to proceed with incomplete applications. Your application will be assessed by the Graduate School and the candidate will be informed about the decision as soon as possible.

    VU-GSSS advises a preferential starting date on 1 September for all PhD’s, to facilitate their participation in the 1st-year PhD training program. It is therefore recommended to submit all PhD application documents before 1 May.

    You can find an overview of the application, admission, and registration process in the document Application, admission, registration to the PhD program.

    Duration of the project

    Regular PhD trajectories at the FSS last 4 fte and are usually completed in four years (48 months) when there is a PhD labor contract or an international fellowship. If the PhD candidate combines the PhD research with other work, execution is usually spread over six years (72 months). The intended duration of a project is calculated as the time between the start of the project and the intended approval by the supervisor. A project shorter than 4 FTE is allowed in exceptional cases and requires the approval of the GSSS. These policies are further elaborated in the document Admission with a regular, short or long PhD trajectory.

    Budget plan

    Your PhD application should include a budget plan. We encourage you to use our Budget Plan Template

    Please take Graduate Fund into account (see the document Guidelines for the Graduate Fund). 

    Note that all PhD candidates who provide the University Library with a free license for non-exclusive publication of the dissertation in electronic form, if necessary with a temporary publication embargo, are entitled to a dissertation remuneration of € 500,- (see instructions in the document Dissertation remuneration). 

    For further guidance on how to calculate your PhD costs, see the document Tuition fee and costs to conduct PhD research.

    Registration

    After admission, all PhD candidates need to register with VU through Hora Finita. The process of registration, facilitated by VU-GSSS, needs to be completed within two months of the admission date. PhD candidates receive a letter of acceptance after completing the registration procedure.

    During the registration phase, you will also be asked to draft a feasible work plan for your PhD, for which you can use the document Work Plan Template.

    Training plan

    After admission, and as part of your registration, you will draft a training plan. Please use our Training plan template when drafting this document. For details regarding the requirements for the training plan, please see our Training Plan Manual (currently being updated, contact the GSSS for more information). The training plan should always be discussed with and approved by the GSSS Program Director.

    Supervision plan 

    In your supervision plan, you and your supervisors describe who is responsible for the supervision and how supervision is organized. Please read the document Standards of supervising PhD candidates by academic staff when discussing and drafting your supervision plan.

    Joint doctorate

    If you intend to pursue a Joint doctorate, a special agreement needs to be drawn and approved by the two universities within the first year of the PhD trajectory. Information about joint doctorates can be found at this link. 

    In case you have any questions about the application, admission, and registration procedures, please email us at graduate.school.fsw@vu.nl

    Documents referred to in the text above 

  • Assessments during your PhD trajectory

    In order to monitor the quality and progress of PhD trajectories, the VU-GSSS organizes several assessments during your PhD trajectory. 

    Go No Go assessment

    Eight months after the start of a full-time PhD project, the candidates’ project progress is assessed on the basis of a so-called Go No Go product. For candidates with other obligations, this term can be extended to submitting a product within the first year, if this is agreed upon in the registration phase.

    Please carefully read the document Go No Go assessment - introduction and explanations.

    For your Go No Go you will have to submit a substantial product (an extended research plan or a combination with the short research plan and an article). The product will need to be submitted to the VU-GSSS together with the filled VU-GSSS Go No Go assessment - portfolio, a data management plan, and a plagiarism check report.

    For your Go No Go product you will have to do a plagiarism scan with the software iThenticate. PhD candidates receive the log in information to iThenticate after their registration, so please check your vu.nl inbox for emails from UBVU iThenticate. For further information on the plagiarism scan, see Plagiarism check - background and procedure.

    Annual Progress Interviews 

    Once a year, both employed and externally funded PhD candidates have the opportunity to speak formally about development, results, and working conditions with their supervisors. Supervisors and PhD candidates look back together at the previous year, and they make concrete and transparent agreements about how the PhD candidate is expected to perform and develop. 

    For employee candidates, this may coincide with the annual review conversations, of which the results are stored on the VU-dashboard. 

    For candidates within a part-time project that is stretched over a longer period of time, the review is held regularly, such that a minimum of five reviews take place.

    Half-way assessment

    PhD candidates who are about halfway through their PhD trajectory will carry out a "Self-monitoring risk inventory". There will also be a short meeting between the PhD candidate and one of the Graduate School Program Managers. You will receive an invitation for the meeting once you are halfway your PhD trajectory.

    Documents referred to in the text above

  • Training and courses

    The VU-GSSS PhD training program is designed to support PhD candidates at the Faculty of Social Sciences in their project progress and individual development. All courses are designed to enhance the academic knowledge and skill development of PhD candidates, not only to enable successful completion of their PhD project, but also to prepare them for a career as an applied or postdoctoral researcher, Assistant Professor, or other professional. The program is tailored to serve the needs of PhD candidates at different stages of their project, regardless of their topic or methodological approach.

