PhD Funding in the Netherlands
Written by Jennifer Bevan
The Netherlands is renowned for its research, with seven universities in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. This, alongside the many funding opportunities, strong links to the rest of Europe and lack of traditional tuition fees make the Netherlands a popular place to complete a PhD.
There are several funding options for a PhD in the Netherlands including scholarships or bursaries from universities, the government and charities. On this page we’ve researched the main funding options to help you decide the best way to fund your PhD in the Netherlands.
Dutch PhD funding – what you need to know first
The Netherlands is a relatively small country in size and population but when it comes to research Dutch universities are some of the best in the world, outperforming many other European countries. If you’re interested in a PhD in the Netherlands here are some things to consider before you start your serious research:
- Most Dutch universities don’t charge traditional tuition fees. Instead, a majority of PhD students are employed by the university and receive a monthly salary, paying no tuition fees.
- Students employed by the university have excellent rights. Many Dutch universities abide by the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) for Dutch Universities, which includes a student pay scale that increases with experience, an 8% holiday allowance and a year-end allowance.
- The students not employed by the university have to pay tuition fees comparable to those across the rest of Europe. There are a range of funding options to cover this, including a full or partial scholarship from the government, an industry partner or charity.
If you haven’t already, it might be useful to read our overall PhD study in the Netherlands guide. This article provides an overview of all the factors you should consider before committing to study in the Netherlands.
The cost of a PhD in The Netherlands
Studying a PhD in the Netherlands is affordable for international students, with tuition fees rarely required, relatively low living costs, and more often than not a monthly salary.
The majority of PhD students in the Netherlands are considered university employees and receive research funding as well as a monthly salary. Therefore, there are no traditional tuition fees for most PhD students.
Those who are not employed by the university include contract doctoral research associates who are sponsored by an external scholarship or an employer and self-funded external doctoral candidates. These students usually pay tuition fees, though they may be covered by a scholarship in the case of contract doctoral research associates.
Each university is free to decide how much to charge for PhD tuition fees so the exact amount students need to pay differs based on the institution. The length of study and area of research also affect the price. Generally, the doctoral fees are comparable to those across the rest of the EU and the fees are the same for EU / EEA and Swiss students.
The Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) requires students to have a minimum of €932.87 a month. This is in line with the €800 - €1,100 a month suggested by most Dutch universities.
As you may expect, living costs vary depending on whereabouts in the country you live, with larger cities such as Amsterdam costing more each month. Similarly, the amount you travel and the lifestyle you lead will affect the cost.
Since most PhD students are employed by the university there isn’t much opportunity to work alongside PhD study. However, it may be possible to offset the cost with some part-time work, especially for those self-funded. EU / EEA and Swiss students can work without restrictions during their PhD. Other international students require a work permit from the UWV (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen — the Employee Insurance Agency) which allows them to work a maximum of 16 hours a week through term and full-time during summer.
Whether you’re employed by the university or not, you may still have to pay an additional fee, which covers the costs of supervision, enrolment, and university access. The exact cost varies between institutions, the research discipline, and the equipment you will use. You may not have to pay it at all.
As a PhD student, you’ll be in the Netherlands for over 90 days and therefore, may need a visa. Students from the EU / EEA and Swiss nationals don’t need any kind of visa but must register at the town hall in the municipality you live in if you’re staying for over 4 months. Students from everywhere else must apply for an entry visa (MVV) and / or residence permit through your university. This costs about €210. Check out the website of your prospective university for more detailed visa information.
Dutch Government PhD funding
Most PhD students in the Netherlands that aren’t employed by the university are funded through a fellowship, scholarship, or grant. The Dutch Government offers a range of funding opportunities open to both Dutch and international students, from full to partial scholarships.
Nuffic is the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education. They’re funded by the Dutch Government and aim to provide financial support for students across the world for research to improve society. They offer a range of scholarship opportunities, many of which they partner with other countries to provide including:
They also offer the Erasmus+ scholarship, which is available for international students from a range of countries. Bear in mind, with this scholarship you can only study up to 12 months of your PhD in the Netherlands. The deadline for each scholarship is different so keep an eye on application deadlines on the Nuffic finance website.
Netspar is a think tank, partially funded by Dutch government agencies that offer scholarships to PhD students in areas including economics, sociology, psychology, law and communication. They offer mostly partial scholarships, which are advertised on their website, but do fully fund some advertised projects at certain universities.
If you’re looking for a scholarship separate from a project the Netspar individual research grants may be of interest to you. This covers up to 50% of the cost of a PhD student for a maximum of 3 years. The deadline for this is around January. You can find more information about this grant on the Netspar research funding page.
The Dutch Government funds a number of research councils, many of which offer scholarships to PhD students across a range of disciplines. Often your prospective university must apply on your behalf so speak to them to see which scholarships or grants they recommend. Below are a few examples of research bodies open to funding international students:
The EURAXESS website is another source of funding and offer scholarships across Europe for home and international students. The search can be filtered by country and field of research.
Industry and charities
There are many organisations interested in research in the Netherlands, whether they have a charitable goal or are commercial companies looking for new products they may offer PhD funding. These kinds of opportunities differ from year to year and can be relatively well hidden so speak to your prospective supervisor to find out which organisations are best to apply for in your research area.
Most industry-funded PhD projects are advertised through a specific university and have attached funding. However, depending on your subject area some companies may have separate scholarships you can apply for. Your prospective supervisor may have some industry contacts to suggest so speak with them about your options first.
In the Netherlands there are many charities dedicated to research that offer scholarships to PhD students, including international students as long as they are studying at a Dutch institution. Below are a few examples of charities that offer this kind of funding, though there are many, many more:
University grants and assistantships
As mentioned above most PhD students in the Netherlands are paid by their university. Many universities in the Netherlands are bound by the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) for Dutch Universities, meaning as a PhD student you’ll be paid the same salary regardless which university of the group you study at. Currently, your salary would be around €3,247 a month before tax depending on your experience and qualifications. Since PhD students are seen as members of staff, they also receive an 8% holiday allowance and an 8.3% end of year allowance.
Often these positions are similar to assistantships, with students taking on additional task alongside their PhD research, such as teaching. However, this isn’t always the case and depends on your supervisor and the research area you study. Generally, international students are eligible for these university-funded PhD opportunities, though some will only be open to those proficient in Dutch!
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