New figures from the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) reveal that on average, PhD students take about five years to obtain the title of doctor. Only a small group (14 percent) cross the finish line within four years.

But there are significant differences per university. In Utrecht, PhD students obtain their doctorate a half-year faster than the average time, while at VU Amsterdam and Erasmus University, doctoral candidates require more time than the average.

Another feature of PhD students in Utrecht is that few end up dropping out. More than eighty percent complete their dissertation within seven years. Only Maastricht University has a higher success rate. At the other end of the spectrum are – yet again – Erasmus University and VU Amsterdam.


For the first time in years, there has been a decline in the number of doctorates obtained at Dutch universities. In 2017, exactly 4,731 PhD students obtained the title of doctor. That’s around two-hundred less than the preceding year. This breaks a multi-year trend which saw the number of doctorates rise each year.

The work of external PhD candidates is also included in the total number of doctorates. These PhDs don’t have an appointment at a university and write their thesis in their own time. However, only regular PhD candidates were taken into consideration for compiling the figures relating to the time needed to obtain a doctorate and the success rates.


Who are the PhDs of Erasmus University? Read 'The Phd defense'

‘I wasn’t keen on getting a PhD at all’

Michiel Severein about the trial of the wrong sector, also known as the people that…