Aim & Content of the Wageningen University & Research PhD Programme

Our PhD programme has been set up to support the PhD candidate to reach the learning targets. The programme aims to give an excellent start in becoming an internationally recognised scientist.

Philosophy of the programme

Scientific independence

To obtain a PhD degree the candidate must have shown to be able to function as an independent scientist i.e.: developing relevant research questions, doing original scientific research to address these questions, leading to sound interpretation of the results and drawing the correct conclusions, placing these in the existing knowledge framework and communicating the findings.

T-shaped skills

During our PhD programme, the candidate must acquire so-called T-shaped skills which imply:

  • In-depth insight in the specific research (s)he is doing (vertical bar of the T) and placing this acquired knowledge in a broad scientific and societal context (horizontal bar of the T).
  • Having the skills and competences to function as a qualified academic in academia (vertical bar of the T) and in society at large (horizontal bar of the T).


The four-year PhD programme largely consists of conducting research and writing a thesis (dissertation). Furthermore, 10% of the time can be spent on teaching and up to 15% of the time is spent on training and education activities which include participation in (international) courses, competence and skills training, seminars, conferences and workshops. See PhD Training and Education.

Learning targets

The learning targets of the PhD Programme are:

  1. Functioning as independent practitioner of science who is able to:

    • Formulate scientific questions, either based on social issues or scientific progress;
    • Conduct original scientific research
    • Publish articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, publish books with scientific publishers or make a technical design.
  2. Integrating the research in, or placing it within the framework of, the own scientific discipline and against the background of a broader scientific area;
  3. Placing the research aims and research results in a societal context;
  4. Postulating concisely worded propositions in scientific and societal areas, formulated in such a way that they are subject to opposition and defence.

The Graduate Schools of Wageningen University & Research

At Wageningen University & Research, academic research and the PhD programme are coordinated by six Graduate Schools that together join forces under the umbrella of Wageningen Graduate Schools (WGS).

Graduate Schools have three main tasks:

  1. To coordinate, develop and facilitate doctoral education and training;
  2. To stimulate and coordinate the development of a coherent research programme within the mission of the graduate school;
  3. To safeguard, monitor and stimulate the quality and progress of research by staff, postdocs and PhD candidates.

The Graduate Schools of Wageningen University & Research and their areas of research are described below. It should be noted that research groups can participate in more than one Graduate School, but a PhD candidate usually belongs to only one Graduate School.

Experimental Plant Sciences (EPS)


The national Graduate School EPS organises and coordinates fundamental and strategic plant research of the collaborating universities and institutes, aiming at the development of new principles in plant molecular biology, plant physiology, plant growth for sustainable agriculture and horticulture, plant breeding and plant protection. EPS supports PhD candidates and postdocs in becoming self-reliant, societally skilled researchers by offering various training activities and network events throughout the year.

Research programmes         

  1. Developmental biology of plants
  2. Interactions between plants and biotic agents
  3. Metabolism and adaptation
  4. Genome biology

Scientific Director: Professor Gerco Angenent


Production Ecology and Resource Conservation (PE&RC)


PE&RC is a collaborative research and PhD training institute coordinated by Wageningen University & Research with members (staff, postdocs and PhD candidates) from Wageningen University, Utrecht University (group Ecology and Biodiversity), University of Amsterdam (IBED), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Dep. of Ecological Sciences), Radboud University Nijmegen (IWWR), Naturalis Biodiversity Center and the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.

The mission of PE&RC is “Understanding the functioning of natural and managed ecosystems to improve the quality of life”. This mission can be viewed from a local, regional and global perspective, considering bio-/geo-physical and socio-economic objectives and constraints. The research within PE&RC ranges from intensive agricultural production systems (e.g., glasshouses) to extensive semi‑natural and natural production systems (e.g., agroforests, wetlands, savannas and protected areas). Production refers to products as well as services (e.g., recreation, biodiversity). Bio-/geo-sciences are corner stones of PE&RC research, but communication and collaboration with social sciences are essential for the design and development of sustainable and multifunctional land use systems.

PE&RC provides a stimulating and interactive platform for scientists and PhD candidates to communicate and facilitates the training of PhD candidates and postdoctoral fellows by organising a wide variety of activities such as postgraduate courses, seminars, discussion groups, theme days and annual meetings.

