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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


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

    1. Through recruitment as an employee (internal) PhD candidate. Available PhD positions are advertised in different ways, including on the VU website and as an internationally advertised call on Academic Transfer, on behalf of an already determined supervisor(y) team. During the selection procedure all criteria, both from VU-GSSS and the project itself, will be taken into account. Please consult the overview of 'Admission with a regular, short or long PhD trajectory' for the VU-GSSS criteria below. The supervisor (promotor) of the proposed candidate sends all necessary documentation to VU-GSSS for further admission and registration of the PhD candidate.
    2. All other PhD candidates are external. They will fund their project either through a(foreign) bursary, public organization, company or privately. External PhD’s should find a supervisor (look for a full professor or associate professor with ius promovendi) and formally request admission. Please consult the overview of 'Admission with a regular, short or long PhD trajectory' below for the required documents. 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 our Assessment Board and the candidate will be informed about their decision as soon as possible.

    VU-GSSS advises a preferential starting date (1 September) for all PhD’s in order to facilitate participation in the 1st year PhD training program. In order to proceed with your application, it is therefore recommended to submit your documents before 1 April. You can find an overview of the required documents in "Admission documents"

    In case you have any questions about the application procedure please contact us through: 

    Duration of the project

    Regular FSS PhD trajectories 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 documents referenced below.


    After admission, all PhD candidates need to register with VU through Hora Finita. The process of registration, monitored 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.

    Please find "Application, admission, registration to the PhD program" all you need to know about application, admissions, and registration to our PhD program.

    Information about the joint doctorate under Rules, regulations, and policy > "Joint Doctorate". 

    In case you have any questions about the registration procedure please contact us through:

    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".

    Budget plan

    Your research proposal should include a budget plan. You can find our "Budget Plan Template". 

    Please take Graduate Fund into account (see Activity Funding > "Guidelines 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,- (instructions: see Completion of the PhD trajectory: from dissertation to defense > "Dissertation Remuneration") 

    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 "Golden rules of supervision (tba)" below when discussing and drafting your supervision plan.

    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. 

    The Go No Go assessment - introduction and explanations

    Eight months after the start of a 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/supervision plan.

    Please carefully read the "Go No Go assessment - introduction and explanations": you can also use our "Go No Go product milestone overview for your time planning".  

    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.

    Annual progress report

    The annual progress report is essential in monitoring the progress and development of the research. (The supervisors report progress to the department.) The PhD candidate is required to submit their annual progress report directly to VU-GSSS. If the confidential report notes any problems that require attention, the PhD candidate will be contacted in order to discuss a potential solution. You will receive the survey in November. 

    Annual Progress Review 

    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.

    Documents referred to in the text above

  • Training and courses

    The VU-GSSS PhD programme is designed to support PhD candidates linked to the various departments of the VU 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 a professional career thereafter. The programme is tailored to serve the needs of PhD candidates at different stages of their project, regardless of their topic or methodological approach.

    In order 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 (usually four year) PhD trajectory. This plan is uploaded within Hora Finita as part of the registration.  

    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

    For more details on the requirements and recommendations for the PhD training plan see the training plan manual (see above under Starting your PhD Trajectory > "Training Plan Manual" ).

    VU-GSSS courses 

    The VU-GSSS PhD education program is designed such that PhD candidates can fulfill their 30 EC internally. VU-GSSS offers a general course program and a program specifically tailored to the needs of external PhD candidates. In addition, individual PhD candidates, or small groups of up to five participants, can organize tutorials. 

    Mandatory EC

    • Research Integrity and Responsible Scholarship (first year)
    • Attend or present your research at a relevant academic conference
    • Writing Data Management Plan - note that the course is not mandatory, but the data management plan is mandatory for your Go No Go product

    For more details regarding the courses, please see our training plan manual (see above under Starting your PhD Trajectory > "Training Plan Manual").

    For an overview of our upcoming courses, please see the PhD courses website

    External courses

    Depending on individual needs and wishes, PhD candidates can also follow courses outside the VU-GSSS program, provided they 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 in VU Interfaculty Research Institutes. The VU-GSSS has an agreement for the exchange of course participation free of charge with ABRI (VU) and AISSR (UVA).

