Why you should do your PhD in the Netherlands

Pranav S. Kulkarni
24 Mar ’22

Being a third year PhD student who is scrambling to write and submit papers, start new analyses and brainstorm for the last year of my PhD, I have had quite some time to reflect on the question of why you should choose the Netherlands to do your PhD. Here are some points as to why I found the Netherlands to be the right fit for me.

Key responsibilities

One of the underrated issues with a doctorate is that the students are expected to output high quality research while trying to grapple with other duties that come with academic training. A key feature of PhD in the Dutch universities is that your first priority is to work on your research topic. Activities such as administrative duties, teaching assistance, etc. come at a distant second or third. Most courses that you take should also help facilitate your research by filling the knowledge gaps that you might have. This feature essentially saves PhD candidates from being torn between burdensome duties and their actual job (which should always be research).

English proficiency

This might be the most iterated praise of the Dutch folk by worldwide visitors. Most Dutch people are passably to completely fluent in the English language. Since English serves as the global language of research communication, this feature does make Dutch universities a viable target for aspiring international PhD students.

Budget for extension of research

Regardless of the type of PhD program followed by the candidate, Dutch universities ask for a certain part of the PhD budget to be allocated for the candidate to be able to attend conferences, take courses in other schools, present papers and publish their research. This makes an explicit funds package for the candidate to use for broadcasting and discussing their research nationally or internationally.

High value for Dutch research

One of the most important advantages of pursuing a PhD in the Netherlands is that Dutch research institutions and universities rank consistently high in world rankings for their high impact research. This translates as a high value for your PhD if you complete it in the Netherlands. Such value might not mean much personally to you but it can be very helpful for your future career.

Motivation to publish

The way in which most Dutch PhD programs are setup, is that a PhD candidate is expected to publish 4 or more research papers (or at least submit) during the course of their work before being eligible for defence. This provides a direct motivation for candidates to aim at publishing their work almost annually. This means that when you receive your doctorate, you will already have 3-4 published articles in high quality journals to showcase your calibre.

Work Life balance

One of the most underrated causes of concern among doctoral students is that they are overworked, underpaid and stressed. This happens worldwide due to the fact that PhD study is often intense. However, most universities in the Netherlands, try to actively alleviate such issues in their doctoral candidates. Various support tools such as coaching, lectures and discussions surrounding such issues and a close contact with supervisors are built into the guidelines of PhD programs of most Dutch institutions. This will prevent frequent burnouts and help maintain a work-life balance. In general, you are not expected to put in a lot more hours than normal to successfully complete your PhD program.

Besides that, you will find that most Dutch peers will encourage you to take up leisure activities like sports, “Borrel”, pub-quizzes, etc. to make your life sociable and as normal as possible.

European destination

At last, but not the least, the Netherlands is located in the European Schengen Area. Not only is the Dutch countryside beautiful, but it is an ideal location to travel to various other noteworthy European cities and states without much hassle. Being a foreigner, this feature sounds like a good deal to mix business with pleasure. For your future career, it is also helpful that you are situated in a connected hub from where travel to other parts of the world is easy.

These are some of the interesting features that I personally found in favour of doing a PhD in the Netherlands. For more information about the nature of PhD programs in the Netherlands, I suggest you have a look at the blogs 'What is PhD life like in the Netherlands' and 'First steps in the PhD program', or read my personal story.

Continue reading with the link below: information on how to pursue your PhD degree, our top 10 list of best preparation sources.

Recent blog posts