A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Can’t have enough of doing research? Want to become a lecturer in a prestigious university? Is your dream career in academia? The Netherlands is the perfect country to pursue a doctorate degree with world class universities. However, deciding to do a PhD means accepting a long burdensome process of application. As someone who have been in this process for 6-month now (since January), I would like to tell what it looks like and where to start.
Firstly, PhD in the Netherlands is different from most countries where you are still seen as just students, including my home country. Here, while being a student is still an option), most of the positions with grants are actually employment contracts with the university and in addition to your research you also undertake a certain percentage of teaching and administrative duties. These positions are mostly for 4 years.
Every university has its own procedure and deadlines. While one opens the applications in February, one does in May. While one asks for a short proposal first and an extended one later, one asks for the full proposal at the very beginning. So, you need to keep an eye for announcements from each university and prepare accordingly. They all post it on their own website but academictransfer.nl is the website where you can track them all at one place.
One thing in common to all is the research proposal. You need to find the topic you want to research for those 4 years and write an elaborate proposal on it. Why is this topic important for society? How does it differ from the existing literature? What methodology you will use? This is especially hard if you are doing your masters right now, you need to decide on what you want to work on in next 4 years even before taking half of your courses or finding your research topic for your master thesis.
Even though not necessarily all, many universities require submitting the name of your supervisor in the application form already. This means you first need to contact a professor who you think has experience in the area you want to work in, and… convince. They are in one way sponsoring you in your application saying, “I think this is a good candidate with a good topic.” This can become one of the hardest points in the procedure. As professors are often really busy, you may not even get a response to your e-mail. So, start sending them early, way before the application deadline.
Even after you do everything; find a topic, find a supervisor, prepare your research proposal, motivation letter and reference letter, applying is far from end. If you make it through the first selection done among the application, you might still face several rounds of interviews.
At the end, what I think is, even just applying for a PhD is not for light-hearted. You need to commit a fair amount of time and energy and keep all other responsibilities like lectures, assignments and exams keep going. Still, hopefully you will be granted a position at the end, and it will all worth.
What are your opinions/experiences? Share in the comments!