Training and supervision

The training programme consists of at least 30 EC (840 hours) and prepares you for the rigorous research standards that apply to your doctoral research agenda and beyond. Its content is determined on an individual basis, depending on your previous education, academic competencies and area of specialization. Topics must pertain to general research skills and in field-specific research skills and subject areas. The programme consists of both mandatory courses and electives. All course work needs to comply with the so-called Dublin descriptors (third cycle).
If you have a Research Master degree, you are exempted from the 30 EC requirements but nevertheless are encouraged to follow parts of the programme. Requests for substitution and/or exemption need to be substantiated by you and your supervisor. Substitutions and exemptions are taken up in your Training and Supervision Plan (TSP) and are to be approved by the Director of the Graduate School, if necessary in consultation with the Dean of Research.

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1. PhD Research Design (6 EC, online) - Course coordinator: Dr Katya Tolstaja

[NEXT REGISTRATION DEADLINE: 1 FEBRUARY 2019] This course is available as an online course and includes the modules on Academic Integrity (2 EC), Methodology (2 EC) and Proposal Writing (2 EC). It lets you reflect on how to conduct research on PhD level and what is necessary to make your particular research project a success. In order to reach this greater goal, by the end of the term, you will be able to find adequate literature for your own research project, recognize the difference between rhetorical and scientific argumentation, evaluate and write at different levels, evaluate literature that discusses your research topic, apply methodological literature, write a coherent, well-defined and methodologically correct research proposal, and integrate feedback from peers, supervisors, and tutors. Normally, this course is taken as a whole, but (depending on the arrangements made in your training and supervision plan and the requirements for your particular project) it will be possible to receive an exemption for part of the course. Please, note, however, that in all events, you will have to produce a research proposal for approval by the Doctorate Board (which this course leads you up to).

The course is offered twice a year; registration deadlines are August 1 and February 1. If you want to follow this module (or part of it), please send an email to If you have any queries about this or other online courses of the Graduate School, please contact Dr K. (Katja) Tolstaja (coordinator).

2. Two visits to academic conferences (3-4 EC)
The conferences must stretch over several days. One conference visit must include a presentation of your research (2 EC), the other can (but does not have to) include a presentation (without presentation: 1 EC, including presentation 2 EC). (Thus, in total, 3 or 4 EC). Please use the Record of Attendance Form.

3. Transferable skills (2 EC)
Transferable skills are the personal skills you have acquired during your education and professional life, such as leadership skills, teaching, project management and organization, research and information management, written and oral communication skills, and so on, with an emphasis on career development and professional development (see some of the courses instanced below). Please note that requests for exemption need to be substantiated from your CV and/or relevant certificates.

A special opportunity to earn credits for transferrable skills is to follow a valorisation training (2 EC). Valorisation entails the creation of social and/or economic value from scientific knowledge for domains outside the scholarly community (societal relevance) and is an important way to make your research profitable for a wider non-specialist audience. More information on our valorisation policy, including best practices, can be found in the VU Valorisation Guide / VU Valorisatiegids. As a follow-up to this training, extra credits can be earned by a valorisation project linked to your PhD project (6 EC). For terms and conditions, please contact our faculty's valorisation officer, C.R. (Miranda) van Holland (



The remaining credits of your 30 EC training programme can be chosen from PhD-level courses in the subject area of your specialization, either at our University or at one of our partner institutions. The supervisor decides which courses are required in your specific case in consultation with the director of the Graduate School. The list below is exemplary, not exhaustive. Please note that in some cases a fee (sometimes a considerable fee) is required. Always check in advance the institution's website (!).


These online courses have been developed by our own staff and are free of charges for our registered PhD candidates and MA students. For registration and further questions, please send an email to

4. Biblical Studies and Digital Humanities (6 EC)
This course introduces the student into the application of digital tools in the field of Biblical Studies. The student learns how to query and analyse the linguistically richly annotated database of the Hebrew Bible developed by the Eep Talstra Centre for Bible and Computer (ETCBC). No programming experience is required at the start of the cours, yet at the end of the course the students can perform basic analyses in the programming language Python, with Text Fabric, a Python tool that has been developed for efficient analysis of the ETCBC database.

5. Advanced Biblical Hebrew (6 EC)
This course aims to deepen the student’s knowledge of Hebrew by a thorough training through exercises on selected chapters from the Hebrew Bible. The course is built upon the Bible Online Learner platform which is a data-driven platform for e-learning based on the principle The-Text-as-the-Tutor. Because of the use of this platform the student is free when to start and how to schedule the required number of exercise hours.

6. Contemporary Islamic Theology (Period 4) (6 EC)
Online course offered by our own Faculty (Nelly van Doorn)

7. Religions on the Move: Mindfulness and Global Buddhism (Period 5) (H.W.A. Blezer) (6 EC)
This online course addresses the question what happens when a ‘religion’, such as Buddhism, ‘spreads’ and becomes an international force; how does it spread and what are the underlying culture dynamics (also in terms of social, economic and political forces); and what local responses are provoked? Are transferred religions faithfully replicated, or do they adapt to the logic of the receiving culture, and if so can we still consider them a religion and what does it tell us about that receiving culture? In this case study of Global Buddhism we explore the latter avenue, by way of working hypothesis, and try to relate this to the theoretical framings needed for other case studies. While we shall strive to find focus in our seminar by asking what can we learn from the case of ‘Global Buddhism’, this course is open to inquiry and essays on all pertinent case studies: from Roman Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, Islam, Wicca, the practice of (pregnancy) yoga, to the global aspirations of militant Mujahidin.

