PhD research

Although doctoral studies in the Netherlands are in many respects perhaps not all that different from the programs available in your own country, there are still some particular features of the PhD programs offered in Groningen that you should take into account when making your decision. Here you will find the answers to the most common questions. Or download this brochure.

Q: What is the status of PhD scholarship students?

A: The University of Groningen and the UMCG see PhD scholarship students as students. For Tax Administration purposes, they have an implied employment contract. This implies that there is no relationship of authority. In addition, PhD scholarship students are not paid a salary in the same way as employees, but receive a monthly grant as remuneration for conducting research.

Q: When can a PhD programme be extended?

A: It is possible to extend a PhD programme in exceptional cases, such as (1) long-term illness or pregnancy or (2) excellent performance with cum laude potency. In the first case the supervisor of the PhD scholarship student concerned will use his/her discretion to decide whether to extend the programme. In the second case the procedure designated below can be followed.

Q: When can a 3-year GSMS PhD scholarship be extended?

A: PhD scholarship students who received a 3-year PhD scholarship from the GSMS may obtain an extension of their scholarship with a 4th year when, after about 1.5 – 2.0 years, there are convincing reasons to believe that the PhD student may achieve a cum laude PhD defence. The 1st promotor should in that case sent a request to the director of the GSMS. The PhD student needs to provide an overview of the research performed and a plan for the remaining part of the PhD trajectory. The PhD student will present the results of his/her research and defend the plan for a committee. The members of the committee are preferably also the members forming the future PhD defence assessment committee. The director of the GSMS will decide on the request based on the advice of the assessment committee.

Q: Who pays for PhD scholarship students to attend conferences?

A: The supervisor and departmental business operations manager decide whether to contribute to a conference visit. Although the bench fee is intended for conducting research, some departments use it to fund conference visits.

Q: Am I covered by the Collective Labour Agreement for University Medical Centres (CAO UMC)?

A: As PhD scholarship students are not deemed to be employees, they are not covered by the CAO UMC.

Q: Can I reclaim the costs of commuting between home and work?

A: PhD scholarship students are not compensated for the costs of commuting between home and work.

Q: Do I have to pay tuition fees as a PhD scholarship student?

A: PhD scholarship students do not have to pay tuition fees.

Q: When can I expect to receive my P number (University of Groningen)/UMCG number?

A: In the case of Dutch PhD scholarship students, the following documents must be on file:

  • Copy of the passport

  • Payroll tax statement

  • Signed contract.


In the case of international PhD scholarship students with a full Dutch scholarship, the following documents must be on file:

  • Copy of the passport

  • Residence permit

  • Payroll tax statement

  • Signed contract.In the case of international PhD scholarship students with a scholarship from their own country supplemented by a scholarship from the University of Groningen/UMCG, the following additional documents must be on file:

  • Opting-in form

  • Additional scholarship declaration (drawn up by the PhD Scholarship Desk and sent to the Graduate School).

PhD scholarship students will be sent a P number and UMCG number within 5 working days of receiving these documents.

Q: When can I expect to receive my UMCG personnel pass/PhD pass?

A: You can apply for a UMCG personnel pass at the Staff Shop 48 hours after your details have been entered into Peoplesoft, by which time your UMCG number will also be available.


The business operations manager in the department where the PhD scholarship student is conducting research will be notified.

You can apply for a PhD pass on the University intranet, after receiving your P number.

Q: When will I receive my first scholarship payment?

A: The file must be complete before any scholarship payments are made. This means that the documents listed in Question 7 must have been supplied, as well as a Dutch bank account number (IBAN) and BSN number.

Scholarships are paid around the 25th of each month. All documents must have been received by Jildou Galema ( by the 6th of the month to guarantee that the first payment can be made in that month.

Q: Why doesn’t the contract specify working hours?

A: PhD scholarship students are not employees so there is no relationship of authority between the UMCG and its PhD scholarship students. PhD scholarship students can decide on their own working hours, in consultation with the supervisor if required. These are not laid down in the contract.

Q: Can I reclaim the cost of travelling to the Netherlands for PhD programme?

A: The maximum amount available for the cost of travelling to the Netherlands is € 750. You may claim this from the Graduate School.

Q: Where can I arrange to get work clothes?

A: If you need work clothes (e.g. a lab coat) during your PhD programme, the department will make an application on your behalf. Please contact for more information.

Q: Who must I ask for permission to publish my result findings?

