Opportunities for External PhDs with the LAW Group

The Law Group invites professionals to apply to our self-funded PhD programme.

The LAW Group is composed of legal scholars working on the connected fields of living environment, climate, energy, food, agriculture, and business and human rights. We are part of the social sciences department within a university focussed on the life sciences. This allows for high levels of interdisciplinary research, as reflected in our supervision of PhDs in law and other disciplines such as environmental policy, management, food safety and economics. We are a diverse, international team composed of 12 nationalities.

Doing a PhD in the LAW Group

We offer professionals the opportunity to obtain a PhD while remaining in their current positions, thus carrying out their PhD project building on their knowledge and experience and enhancing their career prospects.

Candidates, with the support of their employer – for example in the form of flexible working hours - are free in their choice of PhD topic. This creates the opportunity to connect practical knowledge with academic debates through the PhD research.

PhDs in the law group are usually article-based. To obtain their PhD the candidate writes and publishes four articles, some of them co-authored with their supervisors. Depending on the topic, a monograph-style thesis is also possible.

Candidates undertake a tailored research training programme, which is organised in courses taught in blocks of 1-2 days, every few months. This programme, designed several months in advance, allows professionals to plan without disrupting their current work schedules in the way weekly classes would.

Supervision takes place through a team, composed of a promotor and one or two co-promotors (daily supervisors). Candidates meet their supervisory team at least monthly, either in person or on Teams.


The Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS) imposes the following requirements on external PhD candidates:

The candidate has:

  • an employer outside Wageningen University or any other demonstrable source of income, and works in a field related to the PhD topic.


  • works as a researcher; in a university, research institute, or any other research environment

The registration by Wageningen School of Social Sciences includes a Training and Supervision Plan and the approval of the research proposal. The external PhD candidate can visit the supervisors in Wageningen for a period not longer than 3 months of the total 48 months PhD research. In case the candidate spends more time at Wageningen University, the category external is not applicable and the PhD candidate should register in another PhD category.

Before registration, the PhD candidate hands in a budget including a time schedule for four years. The budget clarifies how and by whom the costs of the PhD project will be covered, and should at least include:

  • Training costs, including course fees and travel: at least €5,000, depending on where the candidate is based.
  • Research costs: at least €5,000, depending on the kind of research (e.g. travel costs for interviews).
  • Costs related to the graduation ceremony, i.e. travel to Wageningen, visa, reception.

Employer Support

We ask candidates to provide evidence of their employer's support, which can take various forms: from a simple acknowledgment that the candidate is doing a PhD alongside their job to more substantial support e.g., flexible or reduced working hours, covering the candidate's training, research and/or traveling costs.

Our PhD Community

By joining our programme, you will join a growing and supportive PhD community, which already includes many professionals. We organise bi-yearly workshops as well as in person and online activities for our PhD community.

Get in Touch

If you would like to discuss your PhD project please submit the following via PHD.Law@wur.nl:

  • Cover letter describing your motivation to apply for a PhD at the LAW Group. Please specify who you would like to be supervised by (if you already have a preference). Your cover letter should be addressed to the LAW group PhD coordinator, Dr Nadia Bernaz.
  • Preliminary research proposal (approximately two pages), containing: problem definition, research questions, proposed methodology linked to the research questions, up-to-date literature references.
  • Curriculum Vitae.