I've heard word that in the Netherlands only a professor/hoogleraar can supervise PhD students but I've found little to solidly confirm this. I've also heard that in practice, other arrangements are often made. Can anyone comment or confirm that a universitair hoofddocent (equivalent to a reader or an associate professor) cannot supervise PhD students? How do full professors handle the workload of supervising all the PhDs?

2 Answers 2


There is a difference between supervisor and promotor. You need a promotor, who is going to sign off your thesis. This needs to be a full professor (not associate or assistant - edit: nowadays at least at some universities in the Netherlands, associate professor is the rank needed to be the promotor, not professor - see answer by GrotesqueSI and comments). However, your main supervisor can be any PI (comparable to assistant/associate professor). Your daily supervision can even be handled by postdocs, and to some extend even by senior PhD students.

Depending on the status of your PI, if he or she isn't full professor (yet), a promotor may not be involved in a PhD students work at all.

  • Aha, I think I'm following. How about for non-Science disciplines where there really isn't usually much of a 'PI' role? I'm mostly just trying to sort out if I'll be able to accept PhDs in the Netherlands...and figure out what to do with the ones I already have. Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 21:53
  • I should clarify, I'm not a scientist. I am a PI of a big project but it doesn't fund PhDs. My PhD student all do projects that have their own funding and are related to my research interests but are not directly associated with my research projects. Thus I'm not their PI. Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 21:57
  • As long as you have a PhD and are connected to a university, you should be fine. You would just need to find a full professor who signs the documents as promotor - but this should be easy. If you are not at a university, I don't know how things would work, same if you do not have a PhD yourself.
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 22:09
  • @Mark If OP is supervising potential PhD students but is not at a university himself, he definitely needs a university to collaborate with this. Only a university can grant PhD titles.
    – quarague
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 10:57
  • @quarague Gendered assumptions are terribly offensive, bad for academia, and are often wrong. What about my post made you think that I was a "he"? Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 11:31

To add to this, my own question, for anyone looking, what Mark said is almost but not quite right. The "promotor" comment is mostly correct, but at least at some universities in the Netherlands, including mine, Associate Professor is the rank needed to be the promotor, not Professor.

  • Thanks. I included this information in my answer. Seems like this was changed after my time in NL.
    – Mark
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 17:03
  • Is it the same im Austrial?
    – markvs
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 18:02
  • It might be good to add the info from J. Doe's comment that this is due to a fairly recent (2017) change in the Dutch law. Prior to 2017, Mark's answer would be correct.
    – TimRias
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 7:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .