Trust, support and recognition are the basis for the new Set of Regulations for Doctoral Fellows

(08-01-2021) Following the introduction of the new career model for professorial staff (“ZAP”) and research staff (“WP”), Ghent University wants to offer a stronger legal framework for doctoral fellows as well.

One important goal is that there should be transparency from the start of the PhD programme. Based on our wider HR vision, we thus continue to work towards further developing a university that offers appreciation and trust to hard-working employees.

On 8 January 2021, the Board of Governors approved the new Set of Regulations regarding doctoral grants. These regulations will come into force starting from the 2021-22 academic year and will replace the current rules.  

Two elements of the new framework in particular are crucial: duration and funding. Even more than other elements, these aspects reflect the vision that Ghent University wishes to convey: a vision of trust and support, of recognition and belief in excellent research.


At Ghent University, we are choosing to offer doctoral fellows the greatest possible chance for successful studies. This means that doctoral fellows will be able to focus solely on their PhD for four years (48 months), without having to worry about the financial side of things. The uncertainty that used to be associated with the succession of shorter grant agreements is thus a thing of the past. 

As of the 2021-22 academic year, each doctoral learning tract will automatically start with a grant agreement lasting one year. This gives both the supervisor and the doctoral student the opportunity to be sure that doctoral study is the best choice for that student.

If the doctoral advisory committee – or in the absence of a committee, the supervisor(s) – gives a positive evaluation of the doctoral fellow’s progress and work before the end of the first year, the supervisor will issue a favourable (positive) opinion in writing. A favourable opinion leads to the doctoral grant being extended by three years.

This rule of 1 + 3 has limited exceptions, which are set out in the new set of regulations.


The financing of the PhD grant can happen by means of an individual or collegial commitment as follows:

  • the supervisor has sufficient resources on their own, from projects or other funds, to fund the grant agreement;
  • whichever department or other research partnership that is responsible for the joint management of budgets for multiple supervisors has sufficient resources at the time when the grant agreement is awarded;
  • the department or other research partnership responsible for the joint management of budgets of multiple supervisors can demonstrate with near certainty that it will obtain the necessary funds to award the grant; this can be based on a resources budget, on its past success in applying for funding, and an accompanying multi-year personnel plan. The resources budget and the personnel plan will be validated and periodically monitored by central administration (DPO, DOZA and DFIN).

Transitional measures

As a transitional measure, current grant agreements will continue until their scheduled end date.

At the scheduled end date, the supervisor has the option of renewing the grant agreement or not, in accordance with the terms of these regulations.

Rules and further explanation

  • The new regulations are currently being implemented in full following their approval by the Board of Directors on 8 January 2021. Within a few days you will be able to find the approved regulations at Codex UGent.