    Training plan and requirements

    To stimulate careful planning at the start of each PhD trajectory, PhD candidates and their supervisors are required to design and submit a detailed individual training plan for the PhD trajectory. This plan is discussed with the Program Director, and submitted as part of the registration. Please use the Training Plan Template when drafting the training plan.

    Every PhD candidate needs to obtain 30 EC during their trajectory (exemptions are possible). This is a VU-wide requirement and applies to all PhDs who started after 1 April 2015.

    As a general rule, and aimed at acquiring the final attainment levels for PhD candidates, the training plan should be designed such that PhD candidates develop their knowledge, expertise, and skills in the three areas specified below:

    • Area 1: Social scientific content and theory
    • Area 2: Social scientific methodology, methods, and techniques
    • Area 3: Academic and transferrable skills

    The following courses/EC are mandatory:

    • GSSS induction day
    • Research Integrity and Responsible Scholarship (first year)
    • Writing a Data Management Plan (before Go No Go)
    • Attend or present your research at a relevant academic conference

    For more details on the requirements and recommendations for the PhD training plan see the training plan manual (currently being updated, contact the GSSS for more information).

    VU-GSSS courses 

    The VU-GSSS offers a wide range of courses every academic year. Individual PhD candidates, or small groups of up to five participants, can also organize tutorials on topics of interest. The training program is designed such that PhD candidates can fulfill their 30 EC internally. For an overview of our upcoming courses, please see the PhD courses website or the overview under "News and Events" below.

    External courses

    Depending on individual needs and wishes, PhD candidates can also follow courses outside the VU-GSSS program, given that the courses are at least research master's or PhD candidate's level. These may be courses and workshops offered at other VU faculties, in (inter)national research schools, or VU Interfaculty Research Institutes. The VU-GSSS has an agreement for the exchange of course participation free of charge with Zeppelin University and AISSR (UvA).

    Training for teachers

    The VU Center for Teaching & Learning offers training to obtain the University Teaching Qualification (UTQ/BKO) several times every year. In addition to the course, teaching PhDs are also welcome to join their PhD Teaching community, where PhDs can join so-called ''Spark sessions'' every month on topic such as education innovation, supervision and interdisciplinary teaching. Find the schedule for these sessions here.

  • Academic career development

    To prepare yourself for an academic career, you can consider these activities beyond your training. 

    International Research visit

    A PhD trajectory offers great opportunities to visit other institutions as a visiting PhD candidate. Such visits can help to create a network of collaborators and get to know fellow researchers in similar and different fields of research. Note that you do not receive EC for the research visit, but you can obtain EC for training you may take during the research visit. Please find more information in the document Research Visits.

    Teaching

    PhD candidates with a PhD contract generally have a teaching obligation as part of their contract. Other PhDs do not have a teaching obligation as part of their PhD agreement. However, external and self-funded PhD might benefit from obtaining teaching experience. Please discuss this with your supervisors and Head of Department. When making agreements about teaching, consult Agreements on the teaching role of PhD candidates. When you would like to teach at a Dutch university after your PhD, you need the University Teaching Qualification (UTQ/BKO). Note that you need to teach a course when you take the University Teaching Programme. The certificate is recognized by all Dutch universities. The course fee is to be paid by your department. The Graduate School has a limited budget to fund participation in this course for some participants (for VU-GSSS non-employed PhD candidates only). To apply for this funding, please contact the Graduate School. You will receive 6 EC from VU-GSSS after obtaining your UTQ. 

    Career orientation

    If you are unsure about your professional life after the PhD, the VU offers coaching and courses that might be useful for you. The Forum for Young Scientists offers workshops regularly, read more here. The VU career services offer career guidance and coaching, as well as peer coaching.

  • Activity Funding

    VU-GSSS Graduate Fund

    In order to support PhD candidates to orientate themselves internationally and to promote a broad academic development, VU-GSSS provides financial support through the VU-GSSS Graduate Fund. Internal PhD candidates can apply with this form for various international activities, for instance for attending a summer school, presenting a paper at an international conference or workshop, participating in international education abroad, or conduct of fieldwork or a research stay at a foreign university. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed monthly. Please note that your application has to be approved before the activity takes place. 

    For more details regarding the Graduate Fund, please see our document Guidelines Graduate Fund.

    Documents referred to in the text above

  • From dissertation to defense

    The VU doctorate regulations specify the VU requirements for the dissertation in Article 21. In addition to these requirements, the Faculty of Social Sciences has formulated Rules for the PhD thesis.

