Dual career PhD programme information

The dual career PhD programme aims to support fellows in setting up, carrying out and finishing a research project leading to a PhD, alongside their regular job. The programme is offered at our institute in Maastricht, leading to a doctoral degree awarded by Maastricht University upon successful defence of the dissertation. Please note that participants will not be employed by Maastricht University.

The institute currently hosts about 50 dual career PhD candidates, who are an integral part of the UNU-MERIT community. The programme provides advanced training in the knowledge and skills relevant to the UNU-MERIT research agenda.  The programme is particularly interested in attracting professionals who conduct research in their job and have a strong research orientation and/or background.

The first year of the programme (September 2024 – June 2025)

The first year requires participants to undertake part-time research and interact with staff members and potential supervisors during the year to develop their PhD research proposal in detail and identify a supervisor for the PhD trajectory.

To support the fellows in achieving these objectives, the first year programme foresees two obligatory two-week workshops in Maastricht (four weeks in total, two weeks in September and two weeks in March), as well as two one-day workshops online, in November and June. During the Maastricht workshops, you attend the annual UNU-MERIT Internal Conference organised in September and the PhD research week in March.  During these events that mark important moments in the PhD-trajectory, the entire research community is present, including also the full-time track PhD fellows and senior staff members. You can engage in networking to identify scholars with matching interests. You attend peer presentations, trainings and lectures to raise your research skills and support you in the research proposal development.

The workshops require a temporary (two-week) but full-time investment. It is not recommended to combine workshop activities with work duties. Times of the workshops are set and cannot be changed based on participant preferences. The content of the course modules and the workshop programme will be communicated at the start of the programme.

We expect fellows to prepare a detailed PhD proposal during year one, which is presented during the workshops in Maastricht and online and discussed with you and the staff at UNU-MERIT. This proposal will be submitted to a review committee that evaluates the proposal against criteria of academic quality, fit with the institute’s research focus, the presence of a solid supervisory team and feasibility of the study. Based on the proposal evaluation, the continuation in the programme is decided.

 After the first year (September 2025 onwards)

In the subsequent years, you mainly work on your dissertation at your pace and in collaboration with your supervisors, meeting online on a regular basis and exchanging ideas and work through predefined modes of interaction, online, by email or in person.  You attend two full-time workshops of one week each in Maastricht every year.  During this week you actively participate in the internal conference at UNU-MERIT in September and you participate in the PhD presentations in March.  You spend time working with the supervisor(s) and you attend seminars, skills training, master classes and PhD defences of higher-year fellows. Progress is monitored and evaluated twice a year after each workshop.

Graduation time depends on the time fellows can actually spend on their research and on their research expertise before joining the programme. Our fastest graduate completed the degree within 3 years and our slowest graduate took 8,5 years. Average graduation time is 5 years (including the first year).

In addition to the compulsory modules designed for the dual career track, you are welcome to attend and participate, depending on your time and logistical constraints, in the PhD courses of the full-time PhD track and the seminar series with weekly seminar speakers.   You can also be a visiting PhD fellow for a somewhat longer period in agreement with your supervisor, e.g. to finalise a chapter or prepare the defence.

Programme flexibility

The dual career PhD programme allows for maximal flexibility, without jeopardising academic rigour and standards. To allow individual participants to combine their coursework with their professional life or with their research ambitions and needs, the PhD Programme Director can make adjustments to the programme which may include rearrangement or replacement of programme elements. This flexibility does not include the option to move face-to-face workshops, nor to participate in workshops online. It does however include the option to be waived certain courses based on existing knowledge as well as fast completion of the first year based on a fully developed and approved proposal at any point in the first year.

From the second year onward, programme milestones and processes are agreed on by participants and the supervisory team on an individual basis – with as the only requirement participation in the 2 workshops in Maastricht each year.