Admission as PhD
The department of Cultural Anthropology welcomes students that want to pursue a PhD. At Utrecht University, PhDs do not pay an admission fee and are often appointed as employees. There are no PhD funding schemes offered by the Faculty of Social Sciences or structural PhD grants/competitions that offer students funding. There are therefore two routes by which you can pursue a PhD at the Cultural Anthropology department of Utrecht University. These routes are related to the different funding possibilities. Each of these routes will be explained in detail below. Before taking a closer look at the routes, we advise you to first examine whether your profile matches our research identity and requirements.
By and large, the research of the Cultural Anthropology focuses on the rise and interplay of multiple forms of governance in our globalized world. In terms of a transnational academic field, many of us practice political anthropology in relation to other fields such as: economic anthropology, urban studies, anthropology of religion, extraction studies, policing and security. The research program SoSCo centers on the notion of sovereignty, which allows us to reflect upon major shifts in forms of organization and authority. Our program is offered fully in English, proficiency of Dutch is not required. As anthropologist, we mostly employ qualitative research and we build on a long tradition of ethnography. For examples, see: https://www.uu.nl/en/research/sovereignty-and-social-contestation-sosco/research
We encourage applicants to apply who:
- Have affinity and interest with the themes and topics closely to the SoSCo research program.
- Have obtained an MA in the social sciences or humanities. Applicants who have not studied Cultural Anthropology are welcome but candidates who have a background in a disciple that has affinities to Cultural Anthropology are more likely to feel at home in our program. Such disciplines are, for example: gender studies, social and cultural geography, developments studies, religious studies, etc. Students who have no affinity with qualitative research are not likely to be selected.
- Feel motivated to work on a PhD project for four consecutive years and who enjoy the mixture of reading, writing, doing ethnographic fieldwork and exchanging their thoughts with peers and supervisors.
- Can show that their previous work has a high quality in comparison to their peers. This may be demonstrated by grade average, but it can also be shown by means of (the grade of) a master’s thesis or a published article.
Not all PhDs need to be or need to become UU employees or will be part of pre-designed research projects. You can also finance and start your PhD in various other ways. Route 2 implies that you will need to apply for a PhD position by sending your application to the UU Cultural Anthropology PhD committee that gathers twice a year (see below). Route 2 is for persons:
- With a PhD grant or scholarship
- These scholarships can come from foreign governments, international organizations or Dutch funds for foreign PhD candidates. Please note that Utrecht University has stopped participating in the NFP PhD scholarship program in 2014.
- Who are employed by another employer
- This is an option for employees of a university of applied sciences who have been given a PhD voucher. It can also be an option for people who work for the government or a company that finances the PhD
- Who want to pursue a PhD without a grant or scholarship
- In this case, you will work on your dissertation in your own time, with your own funding.
- Who want to write a PhD proposal to apply for grants
- In this case, you will work on your proposal in your own time, with your own funding. You may approach a potential supervisor at the department and inquire if he or she is interested to support you with the writing and the application. For a list of possible grants see: https://hetpnn.nl/en/2018/11/03/subsidiesites-2/
The PhD admission committee of the department of Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University works with a PhD project submission deadline. The admission committee gathers twice a year to select candidates who can start their PhD at the department. Collecting applications first before deciding on individual admission allows the committee to see how many and what kind of PhD’s apply per six months so members can make decisions based on criteria such as diversity and inclusivity. It also stimulates the forming of PhD cohorts.
The PhD admission committee consists of all the people at the Cultural Anthropology department who have the right to supervise PhDs (promotierecht/ius promovendi). At the time of writing these are: Wil Pansters, Rebecca Bryant, Martijn Oosterbaan. It also consists of one Assistant Professor and one PhD who both will be appointed for the duration of two consecutive years. The committee consists of five members so that decisions can be based on a vote. The criteria for selecting a candidate are:
- The candidate should have affinity with the themes and topics closely to the SoSCo research program.
- The candidate should have obtained an MA in the social sciences or humanities. Applicants who have not studied Cultural Anthropology are welcome but candidates who have a background in a disciple that has affinities to Cultural Anthropology are more likely to be selected. Students who have no affinity with qualitative research are not likely to be selected.
