How to become an external PhD candidate at Leiden Law School?

Doing a PhD at Leiden Law School is an excellent way to increase your own expertise in a certain field, to advance a legal and/or academic career, and to increase the world’s body of knowledge.

Research anywhere in the world

Leiden Law School employs a wide range of eminent professors and expert lecturers, who can supervise PhD research not only in many subdisciplines of law but also of criminology and economics.

Doctoral students who do not have an employment position at Universiteit Leiden are known as ‘external PhD candidates’ (or ‘buitenpromovendi’ in Dutch). At Leiden Law School the majority of PhD candidates is external. They come from many countries, and mostly do their PhD research in their own spare time, or occasionally as part of another job, anywhere in the world.

During their unsalaried doctoral research they keep in contact with their supervisor(s). Sometimes, a supervisor will involve an external PhD candidate in particular activities of Leiden Law School, and occasionally external PhD candidates may (for a fee) attend certain courses of the PhD Training Programme. Some external PhD candidates arrange with their supervisors that they can do parts of their research in Leiden at the Law School, rather than ‘at home’.

Funding & Fees

A few candidates are lucky enough to acquire a scholarship or other funding to make this possible for all or part of their time as PhD candidate. Leiden Law School does not provide such scholarships or funding to external PhD candidates. So all external PhD candidates will have to make their own arrangements for the funding of their research and living costs. Sometimes external funding possibilities can be explored together with the supervisor(s). From time to time openings for a paid position as employed PhD candidate at Leiden Law School are advertised at

Until now, becoming an external PhD candidate at Leiden University in most cases does not involve paying a fee. However, some subdepartments of Leiden Law School which offer a PhD-track already do charge a fee (see for example the International Institute of Air and Space LawThe Van Vollenhoven Institute and the Grotius PhD Track).

The PhD thesis

Please note that PhD research normally takes three to five years, and should result in a PhD thesis of less than 100.000 words (including footnotes but without the preliminary and closing matters). In general it is advisable for external PhD candidates to start with writing (and publishing) one or two academic articles. The Leiden University PhD Regulations explicitly allow a doctoral thesis to consist of a number of (published or submitted) academic articles, or of a combination of articles and chapters, or of just chapters (see also the 'Memorandum on PhD dissertations consisting of articles' of 30 March 2010). Most professors would be happy to supervise a PhD that is written in either Dutch or English. Some would also allow the thesis to be written in French or German, or with special permission, in some other language. Each PhD thesis will be published electronically in the University’s Institutional Repository, and often also as a book.

On the website you will find information about professors of Leiden University, and about Leiden Law School’s research programmes.

Before applying you do not need to contact a (potential) supervisor. The Graduate School will see if there is a supervisor available on the faculty. However, If you are already in contact with a (potential) supervisor, please indicate this information on the online form.

Online application form

If you are interested in doing a PhD at Leiden Law School, please use Internet Explorer or Chrome as a browser to fill in the online form.

Please note that persons who have already been awarded a doctorate degree will not be allowed to submit another dissertation. For that reason it will not be possible to apply for a PhD program at Leiden Law School.

Everyone who would like to become a PhD candidate at Leiden Law School should add the following documents to the form just mentioned:

  • research outline of up to 400 words on the chosen topic (or on a possible topic). This should be more than just a table of contents. 
  • copies of diplomas and grade list (transcripts)
  • (if relevant) proof of English language proficiency (TOEFL or IELTS)
  • curriculum vitae
  • list of publications
  • (if available already) any previously written texts about the topic of the outline (for example a master thesis, any academic or other articles, any professional reports) 

More information

More information on doing so at Leiden Law School.  

Questions can be addressed at

Last Modified: 09-06-2017