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International Students

Your PhD in the Netherlands

In the Dutch university system, a student who has passed his Master’s examinations can go on to do a doctorate (PhD). The doctor’s degree, the equivalent of a PhD, is the highest academic degree one can obtain at a university in the Netherlands. It takes a minimum of about four years to prepare for a PhD.


Unlike a Master’s degree, with its compulsory subjects, studying for a PhD allows you the freedom to devote your time to conducting and pursuing independent research.


The title of doctor (which entitles you to use the letters Dr. before your name) is awarded once you have succeeded in publicly defending your PhD thesis or dissertation (Dutch: proefschrift or dissertatie) before a PhD committee. This thesis must describe, and have resulted from, original scientific research supervised by an officially recognised PhD Supervisor (Dutch: promotor), usually a full university professor. In Dutch, the process of obtaining a doctorate is called promotie.


The PhD period is a crucial point in building your future career in academia or the commercial or public sector. Utrecht University is committed to providing the best possible quality of education to PhD candidates. We recognise that each PhD candidate has unique capabilities; we want young researchers to develop their talent and maximise their potential on all fronts.


The Bologna Accord


On 19th June 1999, the ministers for higher education in 29 European countries signed the Bologna declaration, a voluntary accord that sought to bring harmony to Europe’s diverse education systems and envisaged the creation of a European Higher Education Area by 2010. The prime objectives of the Bologna process are:

  • To create a Europe-wide framework of easily readable and comparable degrees
  • To ensure quality assurance of education systems and qualifications
  • To facilitate and encourage greater mobility across borders for those seeking further study.

This reform process has now been adopted by 46 countries and has already been implemented by the Netherlands. In essence the Bologna accord ensures both the quality and value of your PhD and its validity not just in Europe, but across the world-at-large.