    For more details regarding the external courses, please see our training plan manual (see above under Starting your PhD Trajectory > "Training Plan Manual").

    Career training 

    The VU offers a number of training and courses that prepare you for life after the PhD. You can find an overview here.

    Career Thursdays (by International Office)

    Workshops by Forum for Young Scientists

    Workshop: Competences and networking (by HR)

    Workshop: How to apply for jobs effectively: CV, cover letter and job intervie (by HR)

    Workshop: How to be successful using LinkedIn (by HR)

    PhD success and personal efficacy training (by HR) link not available yet, more information:

    Career orientation for PhD Candidates and Postdocs (by HR) link not available yet, more information:

    Individual Career and Coaching for employees, external and part-time PhDs (by HR)

  • Academic career development

    In order 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. In this note, we will describe how the GS can help you to arrange (a) visit(s) at the institution(s) of your choice. 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" below. 

    PhD candidates with a PhD contract generally have a teaching obligation as part of their PhD contract. Other PhD's 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". 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 a number of participants (for VU-GSSS non-employed PhD candidates only). In order to apply for this funding, please contact the Graduate School.  You will receive 6 EC from VU-GSSS after obtaining your UTQ. 

    Science blogging
    The VU-GSSS blog facilitates PhD candidates to contribute to a lively scientific environment and community by discussing scientific research both within and outside FSS. Writing blogs gives PhD candidates the opportunity to publish, albeit in an informal manner, at an early point in their PhD trajectories, and to practice writing by explaining scientific research to a broader audience. Note that you can also obtain EC with Science Blogging. Please check the "Socializing Science Blogging manual" for all details. 

    Documents and links referred to in the text above

  • 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 "Guidelines Graduate Fund".

    Documents referred to in the text above

  • Completion of the PhD trajectory: from dissertation to defense

    The VU doctorate regulations specify the VU requirements for the dissertation in Article 21 (see below > Rules, regulations, and policy> "Doctorate Regulations"). In addition, the Faculty of Social Sciences has formulated "Rules for the PhD thesis".

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

    • Portfolio: Prior to planning the defense, the PhD candidate has to submit A portfolio for award of the degree of PhD. Please fill out the form "Final PhD portfolio for award of the degree" and upload this in Hora Finita;
    • Manuscript: the PhD uploads the manuscript in Hora Finita after informal approval by the supervisors, see "Manual for PhD candidate";
    • Assign Doctorate Committee: please fill out the form 'Proposal for the designation of a Doctorate Committee' and send it to the dean and Graduate School of Social Sciences a month before finalization of the manuscript of the thesis. 
    • Assessment Procedure: the thesis is assessed by the supervisors, followed by the assessment by the Doctorate Committee, see "Assessment of the quality and scope of the PhD thesis"
    • Defense: when the manuscript is approved by the Doctorate Committee and dean, the PhD candidate and the supervisors start planning the defense, see "Dissertation submission & defense".

    Documents and links referred to in the text above

  • Who is Who in the Graduate School of Social Sciences

    Graduate School Management Team

    • Prof. dr. Madalina Busuioc (Academic Director)
    • Dr. Mariken van der Velden (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.

  • 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.

    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: > More information on academic integrity > Confidential Counsellor

    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 VU-net.

    The Graduate School 

    PhD candidates and PhD supervisors can always contact one of the GS MT members (see "Who is who" for contact details). If you want to talk confidentially, make that clear beforehand. 

    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. 

    Borrel and Lunch Sessions for PhD candidates

    The Graduate School organizes borrel and lunch sessions for PhD candidates (formerly known as Pizza Sessions). During these social events, we also discuss interesting and relevant topics related to the PhD training. PhD candidates will be invited by email. PowerPoint presentations of previous sessions are available on the VU-GSSS Canvas Community Page (accessible for VU-GSSS PhD candidates).

    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, launched 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 PhD’s 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.


    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

    Towards the end of your PhD trajectory, you are invited to join the ‘Prepare your Defense’ course which is organized by the GS. The program is developed in order to prepare you for your defense.

    Christmas Gathering

    Every year in December we invite all FSS PhD and master students of the Societal Resilience Research Master for a Christmas gathering. 

