Universiteit Leiden

nl en

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.

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:   

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's degree which should be the equivalent of an LLM or masters 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 proposed 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.


Becoming an external PhD candidate at Leiden University in most cases does not involve paying a fee.

However, as of 1 April 2018 the International Institute of Air and Space LawThe Van Vollenhoven Institute and the Grotius Center for International Legal Studies offer PhD tracks (see below).


PhD candidates, PhD fellows, contract doctoral candidates and external PhD candidates in a PhD track follow the Graduate School’s PhD Training programme. External PhD candidates do not follow the PhD Training programme. They only follow the mandatory course ‘Scientific Conduct’.

More Information

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 840 hours. The Graduate School’s training programme consists of three components: 1) research skills, 2) transferable skills, 3) individual part of the training programme.

1. Research skills (at least 420 hours)

Out of the 840 hours in total, the Graduate School prescribed that half of the courses followed (420 hours) are aimed at acquirement and improvement of methodological knowledge and skills. There are only two courses within this category that are compulsory: Scientific Conduct (15 hours), and Data Management Training Leiden Law School (28 hours). Compulsory courses can only be replaced (by other courses) in consultation with the dean of PhD studies. For the remaining hours, PhD researchers are free to choose any of courses offered by the Graduate School, but they can also take courses outside the Graduate School.

The Graduate School of Law currently offers the following courses:
- Philosophy of Science for Lawyers (140 hours)
- Legal Methodology (140 hours)
- Qualitative Empirical Research Methods in Law (84-140 hours)
- Quantitative Empirical Research Methods in Law (140 hours)
- Scientific Conduct for PhDs in Law (15 hours)

2. Transferable skills (at least 140 hours)
According to the PhD Guidelines, at least 140 hours worth of courses of must be followed in the area of transferable skills. Examples include Project management for PhDs, Introduction to teaching for PhDs, Communication in science, Academics and (social) media, and Speed Reading. PhD researchers can make use of the offer within the University Training program PhDs'.

All PhD researchers with teaching tasks should follow the course ‘introduction to teaching for PhDs’, or at least one of the 5 modules of the University Teaching Qualification (BKO). 

3. Individual part of the training
PhD researchers can follow various training courses that benefit their personal development or that offer more in-depth substantive knowledge connected to the topic of their dissertation. Examples include courses from Master programs, language education (e.g., in relation to data collection abroad), Summer Schools, and conference participation.

As of 1 April 2018 the faculty has three so-called PhD tracks: at the Van Vollenhove Institute, the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies and the International Institute of Air and Space Law.


  • All PhD candidates on a PhD track will participate on the obligatory training programme unless they have been granted an exemption by the PhD Dean.
  • Together with the PhD Dean the department can develop a tailor-made training programme (“e-learning”) for exempted PhD track candidates.

Office space and travel allowance

All PhD candidates on a PhD track will in principle also get an office space and a travel allowance which can be necessary for the research or are fitting in the light of progress achieved.A different arrangement can be agreed upon at a preliminary stage.

Track fee

  • The standard fee is 10,000 euro a year with a maximum of four years.
  • In the case of PhD candidates on a PhD track who are not entitled to office space and a travel allowance, an adjusted fee of 5,000 euro a year will apply with a maximum of four years.

Fee reduction

  • Criteria for a fee reduction include:
    (1) a substantive connection, or other substantive synergies with existing research projects of the Centre/Department, which is obvious and which justifies the application of a reduction;
    (2) the candidate is of excellent quality;
    (3) financial need of the candidate.
  • These criteria are applied cumulatively.
  • If a reduction is awarded, the amount of the fee will be set at 2,500 euro a year with a maximum of four years.  

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.

Due to the selected cookie settings, we cannot show this video here.

Watch the video on the original website or
This website uses cookies.  More information.