The Graduate School of Social Sciences

The Graduate School of Social Sciences of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU-GSSS) is established to support all PhD candidates within the Faculty of Social Sciences. Our aim is to provide a stimulating scientific environment in which young researchers, experienced staff and international scholars can mutually inspire one another. VU-GSSS focuses on some of the most pressing challenges to society, related to topics such as societal resilience, integration & diversity and security & conflict.

VU-GSSS monitors the application and admission procedure, a review procedure at the end of the first year, annual progress reports and the final stages of the PhD, leading to the actual defense. At the same time VU-GSSS stimulates all supervisors to achieve a high quality of supervision through training and annual evaluations by our PhD candidates.

VU-GSSS organizes a PhD Study Programme providing Phd candidates solid theoretical and methodological knowledge and strengthening academic skills. VU-GSSS favors an adaptive PhD programme in which PhD candidates can flexibly choose their own set of courses and organize small group tutorials from renowned experts on specialized topics.

There are two ways in which PhD candidates can be admitted to VU-GSSS:

1) Through recruitment as an employee (internal) PhD candidate. Available PhD positions are advertised in different ways, including on the VU website and as an internationally advertised call on Academic Transfer, on behalf of an already determined supervisor(y) team. During the selection procedure all criteria, both from VU-GSSS and the project itself, will be taken into account. The supervisor (promotor) of the proposed candidate sends all necessary documentation to VU-GSSS for further admission and registration of the PhD candidate.

2) All other PhD candidates are external. They will fund their project either through a (foreign) bursary, public organization, company or privately. External PhD’s should find a supervisor and formally request admission through our online application form. Make sure to include all necessary attachments as we won’t be able to proceed incomplete applications. Your application will be assessed by the Graduate School and our Assessment Board and the candidate will be informed about their decision as soon as possible.
VU-GSSS advises a preferential starting date (September 1) for all PhD’s in order to facilitate participation in the 1st year PhD education program. In order to proceed your application it is therefore recommended to submit your documents before 1 April.

In case you have any questions about the application procedure please contact us through

After admission all PhD candidates need to register with VU through Hora Finita. The process of registration, monitored by VU-GSSS, needs to be completed within two months of the admission date. PhD candidates receive a letter of acceptance after completing the registration procedure.

The VU-GSSS PhD programme is designed to support PhD candidates linked to the various departments of the VU Faculty of Social Sciences in their project progress and individual development. Please note that all PhD candidates who are officially registered (with Form I) at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam on or after 1 April 2015 are required to fulfill at least 30 EC's (according to the VU Doctorate Regulations). PhD candidates who completed a Research Master of Science (2 years, MASc) in the Social Sciences or Behavioral Science (i.e., Psychology) receive a dispensation of 20 EC; 10 EC is required, to be used flexibly.

For details on the requirements and recommendations for the PhD training plan see the PhD Information document.

Study Guide
For an overview of all PhD courses please see our Study Guide.

VU-GSSS courses
The VU-GSSS PhD education program is designed such that PhD candidates can fulfill their 30 EC internally. VU-GSSS offers a general course program and a program specifically tailored to the needs of external PhD candidates. In addition, individual PhD candidates, or small groups of up to five participants, can organize tutorials.

For more details regarding the courses, please see our Study Guide, §3 and §4.

External courses
Depending on individual needs and wishes, PhD candidates can also follow courses outside the VU-GSSS program, provided they are at least research master or PhD candidates’ level. These may be courses and workshops offered at other VU faculties, in (inter)national research schools, or in VU Interfaculty Research Institutes. The VU-GSSS has an agreement for exchange of course participation free of charge with ABRI (VU) and AISSR (UVA).

For more details regarding the external courses, please see our Study Guide, §5.

Graduate Fund
In order to support PhD candidates to orientate themselves internationally and to promote a broad academic development, VU-GSSS provides financial support through the VU-GSSS Graduate Fund. Internal PhD candidates can apply for various international activities, for instance for attending a summer school, presenting a paper at an international conference or workshop, participation in international education abroad, or conduct of fieldwork or a research stay at a foreign university. Next application deadline 1 April 2018. Calls will be sent out approximately 1 month before this deadline.

For more details regarding the Graduate Fund, please see our Guidelines Graduate Fund.

Training and Supervision Plan
To ensure a proper start of the project the PhD candidate and the supervisor(s) come to an agreement on the project plan in a so called Training-and Supervision Plan (TSP). The TSP is an obligatory part of the PhD trajectory, completed by the PhD candidate and the supervisor and co-supervisor(s). The plan must be finalized and signed by all parties within the first 2 months of the date of admission.

For details regarding the TSP, please see our Information Document §4.1.

Go / No-go Product
Eight months after the start of a PhD project, the candidates’ project progress is assessed on the basis of a so-called go/no-go product. For candidates with other obligations this term can be extended to submitting a product within the first year, if this is agreed upon in the TSP.

For details regarding the 8 Month Product, please see our Information Document §4.2.

Annual Progress report
The annual progress report is essential in monitoring the progress and development of the research. The supervisors report progress to the department. The PhD candidate is required to submit their own separate annual progress report directly to VU-GSSS.

For details regarding the Annual Progress Report, please see our Information Document §4.3.

Completion of the PhD trajectory: from dissertation to defense
Once a PhD candidate has finished writing the dissertation a number of steps are required before the actual PhD title is obtained.

 -  Obtaining a required PhD Training Certificate;
  -  Assign Thesis Committee;
  -  Assessment Procedure;
  -  Defense.

For more information, please see the Information Document §4.2.2 and §4.4.3.

Doing Biographical Research

Course overview

Sign up for the coming Pizza Session on 12 December by sending an e-mail to VU-GSSS.

PowerPoint presentations of previous sessions: check the VU-GSSS Canvas Community Page (accessible for VU-GSSS PhD candidates)