    Other VU PhD events

  • Information for supervisors

  • Rules, regulations, and policy

    Please find here a list of important rules and regulations that apply to the PhD project within the Faculty of Social Sciences.

  • Information for Doctorate Committee members

    The manuscript is 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 to send this to you. Subsequently, you give your judgment within thirty 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 and degree 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:

    • Assessment of the quality and scope of the PhD thesis (see Completion of the PhD trajectory: from dissertation to defense > "Assessment of the quality and scope of the PhD thesis" )
    • Rules for the PhD thesis (see Requirements for the dissertation > "Rules for the PhD thesis"

News and Events

  • Graduate School closed over the holidays

    18 December - 8 January the Graduate School will be closed. Do not expect a reply during this period. If you have any urgent matters that need to be resolved before the holidays, please contact us in due time.

  • Course updates 2023-2024

    Register on the course pages linked below. Registration closes 4-6 weeks before the start of the course. For courses by the Research Master, contact the course coordinator to register.

    Upcoming courses 2023

    Upcoming courses 2024

    Registration will soon open:

    • Selected Quantitative Methods: March-April 2024
    • Doing Biographical Research: March-April 2024
    • Rise & shine: How to Present your Academic Research: April 2024
    • How to Publish and Write Journal Articles: April 2024
    • Introduction to Spring 2024
    • Finding Typologies in Data: May-June 2024
    • The Quality of Doing Qualitative Research: May-June 2024


    Zeppelin University

    Courses offered by  Zeppelin University are open to participation from VU-GSSS members (max. 5), free of charge. Please find the program here



    Other VU courses

  • Upcoming activities

    • 'Prepare your defense' Borrel Session: 16 November 2023, 16.30
    • VU GSSS Winter Dinner: 30 November 2023, 18.00
    • Writing Workshop @ VU Campus: 30 January 2024 – 03 February 2024 (tbc) initiated and organized by PhD candidates Aleeha Ali and Anastasiia Omelianiuk
    • Meet the Beadles (for PhD's who are preparing their defense): 9 February 2024

    Upcoming defenses

    • Zakia Essanhaji, 12 December 2023, 13.45 (aula)
    • Bas Reus, 10 January 2024, 13.45 (aula)
    • Lise Woensdregt, 31 January 2024, 13.45 (auditorium)
  • Plagiarism scan and report for dissertations

    The doctorate regulations ( have been amended: modifications can be found in Article 14.5, Article 22 and Article 22a. All PhD’s who will hand in their GNG product or PhD thesis after January 1, 2023, will have to perform the plagiarism scan with iThenticate.


    From now on, all PhD candidates will be allowed to do a scan in iThenticate with a maximum of once a year. The Graduate School will create an account for all candidates with a VUnet ID. iThenticate provides a percentage of matches between the scanned text and published texts in a large database. iThenticate offers possibilities to set various filters, such as bibliographies.


    The PhD candidate prepares a short 'report'. A form for this is available on the GSSS website ( > Assessments during your PhD trajectory). The report is included as part of the GNG portfolio and the final PhD portfolio in the relevant file and shall will uploaded in Hora Finita under ‘courses’.

    More information:

    Rules, regulations and policies > 'Plagiarism check - background and procedure'

  • Final PhD portfolio

    From 1 January 2023, all PhD candidates who submit their dissertation in Hora Finita, will need to report on how their dissertation meet the requirements regarding:

    * Data accountability
    * Ethics test of research
    * Authorship
    * Open access
    * Duration of the research
    * Plagiarism
    * Communication of the research
    * Scientific attitude
    * Training


    The introduction of the PhD portfolio is approved by the Faculty Board at March 22, 2021, supplementing and clarifying the Doctorate Regulations

    Working Method

    The form ‘Final PhD portfolio for award of the degree’ is to be filled in by the PhD candidate and supervisors and uploaded to Hora Finita by the PhD candidate.

    Relevant links > Completion of the PhD trajectory: from dissertation to defense

    * ‘Rules for the PhD Thesis’
    * ‘Assessment of the quality and scope of the PhD thesis’
    * ‘Final PhD portfolio for award of the degree’