2. Tasks of a PhD candidate

The heading of this chapter might suggest that there is a certain list of tasks that applies to every PhD candidate at Utrecht University. However, besides the fact that we are all busy writing a dissertation, every PhD trajectory has different types and numbers of tasks. You can find your tasks in the work agreement you signed at the beginning of your PhD trajectory and make arrangements with your supervisor about the time allocated to each task. Below, we will describe a number of tasks that are commonly encountered during a PhD trajectory at Utrecht University and refer to relevant documents, websites and persons where you can find additional information. Overall, however, PhD candidates need to make sure to have an appropriate balance between doing research and other tasks. Please keep in mind that in the end your dissertations should have the highest priority!

Writing a dissertation

The most important task of a PhD candidate is doing original research and completing a dissertation. Dissertations can take many forms and formats. The general requirements of a dissertation at Utrecht University can be found in the Doctoral Degree Regulations Utrecht. Moreover, the implementation of these regulations differs between research fields. In some fields it is common use to write a monograph, in others to bundle earlier published articles. Furthermore, requirements on the amount of articles you should publish also differ between research fields. Make sure to consult the information provided by your Graduate School and your PhD coordinator or promoter about the specific requirements of a dissertation and about the common format of a dissertation in your field.

Taking classes

In addition to doing research, taking classes is generally part of a PhD project as well. After all, as a PhD candidate you are still ‘in training’ to become a PhD researcher. Graduate Schools are responsible for the availability and quality of PhD program courses. Furthermore, the Graduate Schools set the formal requirements regarding the contents and number of courses you may be obliged to take. In most cases, you will come to an individual education plan in accordance with your supervisor(s), which is formalized in an Education and Supervision Agreement (ESA, also referred to as Training and Supervision Agreement, TSA, also see Chapter 3). For specific requirements and procedures, consult the website of your Graduate School.


Another task most PhD candidates will have to carry out is teaching or supervising (under)graduate students. The required number of hours of teaching (% fte) will be different for each individual, and this should be explicitly specified in your task description (taakstelling in Dutch). You can negotiate this percentage at the start of your PhD project and make a note of your agreement in the ESA or TSA with the signatures of your supervisors accompanying it.

Additional tasks

Besides doing research, teaching and taking classes you might be asked for (or voluntary take on) a variety of additional tasks, such as: organizing a conference, representing your graduate school in PrOUt, representing PhD candidates in the Faculty Council, editing for a magazine, explaining your research area to laypersons such as high school pupils, etc. The lists of additional tasks are open- ended as are the possibilities for integrating these tasks in your PhD project. For some tasks you will be compensated by extra research time or money whereas others can be seen as part of your PhD trajectory or are completely on a voluntary basis (honour). Some Graduate Schools have set a maximum of time that can be spent on additional tasks in order to protect the amount of time available for doing research. Read about this in the doctoral candidates’ quality assurance plan of your Graduate School.