    Towards the end of the PhD trajectory, several steps are required before the PhD title is obtained.

    Plagiarism scan & portfolio

    All PhD candidates must perform a plagiarism scan of their final manuscript in iThenticate. The results of the scan are discussed with the supervisors, and subsequently, the PhD candidate fills in the Report on the plagiarism check of the GNG product or the final thesis. The report is sent to ithenticate.fsw@vu.nl.

    Before the manuscript can be uploaded to Hora Finita, all PhD candidates must also fill in and submit the Final PhD portfolio for award of the degree. This document is submitted to graduate.school.fsw@vu.nl, or uploaded in Hora Finita under courses as 0 EC. When submitting/uploading the portfolio document, the PhD should also make sure that all their course ECs have been uploaded to Hora Finita.

    The Graduate School reviews the plagiarism scan report, final portfolio, and ECs. The faculty data steward reviews the ethics and data management sections of the final portfolio.

    Data management, ethics & authorship

    The PhD portfolio serves as a checklist to make sure all requirements for obtaining a PhD are followed. The portfolio was adopted by the Faculty Board on 22 March 2021 and has been a mandatory requirement for all graduating FSW PhDs since 1 January 2023. 

    The final portfolio needs to be approved before the thesis can be sent to the doctoral committee for assessment. PhDs should check the requirements specified in the portfolio in due time before finishing their manuscript. Start preparing the final portfolio well in advance of the thesis being ready to be sent to the committee, as the data management aspects take time. Important requirements include the safe storing of research data (as a minimum requirement uploading their data in Yoda and generating a DOI). For questions on and assistance with research data management, please contact researchdatamanagement@vu.nl. For questions on authorship, plagiarism check, or other parts of the portfolio, contact the Graduate School.

    Doctorate Committee

    Before uploading the manuscript to Hora Finita, a Doctorate Committee (assessment committee) must be appointed. This is the responsibility of the supervisor and should be done in due time before the hand-in of the manuscript.

    The supervisor fills in the Proposal for the designation of a Doctorate Committee (fill-in document) and submits it to the Graduate School. The Graduate School sends the proposal to the Pool of Professors for approval (approval takes 5 working days).

    Manuscript and assessment procedure

    Once the plagiarism scan and portfolio have been approved in Hora Finita, and the Doctorate Committee has been pre-approved, the PhD candidate can upload their manuscript in Hora Finita. The supervisor will then be requested to fill in the details of the Doctorate Committee, which will be approved by the Graduate School and the Dean in Hora Finita. Once approved, the manuscript is automatically sent out to the Doctorate Committee for assessment.

    The Doctorate Committee has 30 days to make their assessment. 

    Defense

    When the manuscript is approved by the Doctorate Committee and the Dean, the PhD candidate and the supervisors start planning the defense. See Dissertation submission & defense for instructions.

    Overview of documents/links:

  • Who is Who in the Graduate School of Social Sciences

    Graduate School Management Team

    • Prof. dr. Madalina Busuioc (Academic Director)
    • Dr. Sarah van Duijn (Program Director)
    • Drs. Saskia Jans (Program Manager)
    • Alexandra Filius MSc (Program Manager)
    • Nina Kaufmann MA (Program Manager)
    • Dr. Antonella Sciancalepore (Program Manager)

    PhD buddies

    PhD buddies are there to welcome new PhD's to the department.

    Who is who at the Graduate School of Social Sciences

  • PhD Trustee and how to handle issues

    The PhD Trustee is Dr. Lorraine Nencel. 

    “I am at the Department of Sociology, associate professor who considers the time of being a PhD candidate a special moment in an individual’s academic career. I have much experience in teaching and advising PhDs of all disciplines. I have trained PhDs in a national program in South Africa for 10 years, trained PhDs in a Dutch national research program for 10 years and these experiences brought home to me the importance of having a good relationship between the supervisor and the candidate to guarantee a successful and pleasurable trajectory. These experiences gave me insight into the needs, desires and demands of PhD candidates something I hope to be able to use in my new function. I am looking forward to meeting you all and remember my door is always open (with an appointment of course😊).”

    You can contact Lorraine for a low profile and confidential conversation in case you are facing issues that hinder the progress of your PhD project. For more information about the position of the PhD trustee, please read this document.

    PhD advisors

    The Graduate School managers are also PhD advisors. Both PhD candidates and PhD supervisors can contact any of the Graduate School program managers if you have any type of preoccupations about your PhD, about your wellbeing, or about your relation with your supervisors or other members of your research environment. (see "Who is who" for contact details). If you want to talk confidentially, make that clear beforehand. They will listen to you and, in case you want, will advise you on how to proceed and who to further contact. 

