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Education PhD programmes Prospective PhD Candidates How to obtain a PhD position

How to obtain a PhD position

The Dutch PhD system

The Dutch PhD system is held in high international regard, and a PhD programme in the Netherlands takes three or four years. During this time you conduct your own research, and a Graduate School provides a balanced mix of expert supervision and tailor-made postgraduate training, whilst giving you the freedom to pursue your own ideas within the scope of a specific research theme.

Independent research is the main focus of your PhD programme, and you are supervised in this by at least two experts on your research subject. Many international PhD candidates come to Groningen for a short stay, and you too may choose to carry out part of your research abroad. You write up the results of your research in your PhD thesis, which almost always comprises a number of papers that have been or will be published in scientific journals. After a successful defence, you will be awarded an internationally recognized PhD degree by an esteemed university.

Alongside your research and thesis, you have the opportunity to follow a PhD training programme based upon your needs and interests as well as the requirements of your Graduate School. The training programme usually amounts to 30 ECTS credit points (1 ECTS credit point is the equivalent of 28 hours of study) earned over a period of four years, and is a mix of courses on the general skills required to work in the worlds of science and industry and in-depth courses on your research subject. There are several courses you can take in order to complete the training programme, but you can also earn ECTS by attending conferences or research seminars or by participating in other activities. You create your training programme together with your supervisors and the Graduate School.

In addition to the full-time programmes, other variants are possible, such as combining PhD training with work outside the university.

English language proficiency requirements potential PhD candidates

At UG we require our PhD candidates to be sufficiently proficient in the English language. The minimum requirements are stated here. Some Graduate Schools have stricter requirements. Those are stated on the admissions page of the specific faculty Graduate School.

To ascertain that PhD candidates are sufficient in English, the Doctoral Board approved the following general requirements:

  • An English proficiency test (test results no older than 2 years) is required for admission to all UG Graduate Schools. The test results have to meet the minimal requirements detailed below; some faculty Graduate Schools require a higher score.
  • A letter from a prospective thesis advisor stating that the potential candidate has an excellent command of the English language is NOT allowed as the only proof (but can obviously contribute when the other requirements are met).
  • At least one interview has to take place with the potential candidate and a minimum of two supervisors/persons from the UG. The interview enables the supervisor(s) to judge the communication skills of the candidate.
  • A written assignment is recommended as part of the interview; for ex. the candidate can be given a scientific article and asked to provide a 300-500 words summary.

Test requirements

There are multiple types of tests available but the most common, well known and internationally recognized tests are the TOEFL and the IELTS. For the latter the test requirements are listed here. For other tests, the Board of Admissions of the faculty Graduate School decides on the equivalence of the test scores to the ones cited here.


  • A minimum overall score on the IELTS (e.g. 6.5 or 7.0) is required, as well as a minimum score of 6.0 on parts.


  • A minimum score (of at least 92) on the internet-based test is required, as well as a minimum score (of at least 21) on the parts.
  • The TOEFL 'MyBest Scores' are not considered in the admission procedure

In case of dyslexia, please contact the TOEFL and/or IELTS organisation


Candidates are exempted from proving proficiency in English if they:

  • completed a secondary education (HAVO or VWO certificate) in the Netherlands
  • are a native English speaker 
  • completed a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree program, which was fully taught in English.

The Board of Admissions of the faculty Graduate School decides in special cases.

Grant Finder

If you would like to see what grant possibilities may be available to you to come study in Groningen, please try out the UG Grant Finder tool.

Last modified:16 July 2024 1.47 p.m.
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