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VU PhD Council

The VU PhD council advocates for the interests of internal, external and scholarship PhD candidates of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

We aim to improve the social and professional interplay within the PhD trajectory of VU PhD candidates as well as organisational developments affecting PhD candidates at VU Amsterdam. As a PhD council, we want to bring relevant information to the attention of the VU PhDs, and are particularly focused on the topics of PhD rights, mental health and wellbeing, and diversity and inclusion. We aim to have at least one PhD candidate per faculty/graduate school to sit in the council, to ensure all the different faculties/graduate schools will be represented.

Open and thematic meetings

We invite all members of the VU community to participate in our open meetings and thematic sessions to learn more about us and our initiatives. Please send us an email at if you'd like to attend! 

Interested in becoming a member of the PhD Council?

Members of the PhD Council meet monthly to discuss topics relevant to VU PhD candidates. In addition, there are monthly portfolio meetings. Each member chooses at least one of the portfolios. More information about what membership entails can be found on the page "The VU PhD Council is looking for new board members".

Contact us at if you are interested in contributing to our mission or if you have any other questions.

What themes are we working on?

  • Diversity and inclusion

    An important theme for the PhD-council is inclusivity and diversity in the broadest sense. This includes gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, culture, age, physical and mention capabilities, religion, ideology, but also different types of contracts for PhD students. As VU Amsterdam already has a Diversity Office and an International Office in place to promote and increase diversity, our mission is primarily to make sure that the plans in place effectively ensure that everybody feels at home and included.

  • PhD Rights

    The PhD rights portfolio advocates for the rights of all PhD candidates from the moment they are presented their contracts until the end of their trajectory. In order to improve the awareness of rights and regulations on campus, we aim to provide a clearer overview of PhD rights to assist new PhDs regarding different aspects of their PhD trajectory such as: employee leave, amenities on campus and unions. A problem with many PhD candidates is that they are often not informed of their rights at the start of their contract, and that they do not have a good understanding of these rights during their PhD.

    Part of this is promoting information about and access to the confidential counsellor for anonymous complaints and other problems such as problems with supervisors. We would also like to pay attention to issues specifically relevant to international PhD candidates. This includes: more support from the International Office with regard to language, insurance, registration with municipalities, taxes, and other problems that international PhD candidates encounter upon arrival in the Netherlands.

  • Mental Health

    The mental health and wellbeing portfolio aims to contribute to VU Amsterdam as a place where PhD candidates feel supported and learn how to be their best selves so they can thrive in their work.

    We want to provide insights on how to better connect PhD candidates to mental health resources. We also want to help VU Amsterdam to implement mechanisms that make PhD candidates more resilient and help them learn what their strengths are and how they can use them.

    Our long-term goal is to advocate for a university where different competencies are rewarded. Another point of focus will be to find ways in which VU Amsterdam can support PhD candidates to prevent burnouts. Thus, the mental health and well-being portfolio aims to support PhD candidates directly, yet also endeavours to assist VU Amsterdam as an organisation to map out how they can best help their PhD community.

Members of the PhD-council

Members of the PhD Council meet monthly to discuss topics relevant to VU PhD candidates. In addition, there are monthly portfolio meetings.

Bethany Houghton (Faculty of Law)


Jessica Coetzer (Faculty of Science)

Co chair

Joshua Nooij (Faculty of Science)


Nuria Senar Villadeamigo (Amsterdam UMC)

General member

Merve Ceylan (ACTA)

General member

Muhammad Farooq (Faculty of Social Sciences)

General member

Martina Stanková (Faculty of Social Sciences)

General member

Alexandra Greene (Faculty of Social Sciences)

General member

Rachel Cargill (Faculty of Science)

General member

Tessa Super (Faculty of Humanities)

General member

Elise Alberts (Faculty of Religion and Theology)

General Member


Do you have questions or do you want to become a member of the PhD council? Feel free to send us an email!