Doing a PhD

Interested in doing an PhD?

The doctoral degree is the highest degree you can achieve. Under the guidance of a supervisor, you undertake intensive and independent scientific research. You dig into to the core of a fundamental research question, in order to make an original contribution to the legal knowledge base.

You write down the results of your research in a doctoral thesis. Once you have defended the thesis successfully before a jury, you can bear the title of "Doctor of Law".

Why doing a PhD?

The doctoral degree is a prerequisite for those who want to pursue an academic career or want to teach at higher education institutes.

However, doctoral studies are above all an investment in yourself. You get the opportunity to be guided while designing and carrying out a creative and interesting research project. You are part of a research group and can interact with a fascinating international research community. You build a network and a reputation by publishing the results of your research.

You learn to plan independently, coordinate, evaluate and how to function in a team. The doctoral study programme broadens your horizons, sharpens your skills in different areas (communication, ICT, languages​​, ...) and prepares you for a career inside or outside academia.

How do you get started?

You are interested in pursuing a PhD, but do not know where to start?

Step 1: identify a research topic and find a supervisor

The main requirement for starting PhD research is finding a supervisor who is willing to support your PhD research application.

You first need to decide in which domain of the law your interests lie. As soon as you know in which domain you want to obtain a PhD, you can start looking for a supervisor. You can find the research interests of our senior research staff on the page ‘research fields’.

Are you still studying? In your first master year at the Faculty of Law you can apply for the position of student researcher. This programme familiarizes you with academia in an early stage. Ideally, during the student researcher programme, you prepare a grant application with the help of your supervisor, for example a PhD Fellowship fundamental Research from FWO (Research Foundation Flanders). The Department of Research, Innovation and Valorisation of the University of Antwerp is happy to support you in applying for this grant by way of the Dive Into PhD programme. They offer step-by-step support in writing a good research proposal. More information can be found on the student portal Blackboard.

Step 2: Find a way to fund your research

There are different ways to fund a PhD research. These are elaborated on below.

Step 3: Contact the Registrar’s Office

With the supervisor’s agreement, you submit an PhD application form to the Registrar’s Office. This information will reach the Faculty. Once the Faculty has approved your research proposal and composed the individual PhD commission, you can finalise your enrollment.

More information about doing a PhD in general can be found on the website of the Antwerp Doctoral School (ADS). Feel free to get in touch with the Faculty of Law’s Research Office ( for more details.

Do you want to carry out PhD research in Antwerp as an international student? Please consult the ‘Practical guide for international PhD students’.

How to fund your Phd?

1. Teaching and Research assistant (AAP)

The appointment as a teaching and research assistant runs for maximum 6 years. At least 50% of the time is devoted to your own doctoral research. In addition, you also provide assistance in teaching and research, and offer services to the University and the society at large. This is the ideal position to combine doctoral research with teaching.

The faculty only has a limited number of teaching and research assistant positions available. You can only apply when there is a vacancy.

2. PhD fellowship ( FWO / VLAIO / VLIR UOS)

You can apply for a PhD fellowship with a funding body. Your research proposal competes with that of other applicants. Once you have secured a fellowship, you can carry out full time doctoral research for a maximum of four years. Each funding channel has different deadlines, conditions and application procedures.

You need the support of a supervisor in all cases; do not hesitate to contact a supervisor and discuss your interest in preparing a fellowship application.

Common PhD fellowships are the PhD fellowship fundamental research of FWO (Research Foundation Flanders), the Baekelant fellowships at VLAIO (Flanders Innovation and Entrepreneurship) and the (sandwich) fellowships at VLIR-UOS (Flemish Interuniversity Council – development cooperation).

3. Research project

Senior researchers often secure funds for a specific research project, after which they hire a (PhD) researcher to conduct the research. You may be the most suited PhD researcher for such a project. Typically, you would have four years of full-time research on the project.

Not every such vacancy is widely circulated. Do not hesitate to contact a research group for more information about upcoming positions.

4. Own means

You may decide to carry out PhD research without dedicated funding, for example while you have a job elsewhere. In that case, you do not need to apply for funding. You do need to register as a PhD student.