    Confidential counselors 

    In case you prefer to talk with someone else than the PhD Trustee, you can contact another confidential counselor. The Confidential Counsellor for inappropriate conduct is Prof. dr. Bastiaan van Apeldoorn. The Confidential Counsellor for academic integrity is Prof. dr. Henk Overbeek

    Please visit: https://vu.nl/en/about-vu/more-about/academic-integrity > More information on academic integrity > Confidential Counsellor

    Mediation

    The VU mediation pool offers mediation and counselling when friction arises between employees. If you have a dispute with a colleague (such as your supervisor or manager), consider turning to the mediation pool for help. Under guidance of an experienced mediator, you can enter into a conversation with the other person. Read more here or contact the mediation pool directly on mediation.personeel@vu.nl.

    Are you an external PhD? Contact the Graduate School for advice.

    PhD support

    Occupational Social Work (OSW) offers advice and short-term counseling to employees who are at risk to get sick for work and/or private reasons. That may be functioning problems, dismissal, reorganization, problems in collaboration (with colleagues or management), inappropriate conduct, and traumatic events at work. It also covers work/life balance issues, relationship, and family problems, coping with grief and loss, and other psychological problems. The occupational social worker is bound to professional secrecy. The counseling is voluntary and confidential.

    For more details check here

    Head of Department

    PhD candidates and PhD supervisors can contact the Head of Department to raise issues. 

    Procedure for PhD candidates and supervisors in case of an issue in a PhD trajectory 

    Problems at work? How do I handle it?

    For internal and external PhD candidates and for supervisors there is an extra procedure at FSS in addition to the VU Doctorate Regulations (see below). The purpose of the FSS procedure is to resolve any problems in the working relationship between the PhD candidate and supervisor and vice versa in an easily accessible and satisfactory manner. Please consult the "Procedure for PhD candidates and supervisors in case of an issue in a PhD trajectory" for more information.  

    Documents referred to in the text above

  • VU-GSSS Events

    The Graduate School regularly organizes social and academic events. 

    Lunch and borrel sessions for PhD candidates

    The Graduate School organizes lunch and borrel (drink) sessions for PhD candidates. During these social events, we discuss interesting and relevant topics related to the PhD trajectory. Recurring themes include "How to supervise your supervisor" and "How to finish on time". PhD candidates will be invited by email, and are also invited to approach the Graduate School with ideas or requests for specific topics to be covered.

    Borrel sessions for supervisors 

    While the role of the supervisor is crucial for every PhD trajectory, it sometimes receives less attention than it deserves. VU-GSSS, therefore, organizes informal events during which we can socialize and discuss relevant topics. 

    Writing marathons

    The GSSS organizes writing marathons about 2-3 times a year for FSS PhDs and master students of the Societal Resilience Research Master. A writing marathon is nothing more and nothing less than a "shut-up-and-write" session. The idea of a writing marathon is that we come together with a group of PhDs for a whole day/week to write. We also welcome you to organize a writing marathon yourself. If you would like to do so, please contact the Graduate School for room booking and budget.

    Induction 

    At the start of the academic year, we invite all first-year PhDs to the induction conference to prepare you for the PhD journey ahead. Other FSS PhD candidates are welcome to join part of the social program and meet the new PhDs.

    Prepare your defense

    Toward the end of your PhD trajectory, you are invited to join the "Prepare your defense" session which is organized by the GS and covers the crucial last steps of your project, from finishing your dissertation, up until your defense.

    Winter dinner

    Every year in December, before the holidays, we invite all FSS PhDs for a winter dinner. 

    Other VU PhD events

    VU Social Gatherings for PhD candidates

  • Information for supervisors

    Start of the project

    Go No Go assessment

    Annual progress  interview

    PhD end phase

    Issues and changes

    Obtaining ius promovendi

    Are you an associate professor and wish to obtain ius promovendi? Consult the document VU-GSSS Procedure for assigning ius promovendi to an associate professor.

  • Rules, regulations, and policy

  • Information for Doctorate Committee members

    If you are a Doctorate Committee member, the PhD manuscript will be sent to you via the Hora Finita doctoral examination system. Please note that these e-mails might end up in your spam folder. It is possible to request a hard copy of the manuscript, the PhD candidate is responsible for sending this to you.

    You give your assessment of the manuscript within 30 days. You provide your review through Hora Finita. The chair of the committee will summarize all the reviews and submit the advice to the dean in Hora Finita.

    The date of the defense ceremony is determined after the manuscript has been approved.

    The documents below provide detailed information on the requirements set by the Faculty of Social Sciences at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam:

News and Events