- The candidate should convincingly be motivated to work on a PhD project for four consecutive years.
- The candidate’s previous work has a high quality in comparison to his/her peers. This may be demonstrated by grade average, but it can also be shown by means of (the grade of) a master’s thesis or a published article.
- Candidates who do not hold a Dutch University master’s degree and are not native English speakers nor native Dutch speakers need a proof that their English language has the required level (at least IELTS: 6.5 (overall band) minimum of 6.0 for writing, or Cambridge Certificate: Cambridge English C1 Advanced (CAE). Minimum score: 176 total, 169 writing Cambridge English C2 Proficiency (CPE). Minimum score: 180 total, 169 writing or TOEFL: minimum score 93 (for the internet-based test).
Candidates who wish to apply can send their application to the SoSCo research director: Martijn Oosterbaan (firstname.lastname@example.org). The application should include:
- A research proposal of no more than 1000 words (excluding references).
- A motivation letter that states why the candidate wants to pursue a PhD at the Cultural Anthropology department at Utrecht University.
- A description of the (planned) grants that can support the PhD trajectory and/or a description of the financial situation and available time the candidate can work on the dissertation.
- The candidate’s CV.
- The candidate’s master’s thesis.
- Two recommendation letters.
Candidates can send their applications throughout the year, yet there are two selection rounds per year and two possible dates selected candidates can start:
- September round
- The committee meets in April. Applications sent the end of March will be discussed and the application procedure will be completed in June. The PhD can start their trajectory in September.
- January round
- The committee meets in September. Applications sent before the end of August will be discussed and the application procedure will be completed in December. The PhD can start their trajectory in January.
All candidates that are shortlisted by the committee will be invited for an (online/offline) interview that is part of the selection process. During the interview, the candidate is invited to answer additional questions that the members of the admission committee might have.
The supervision team consists of one supervisor (promotor) and one co-supervisor (co-promotor) at least. The supervisor is responsible for the overall supervision of the PhD and can be expected to take the lead and to make sure meetings are scheduled on time and mutual responsibilities are met. Supervisor and co-supervisor are expected to share the supervision tasks and work-load equally. The supervision team meets on a regular basis to discuss the progress, the obstacles and the papers, proposals, chapters or articles produced by the PhD. Below you may find a list of actions and attitudes that parties may expect from each other and an outline of the supervision plan and PhD trajectory. Please note, the outline provides a general overview of what is expected of the PhDs and what PhDs may expect from their supervisors. PhD projects might differ in terms of their design, which may result in different supervision schedules. Moreover, supervision is ultimately in the hands of the supervisor and co-supervisor and the success depends on the collaboration of the PhD, the supervisor and the co-supervisor who together need to find a satisfactory working relation.
SoSCo supervision generally takes place in the Netherlands and contact between PhDs and supervisors is face to face. However, other arrangements are possible in consultation.
In the first year(s), PhDs are expected to follow between 2 and 4 graduate courses. PhDs are obliged to take part in the National School of Anthropology Graduate Program, inaugurated in the academic year 2021-2022. This program consists of two courses per year, of which the methodology course is mandatory – unless PhD presents a waiver.
a. Series of masterclasses (5 per year) on Contemporary Anthropology. Content of the classes varies for year to year but seek to offer PhDs state-of-the-art theoretical approaches in combination with examples of current anthropological research.
b. Core course on Anthropological Methods (once per year). The content is relatively unchanging and seeks to offer PhDs state-of-the-art methodological approaches.
In consultation with the supervising team PhDs can select courses from the following list:
- Castor (Cultural Anthropology: Sociocultural Transformation, Research Master)
- CERES (Research School for Resource Studies for Development)
- OLA (Interuniversity PhD Forum on Latin America)
- CEDLA (Center for Latin American Research and Documentation)
- AFS (African Studies Centre)
- IIAS (International Institute for Asian Studies)
There are also possibilities to engage with PhD peers on a faculty level (PhD Council), on a university level (PROUT) and even on a national level (PNN). These networks also offer various activities that can help PhDs to finalize their dissertation and prepare for an academic career.
> More information on other PhD courses of our Faculty of Social Sciences.