Obtaining a PhD position without being employed by Utrecht University

Utrecht University offers very limited opportunities for applicants who are not employed to obtain a PhD. Only in exceptional cases do highly talented and motivated applicants gain admission to a PhD programme.

If you are not employed by Utrecht University, you can obtain a PhD in various ways:

A PhD on a scholarship

These scholarships can come from foreign governments, international organisations or Dutch funds for foreign PhD candidates.

Please note that Utrecht University has stopped participating in the NFP PhD scholarship programme in 2014.

A PhD as an employee of another employer

This is an option for employees of a university of applied sciences who have been given a PhD voucher.

A PhD as an external PhD candidate

In this case, you will work on your dissertation in your own time under the guidance of a Utrecht University professor. You will need to find a supervisor yourself. Once you have found a supervisor, the two of you will develop and agree on a plan of work.

PhD Utrecht Science Park

If you already have a scholarship or PhD voucher, or if you want to do a PhD as an external candidate, please read more at the website of the relevant Graduate School. There you will find specific information about opportunities, requirements and entry criteria.


When your research proposal meets the stated requirements and fits in with existing programmes, you should send your proposal to the secretary or contact person for the Graduate School or focus area in question. Make sure your proposal clearly and firmly explains the rationale for the choices you made. Please note that PhD applicants have to demonstrate mastery of English before being accepted into their respective programmes.

Financing your PhD

Most PhD candidates will be employed by the university. If we cannot employ you, you can look for funding in your own country or apply for private scholarships.

More information

Euraxess logo.

Read more on the Euraxess website about fellowships and grants. For information about funding for studying in the Netherlands, go to Grantfinder. There you will find information about scholarships, eligibility criteria, and other relevant information.

China Scholarship Council

Through China Scholarship Council’s (CSC) ‘personal channel’ outstanding students from China can obtain a doctoral degree in Utrecht in case they can obtain a CSC grant. To qualify for a CSC grant, PhD candidates undergo a special selection procedure (.docx), in which both Utrecht University en CSC participate. 

  • Please note that the CSC grant (1350 euro per month) is not sufficient to cover all your monthly costs in Utrecht (or in the Netherlands in general). Any grantee will need to bring along their own extra resources, advised is at least 500 euro per month considering the heated housing market and current inflation.
  • Please note that per 2023 the CSC grant alone will not suffice to get a visa (the so called ‘IND norm’). To acquire a visa you will need to prove you have extra financial means to bring along from China.

Note to the UU-community

At this stage, the Executive Board's recommendation is not to enter into new conversations with doctoral candidates for a PhD project under the CSC programme or other international grant programmes whose grants have fallen below the IND standard. Their reception can still be considered, but only if the preparations are almost complete, the candidate is of very high quality and additional resources are guaranteed by the candidate in order to obtain the visa. The financial pressure on doctoral candidates who have been awarded a grant is already very high and the current developments make their situation even more complicated. The UU awaits an analysis by UNL how to respond – jointly – to this development with other Dutch universities.

Are you a Chinese student and interested in obtaining your doctoral degree in Utrecht? Please contact the Graduate School that is relevant for your research field:

Graduate School

Research fields


Graduate School of Geosciences

e.g. Energy Science, Urban and Economic Geography, Innovation Sciences, Water Science and Management.


Graduate School of Humanities

e.g. History, Linguistics, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Literature, Musicology, Media, Art and Performance Studies


Graduate School of Law, Economics and Governance

e.g. Law, Economics, Public Administration and Organisational Science, Human Rights

Titia Kloos, l.e.kloos@uu.nl

Graduate School of Life Sciences

e.g. Epidemiology, Cardiovascular Research, Computational Life Sciences, Regenerative Medicine


Graduate School of Natural Sciences

e.g. Theoretical Physics, Nanomaterials Science, Biodynamics and Biocomplexity, Information and Computing Sciences


Graduate School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

e.g. Educational Sciences, Sociology, Migration, Ethnic Relations and Multiculturalism, Cultural Anthropology