8. PhD Seminar in New Testament Studies (Period 1 and 2) (A.W. Zwiep) (6 EC)
This (residential and online) seminar is intended to bring together researchers specialised in New Testament studies in an interactive community-of-learners (course coordinators: Dr A.W. Zwiep and prof. dr. L.J. Lietaert Peerbolte). Researchers will be able to have their work discussed with fellow researchers and specialists in the field, preferably in the final stages of a project (dissertation, monograph). This seminar is open to registered PhD students with a specialization in New Testament (Biblical) studies and to members of the Amsterdam New Testament Colloquium.
Each year a different topic is chosen. This term (2018-2019) the text will be Dr Zwiep’s work-in-progress on the pericope Haemorrhoisa et filia Jairi (Mark 5:21-43; Mat 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56), a projected scholarly monograph of ca. 500 pages. If you want to register for this course, please send an email to, indicating whether you want to participate in person or through Skype (or via non-synchronic e-learning). For more information, contact Dr A.W. Zwiep, The course starts Friday September 14, 13:00-14:30 (every two weeks till Friday December 21). A Course Description can be found here.

9. Theology and Science (Klaasse) (in preparation)
In this new online course on Theology and Science (Sander Klaasse), a vibrant and relatively new area of study in theology will be explored. More information will follow soon.

■ RESIDENTIAL COURSES (at Vrije Universiteit or elsewhere)

10. Residential MA course(s) at the Faculty of Theology (6 EC each)
This entails residential MA courses (esp. Research Master level) relevant to your research field (usually courses of six weeks). For a brief description of the courses available, please consult the faculty’s website (master courses). In due course, some of these courses will be offered in a blended learning/long-distance trajectory.

11. Participation in Research Seminars at the Faculty of Religion and Theology (1-3 EC). Presence plus presentation, e.g. the two-weekly Amsterdam New Testament Colloquium (Nieuwtestamentisch Werkgezelschap), activities in the context of ACCORD (Amsterdam Centre for the Study of Cultural and Religious Diversity), the research group Doing Theology in an Ecumenical Way, and other such activities.

12. Course(s) offered by NOSTER (variable)
NOSTER (Nederlandse Onderzoeksschool voor Theologie en Religiewetenschap / Netherlands School for Advanced Studies in Theology and Religion) offers regular seminars and training for PhD students. The current programme can be found at the website of Noster.

13. Course(s) and activities organized by CLUE+ (variable)
Our Faculty participates in CLUE+, the interfaculty Research Institute for Culture, Cognition, History and Heritage of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. It brings together researchers from a wide variety of academic disciplines to work on joint projects, reflect upon societal challenges and formulate strategies for addressing those challenges. With interdisciplinary teams, working in novel ways and with innovative methodologies, CLUE+ aims to provide an inspiring research climate for talented young academics as well as for senior and top researchers. For more information, click here.

14. Seminar of the Amsterdam Centre for Religious History (Faculty of Humanities) Please contact Prof Fred van Lieburg if you want to participate in the seminars of ACRH. See this link.

15. Course(s) at the Graduate Schools of partner institutes in the Netherlands (variable)
E.g. PThU (Protestantse Theologische Universiteit) and IBTSC (International Baptist Theological Study Centre in Amsterdam).

16. Intervision Groups (1-6 EC)
The aim of this seminar is to connect PhD candidates to exchange ideas about academic skills and support each other in developing academic skills. During the course of a semester, candidates work together in supporting each other to finish a publishable piece of writing, by exchanging experiences about research processes and provide and receive adequate feedback. Each seminar (1 EC) consists of 10-12 sessions per semester of one our, to a max of 6 EC. (course description)

17. Course(s) at the Graduate Schools of partner institutes abroad (variable)
E.g. The Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education in Birmingham (UK), and other partner institutes with which the faculty has a joint or double PhD agreement.

18. Visit of one inaugural lecture and four dissertation defenses at the Vrije Universiteit (3 EC).

19. Training University Teaching
A programme offered by VU-Academic Centre for Human Behaviour and Movement (VU-UCGB in Dutch) in both Dutch and English leading to a Basiskwalificatie Onderwijs (BKO) or a Senior Teaching Qualification (UTQ).

20. Writing Academic English IBTSC (3 EC).
This course on writing academic English is offered every two years (from January 2018 onward) by IBTSC Amsterdam. The focus is on correct style, grammar, and the way in which work needs to be presented in keeping with publication guidelines. Participants will be helped to identify a piece of their research which could be written as a 4000-6000 word Journal article. During and following the workshop they will be enabled and encouraged to start writing such an article and to submit it for publication. A brief description, further information and contact details can be found here.

21. Writing a Scientific Article (3 EC)
A course/workshop offered on a regular basis by Taalcentrum-VU. For details and agenda, click here.

22. Presentation and Voice (1 EC)
A course/workshop offered on a regular basis by Taalcentrum-VU focused on training of the ability to present papers and to speak in public. For details and agenda, see the website.

23. Training PhD Success and Personal Efficacy (2 EC)
This training is part of the training programme of the division Human Resources, Health, Safety and Environment for VU University staff. The training is for all first-year PhD candidates at VU University with three months to one year experience. For more information, see Training Programmes.

24. Grant Writing (1-6 EC)
Workshop and courses offered on a regular basis by the VU Subsidiedesk. See the various options under begeleidingstrajecten (Dutch webpage) and esp. ERC workshops (English).

25. Project Management (3 EC)
A course/workshop offered on a regular basis. Training of the ability to manage (academic) projects. See the VU website for more information.

26. Career Orientation (2 EC)
See the VU website for more information.

27. Other individual trajectories

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