Your PhD from start to finish

GSNS PhD Guide

Titlepage of the GSNS PhD Guide shows the University hall with the University flag. Upper left corner shows the UU logo; Lower left corner says PhD Guide and next to it is Graduate School of Natural Sciences written. From the lower left corner to the entrance of the University hall are pictograms of footsteps symbolizing the journey of the PhD Candidate towards their defense (which is held in the University hall)

Step 1: Download the GSNS PhD Guide 

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At the beginning of your PhD



During your PhD


  • Complete the compulsory training in Responsible Conduct of Research & Teaching, see PhD education
  • Follow training to develop your academic or transferrable skills, see PhD education 
  • Arrange your annual PhD progress meetings with your supervisory team 
    Please note: PhD candidates with an employee status can combine the annual PhD progress meeting with their assessment and development interview 
  • Your 1st annual PhD progress meeting can include the go/no-go decision
  • During your last annual PhD progress meeting – one year before the end of your PhD track – make a plan of completion together with your supervisors.
  • Arrange for regular meetings with your mentor
  • Know where to find support during your PhD

Completing your PhD

To graduate with a PhD title, you will write a doctoral thesis and defend it in public.

Completing your PhD can be subdivided into three stages: Thesis writing, Thesis (manuscript) assessment and Thesis defence. You and the supervisory team are together responsible for the quality of the research presented in the doctoral thesis, according to the prevailing standards in your field. This and other requirements, procedures and responsibilities are outlined in the Doctoral Degree Regulations of Utrecht University (promotiereglement).

Please note: 

  • Phd candidates with an employee status have to submit their thesis manuscript to the Assessment Committee before the end of their contract. 
  • Eventual changes to the supervisory team have to be submitted at least 5 month before the PhD defence. 
Plan of Completion

During the annual progress meeting one year before your intended defence date – you need to draw up a plan of completion together with your supervisors. Make sure to align expectation and plan realistically. The next sections will give you an overview of the practical matters you have to discuss and include in your time-line.
In addition, we recommend that PhD candidates and their supervisory team plan an additional progress meeting during the writing phase of PhD to ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible.

Overview Checklist - Completing your PhD 

Thesis writing:

  • Write you thesis: ask feedback early on and regularly
  • Make sure that your thesis manuscript is conform with doctoral thesis requirements and the GSNS thesis guidelines
  • Hand the final version in to your supervisory team 

Thesis (manuscript) assessment:

  • Once approved by your supervisors upload your thesis manuscript to MyPhD.
  • Your supervisory team will appoint an Assessment Committee (to be approved by the Board for the Conferral of Doctoral Degrees) and send them your manuscript through MyPhD
  • Once your Assessment Committee has been approved, contact the Beadle’s Office to set a preliminary date for your PhD defence.

Thesis defence: 

  • When your doctoral thesis has been approved by the Assessment Committee, the preliminary date of your defence will be changed to a definite date.
  • Know the arrangements to be made for your PhD defence ceremony. Including deadlines. 
  • Optional: Request a GSNS PhD Training Certificate, see PhD education ​
  • Defend your doctoral thesis. 

    Thesis manuscript assessment 

    The procedures and regulations surrounding the assessment of a thesis manuscript and PhD defence are described in the Doctoral degree regulations.

    Checklist - Thesis manuscript assessment
    • Your thesis manuscript is conform with doctoral thesis requirements and the GSNS thesis requirements
    • Hand in the manuscript to your supervisors who are required to provide feedback within 3 months
    • Upload final thesis manuscript to MyPhD
    • The supervisory team formally approves your thesis in MyPhD
    • The first supervisor receives a request to recommend an Assessment Committee (in MyPhD)
    • Once approved, the Assessment Committee will receive a link to the uploaded manuscript with a request to perform the assessment within 4 weeks.
    • As soon as your Assessment committee has been approved, contact the Beadle’s Office (via to set a preliminary date for your PhD defence.

    The PhD defense: what to arrange? 

    The PhD defence ceremonies of Utrecht University take place in the University Hall in the centre of Utrecht. PhD candidates defend their thesis in front of opponents, the Doctoral Examination Committee, who are appointed by the Board of Conferral of Doctoral degrees, after recommendation by the first supervisor and in accordance with the Doctoral Degree Regulations of Utrecht University.

    Below we outline the steps to take from the thesis manuscript assessment to the PhD defence (for more details see the Instruction for PhD Candidates or the UU website 'required actions to complete the PhD programme' ):

    Checklist -  PhD defence 
    • Once the assessment committee is approved: contact the Beadle’s Office ( to set a preliminary date for the PhD defence
    • Know the Instructions to the PhD Candidate from the Beadle, including ceremonial customs.
    • At least 2 ½ months before the defence: register the title page and its flipside in MyPhD – in compliance with the models shown in MyPhD – and obtain the approval of the beadle
    • Once the manuscript has been approved by the assessment committee:
      • The first supervisor will receive a request to recommend the members of the Doctoral Examination Committee (Promotiecommissie) via MyPhD
      • The preliminary date of the defence will become definitive
      • A draft DOI (Digital Object Identifier) will be automatically assigned to the PhD thesis
      • The PhD candidate may request an ISBN number and a Creative Commons licence (optional)
      • The thesis can be sent to the printer (provided that also the title page has been approved)
    • Optional: Request the GSNS PhD Training Certificate at least 2 months before your defence (see section below)
    • At least 6 weeks before the defence the PhD candidate records in MyPhD information for the University library and for the Communications & Marketing office
    • At least 3 weeks before the defence:
      • Provide (printed) copies of the thesis to the beadle and the examination committee
      • Upload the final PDF of the thesis and cover (as sent to the printer) to MyPhD for the benefit of the Utrecht University library
      • Arrange an introductory meeting with the chair of the examination committee
    • Defend your thesis
    • Celebrate!

    Relevant documents 
    Need a proof of enrolment? 
    • An official proof of enrolment (for visa etc.) can be requested through email to