Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden Law School

Doctorate Study

Successful completion of the procedure to obtain a doctorate culminates in the conferral of the academic degree of Doctor in a specific subject.

In order to obtain a doctorate degree independent and original research must be carried out under the guidance of a supervisor and co-supervisor. This period of research generally takes 4 years in the case of a full-time appointment as a PhD student (doctoral candidate). The results of the research are presented in a doctoral thesis or dissertation. Most doctoral theses in the field of law are written in the form of a book, but they may also consist of a number of articles combined to form a coherent whole.  Once the supervisors have approved the dissertation, it is forwarded to a doctoral committee to be assessed. If the assessment of the doctoral committee is positive, the public defence of the doctoral thesis is scheduled.  The conferral of the doctorate degree entitles holders to use the title Doctor.

The faculty has various categories of doctoral candidates: doctoral candidates who are employees and external doctoral candidates.

The doctoral candidates who are employees are divided into two categories:

  • PhD Candidates (formerly known in Dutch as ‘assistenten in opleiding’ or AiOs), paid for with the first (government funded), second (research council funded) or third (contract funded) flow of funding, with a contract for four years in principle and with a teaching component of 10%;
  • PhD Fellows, with a contract for six years in principle, and a teaching component of 30%.

External Doctoral Candidates are not employed by the faculty. The two most important categories are:   

  • the contract doctoral candidates, who receive a grant from their country of origin to carry out full-time doctorate research;
  • the external doctoral candidates, who write a doctoral thesis in their own time with guidance from a supervisor at the faculty.

In order to become an External PhD Candidate you should have a research proposal which fits within the research carried out in the research programmes of the faculty. 

A decision on an application for admission to the PhD programme can only be made on the basis of the completed and submitted online form including the required attachments.

The full application must include:

  • a specific, innovative and fairly elaborate proposal;
  • the name of a possible supervisor (professor) whose research interests and area of specialization fit your research proposal (more information about research and potential supervisors);
  • a completed Master-degree which should be the equivalent of a LL.M. or Master degree obtained in The Netherlands including the corresponding list of grades;
  • an English language test score of 100 (TOEFL) or 7.0 (IELTS), unless the candidate is a native speaker;
  • at least one published article/chapter relevant to the field of the propesed research.


External PhD Candidates have to make their own arrangements for the funding of their research and living costs. External funding possibilities can be explored with your supervisor(s). Paid positions as employed PhD candidate at Leiden Law School are advertised at http://vacancies.leiden.edu.


Until now, becoming an external PhD candidate at Leiden University in most cases does not involve paying a fee.

However, some subdepartments which offer a PhD-track charge a fee: see for example the International Institute of Air and Space LawThe Van Vollenhoven Institute and the Grotius Center for International Legal Studies).

More Information

Studying for a PhD.
The PhD Training Programme.

More questions about the PhD programme can be sent by mail to the Graduate School.

The exit qualifications for the PhD Training Programme are laid down in the university PhD Regulations.

It includes components such as methodology, research design, academic accountability and academic integrity. The training is composed primarily of the guidance provided by the supervisor and other co-supervisors.  In addition, the training includes an obligatory training requirement amounting to 30 ECTS. The contract of a doctoral candidate will only be extended when the training requirement has been met.

The training comprises three components:

1. Generic academic skills
2. Courses for (legal) researchers
3. Specialist training