Policy on recommended financial means for PhD students

Guidelines and advice

Ghent University’s Board of Directors has adopted a new guideline recommending that PhD students should meet a threshold of at least 1350 euro in means of subsistence (meeting 9 October 2020).

This guideline flows from concerns raised by the Board on the living conditions of PhD students that come to Belgium with insufficient financial means. The group of vulnerable PhD students affected by this is diverse. Most of them come to Ghent University with limited funding from an external donor, a limited scholarship from an organization in their home country or on their own means.

This new guideline will be applied to any future Ghent University collaborations and agreements with scholarship providers, insisting on a scholarship of at least 1350 euros.

Information for current PhD candidates

Ghent University is aware that some existing scholarships, or your deposit to demonstrate solvability, are lower than 1350 euros. It is important to note therefore that this new guideline is advisory and that you can continue your PhD on your current scholarship given that you prepared your stay based on the information on the Ghent University websites at the time of your arrival as well as your awareness of the actual cost of living at that time.

Ghent University will advise future PhD students without a minimum of 1350 euros/month that they should discuss their financial situation with their supervisor before the start of their PhD. In cases where the scholarship is too low, and no other means are available, Ghent University will advise supervisors to consider topping up the grant of the PhD students to 1350 euro. Where this is not possible, both student and supervisors should consider whether the PhD project should be progressed in its current form.

Current students can ask their supervisors to consider providing additional financial assistance, making up (part of) the discrepancy with the new threshold of 1350 euros. However, some supervisors or departments more broadly may not have adequate funding available to do this and there is no institutional expectation that they make additional funding available if their existing budgets do not allow them to do so.

Information for prospective PhD candidates

Ghent University advises that you should explicitly discuss your financial situation clearly and openly with your supervisor before the start of your application.

Some students come with savings or support from family or friends. Others intend to rely on a part-time job, even though that is not always (legally) possible within the context of a PhD scholarship and/or contract. Please ensure you have reviewed all the relevant information before you travel to Belgium to start your PhD project.

Secondary employment in addition to your PhD can also be stressful and take away time and focus from your PhD project. In more recent times, the COVID pandemic has shown that PhD students with limited means quickly face financial difficulties if their (family) support or additional employment (temporarily) falls away.

Please check here for a realistic indication of the costs of living in Belgium. A student room in our Ghent University dorm for PhD student costs 550 euro/month (all-in).

Information for supervisors

For future PhD students Ghent University advises that you should have an open and clear conversation early on in the process about the financial situation of the candidate before the start of their application. This conversation should include an honest indication of the real cost of living in Belgium.

Some students may indicate that they intend to rely on support from savings, family or friends. In this case you can ask them to provide this support in concreto by topping up their grant through the Ghent University solvency procedure. The student him/herself or a family member can, for instance, make a deposit of 4200 euros that will be paid at 350 euros monthly for one year as a top-up to a grant of 1000 euros.

Other students hope to take on an additional part-time job, but this is not always (legally) possible. If this is their intention, they should look into the practicalities of this before they arrive to start their PhD project.

An additional job can also affect PhD candidate’s ability to focus on their PhD project and their ability to remain resilient over the entire course of that project.

If you are considering inviting a student with less than 1350 euros at their disposal, Ghent University advises that you should offer these doctoral candidates a “top-up” from your own Ghent University-means, for example, if the PhD student’s research fits in with a research project for which you have project funding.

Options:

  • It is possible to top up a scholarship from another financial source with a partial (e.g. 10%, 20%) Ghent University scholarship ('Dehousse beurs'). If agreed, departmental funding can also be used for this top-up.
  • For students conducting research here in the context of an agreement between Ghent University and an external financier, that is centrally managed such as HEC (Pakistan), the annual bench fee can be used to make up the grant to the 1350 euro threshold

Additional options are being explored to provide further financial support.

In more recent times, the COVID pandemic has shown that PhD students with limited means quickly face financial difficulties if their (family) support or part-time job (temporarily) falls away.

You should consider carefully whether it is the right time to start a multi-year PhD project with limited financial means.