Scientific Director: Professor Bas Zwaan


  • Dr Theo Jetten (executive secretary)
  • Dr Claudius van de Vijver (Head PhD programme)

T +31 317 483687 / +31 317 485116


VLAG Graduate School (VLAG)


Our mission is to develop the careers of young researchers and to promote research collaboration in Biobased, Biomolecular, Food and Nutrition Sciences.

VLAG is a community of research consisting of researchers and research groups from Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and five major institutes for applied research in The Netherlands: NIZO food research, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), TNO, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research* and Wageningen Food Safety Research* (*part of Wageningen University & Research).

The research portfolio of VLAG is mainly composed of the work done within the Agrotechnology & Food Sciences Group organised within four clusters:

  1. Biobased Sciences
  2. Biomolecular Sciences
  3. Food Sciences
  4. Nutrition Sciences

Scientific Director: Professor Karin Schroën


  • Dr Anouk Geelen (executive secretary)
  • Vesna Prsic (PhD programme coordinator)

T +31 317 482568 / +31 317 485135


Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS)


The mission of WASS is to understand social processes with regard to today’s global challenges of disparities and poverty, of responsible production and consumption, of natural resource use and the environment, as well as of knowledge in society.

WASS research analyses interactions between institutions, practices and social change, often in relation to the material-physical world of natural resources, technologies and artefacts. Research topics include major societal transformation processes such as globalisation of markets, technological changes, unequal access to resources, climate change, shifts in political power and economic prosperity, fast developments in the information society, and emerging fluidity of boundaries between science and politics.

WASS researchers work in a variety of social science disciplines and also develop interdisciplinary (beta-gamma) methodologies to bridge scientific disciplines.

The research portfolio of WASS is mainly composed of the work done within the Social Sciences Group and Environmental Sciences Group organised within six clusters:

  1. Business Sciences
  2. Economics
  3. Space, Place and Society
  4. Sustainable Governance
  5. Communication, Philosophy and Technology
  6. Health and Sustainable Living & Learning

Scientific Director: Professor Alfons Oude Lansink


  • Dr Esther Roquas (executive secretary)
  • Dr Fennie van Straalen (PhD programme coordinator)

T +31 317 484334 / +31 317 482923


Wageningen Institute of Animal Sciences (WIAS)

WIAS logo.jpg

The mission of WIAS is to improve our understanding of animals and their various roles for mankind through fundamental and strategic research and training of early stage researchers (PhD and post-doc).

WIAS is engaged in fundamental and strategic research and provides training for young researchers on societally relevant animals, ranging from commercial animals such as livestock and fish, to experimental animals such as zebra fish, mice and rats, to companion animals and free ranging (wild) animals.

Scientific Director: Professor Hans Komen


  • Dr Nicole Rodenburg (executive secretary)
  • Dr Paddy Haripersaud (PhD education coordinator)

T +31 317 484415


Wageningen Institute for Environment and Climate Research (WIMEK)


WIMEK aims to develop an integrated understanding of environmental change, its impact on the quality of life and sustainability and offers solutions for environmental improvement by:

  • conducting innovative scientific and technological research
  • offering PhD training and education
  • dissemination emerging insights, recent research results and novel technological & policy approaches to companies, regulating authorities and society.

Currently, about 350 PhD candidates have been enrolled in WIMEK, of whom about 70 percent come from outside the Netherlands.

We aim to support PhD candidates in their personal and scientific development by offering them a challenging scientific research environment, a national and international scientific network of environmental researchers and an advanced training and education programme.

To reach these goals WIMEK has also strongly supported the development of an inter-university network of environmental research groups at national level. This has resulted in the establishment of the Dutch Research School of the Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment (SENSE) in 1994. Now, environmental research groups from eight Dutch universities and IHE Delft collaborate in SENSE and WIMEK is the largest participating institute

Our research is focused on three Grand Challenges:

  1. Climate action: Towards fair and effective solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  2. Managing our future biosphere: Developing strategies for the sustainable use of soil, water, atmosphere, biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes.
  3. Advancing circular systems: Inclusive innovation towards closed water, nutrient, and material flows.

    Scientific Director: Professor Carolien Kroeze


    • Johan Feenstra (executive secretary)
    • Dr Peter Vermeulen (PhD education coordinator and PhD advisor)
    • Marjolijn Dannenburg (communication and data management)

    T +31 317 482525 (Marjolijn Dannenburg)