It is frequently mentioned that PhD students are employed in Europe (e.g. the Netherlands, Scandinavia, etc). I still don't understand how this affects a PhD program.

What is the difference when one enrols as a PhD student in the US or has a work contract in the Netherlands? Is there any specific difference in responsibilities, expectations, freedom, etc?

Please make a tangible comparison rather than listing various possibilities. If a student enrols in a PhD program in the US or in the Netherlands, how will their work and life be different?

closed as too broad by scaaahu, Flyto, user3209815, user9646, nengel Jun 23 '18 at 15:04

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Having been a grad student in the US, and a post-doc at a Dutch institute with grad students (albeit some time ago), I'm not sure there was much difference in work or life for a student at either place (over and above general differences in work/life in the respective countries). Your mileage may vary... – Jon Custer Jun 19 '18 at 16:17
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    Workplace rights are generally afforded to employees but not students. – astronat Jun 19 '18 at 19:19
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    Europe is dozens of countries with different legal and academic systems. Asking about the Netherlands might be fine, Europe, not so much. I wouldn't expect the same answer for Portugal, Norway and Belarus at the same time. – user9646 Jun 19 '18 at 19:49
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    @Googlebot You got my point, kudos. – user9646 Jun 20 '18 at 2:12
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    Is there any specific difference in responsibilities, expectations, freedom, etc? These vary between countries, universities, faculties, departments, programs one is enrolled in, supervisors,... So, do you expect a comparison between all of the dozens (or even hundreds?) of thousands PhD students' situations? – user68958 Jun 20 '18 at 6:51

Geographically, the UK is between the Netherlands and the US. In many aspects, the system is something in-between. There has been a long debate in the UK for giving the status of full employment to PhD students or not. This is a brief list of pros and cons argued by both sides of the debate.

Note that these are not my opinion, and I am simply narrating what I recall. A quick search in the UK academic websites can provide sufficient resources.


  • An employed PhD has better work conditions and rights.
  • They have better reception in the society. For instance, when it comes to renting a house, PhD students are considered students, and most houses are not available to student tenants.


  • PhD stipend is tax-free, but upon employment, the salary is taxable.
  • The salary is lower than £32,000 (typical for postdocs), and international students should pay around £15,000 tuition fee.
  • non-EEA students cannot get Tier 4 student visa and should apply for a work visa.

In conclusion, there is not much difference in terms of academic experience.

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