A: You must ask your supervisor for permission to publish research findings.

Q: What sort of medical insurance can I take out?

A: PhD scholarship students must take out basic medical insurance during the PhD programme. The cheaper AON student insurance does not provide valid cover for PhD scholarship students. Both the University of Groningen and the UMCG favour Menzis medical insurance. Contact for more information about medical insurance options.

Q: What is the role of the Graduate School of Medical Sciences (GSMS) in my PhD?

A: The GSMS is the entity within the UMCG responsible for the coordination of the training and education of research master and PhD students. You may turn to the GSMS with questions, for example, about registration, courses, supervision, etc. Additionally, we facilitate admission and, for example, may bring you in touch with relevant researchers or provide support letters for funding.

Q: What is the structure of a PhD at the UMCG?

A: PhD research at Groningen takes the form of a very flexible, individualized, tailor-made program of a maximum of four years. You will dedicate about 90% of your time to research, and only 10% to coursework. Courses support your research

Q: What is the first step to obtain a PhD position?

A: The first prerequisite is that you locate a researcher who may supervise you for your PhD studies. If we do not have research expertise in your area, Groningen would not be the place for you. Your acceptance is thus depending on whether we have research expertise, and whether the Principal Investigator working in that area is confident that you have the quality and motivation to become a PhD student.

You may browse our research overview to see if our topics match with your interests and contact the Principal Investigator yourself or have us introduce you. In any case always include an English-language CV and a summary of your research expertise in your communications. 

Q: How do I fund my PhD?

A: There are several opportunities. The first is that your prospective supervisor has obtained funding (e.g. from the EU, Industry) to hire a PhD student to carry out a certain research project. You will need to apply to this position like a job application and compete with other candidates from all over the world. The Graduate School does not have an overview of all opportunities and you need to inquire with the Principal Investigator.

The second is that you bring your own funding and apply to, for example, scholarship programs from your own country. The second option also gives you a bit more liberty to design a project tailored to your interests, of course in consultation with your supervisor. A third, alternative route may therefore be to first enroll in one of our master programs. If you then belong to the best-performing students in your class you will be offered a fully funded PhD position by the UMCG to carry out a PhD project you designed yourself

Q: Are there deadlines to apply to a PhD position?

A: The GSMS does not apply any deadlines itself, because of the flexible structure of the PhD. You do need to be aware however of deadlines for particular positions or application periods of scholarship agencies

Q: I have found a position, when do I start my PhD?

A: As mentioned, the structure of a PhD is very flexible, so in principle you start on the date that you and your supervisor agreed upon. You do need to take into account however, that you and the UMCG need time to arrange practicalities such as visa (in case you have a non-EU nationality) and you will need to fulfill certain requirements in order to be allowed to work at the UMCG. Finally, we assist in finding appropriate housing - but be warned! Housing is difficult to come by in our city, with 25% of the population being students. So start looking early. We at least take an ideal period of three months in between the decision to admit you and your actual arrival to the UMCG

Q: How about visas and accommodation?

A: As already mentioned we need at least three months between when you are admitted and when you can actually start. The main reasons for this are:

Visa: in case you do not have an EU nationality the university needs to apply to a long-stay visa for you, never apply to a visa yourself in case of a stay over 90 days!

Housing: you need a place to live. The university will guide you in this process, but you yourself are ultimately responsible for finding accommodation. Please allow yourself sufficient time to do so!

Studying/doing research at the UMCG: in order to work at our University Medical Center you need to fulfil some specific requirements in relation to health in order to keep our hospital environment a safe place for our patients. This means that you will need to be clear of TB and MRSA - our International Office will inform you of the details when relevant

Our International Service Desk, that arranges all visa matters, has made an instructive Prezi presentation about Moving To Groningen so that you may better inform yourself!

Q: What will the process of my PhD thesis look like?"

A: After a maximum of four years, your thesis will consist of approximately four to five experimental chapters, of which at least two should already have been published (or accepted) as peer-reviewed articles, preferably in top-25% journals, at the time of your defense.

Q: How do you guarantee the quality of my supervisor?

A: Every year the academic output of our researchers is measured, and only those who have published at least eight peer-reviewed research articles in journals that belong to the top 25% of a relevant ISI-field over the past  three years qualify as Principal Investigators (PI). The PI who is to be your PhD supervisor is considered by us to hold the primary responsibility for your selection to our PhD program, a decision which will be based both on your academic quality and motivation, as well as your English skills