Regulations for PhD Fellowship
Detailed information, full regulations and forms are available online.
Any additional information can be obtained from the secretariat of the Research Foundation - Flanders, Egmontstraat 5, 1000 BRUSSELS, tel 02 512 91 10.
These regulations apply to PhD Fellowships (*) of the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO).
* French nomenclature: Aspirant du Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique - Flandre (FWO).
German nomenclature: Assistent für Forschung des Fonds für Wissenschaftliche Forschung - Flandern (FWO).
Dutch nomenclature: Aspirant van het Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek - Vlaanderen (FWO).
Applications and seniority
The candidate must possess a master degree (*) from one of the countries of the European Union or the European Economic Area (**) or Switzerland, or a last year student of such a master education at the moment when applying. The candidate must submit proof of permission from the university trustees to do a PhD thesis (only required if the diploma has not been awarded or will not be awarded by a Flemish university).
* exclusion for master-after-master diplomas as described in the Higher Education Register
** The EU countries plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.
Candidates must submit their applications in English and be affiliated to a university in the Flemish Community or to the Evangelic Theological Faculty in Leuven or the Faculty for Protestant Theology in Brussels, possibly in collaboration with a Flemish or Federal scientific institution where they conduct their research. Candidates with an academic degree (second cycle) from a university outside the Flemish Community are assumed to have sufficient knowledge of Dutch to enable their integration into the research team.
Candidates are only eligible for a PhD fellowship within the first five years of obtaining their Master's degree, calculated on the start date of the fellowship (1 October). If a candidate has more than one Master’s degree, this rule applies only to the degree obtained in the same area of study as the PhD proposal. The 1st Master's must in any case have been obtained no more than 10 years before the start date of the fellowship (1 October), regardless of the area of study. This restriction is extended by one year per period of at least 3 months of maternity leave or per continuous period of at least 3 months full-time parental leave which was taken between the date of the master degree in question and the application. These restrictions do not apply to candidates who have not yet reached the age of 31 at the start of the fellowship (1 October).
The FWO Executive Committee can make an exception to this rule in cases where, for social and medical reasons, there has been either an interruption in the preliminary stage, or a reduced capacity to work.
Persons cannot apply for a fellowship of which they have previously, even if only partially, been the beneficiary.
The applications will be submitted for evaluation to the Expertpanels who will judge the qualifications of the candidates. The Expertpanels will provide advice to the Board. The Board of Trustees will make the final decision.
At the beginning of the PhD fellowship, the scientific seniority of candidates shall not have exceeded three years, not even by one day. Training as specialized Medical Doctor or Pharmacologist counts for 50%.
The PhD fellowship is a grant (*) subject to the National Social Security system by virtue of Art. 15, paragraph 2 of the Royal Decree of 28 November 1969, exempt from income tax pursuant to Art. 90, paragraph 2 of the Income Tax Code 1992 (**) with a duration of two years, renewable once for two years. This second period should immediately follow the first. Applications for renewal must be submitted during the second year of the fellowship, regardless of any suspensions.
For the renewal to be reviewed and approved by the relevant Expertpanel, it must be submitted before 1 February at 17:00 of the second year of the fellowship. If this date falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the closing date is moved to the following Monday at 17:00.
A PhD fellow who is awarded a PhD by thesis during his/her first fellowship cannot apply for an extension of his/her fellowship.
* Grants are not considered taxable income and PhD fellows therefore qualify as dependents for tax purposes (Art. 143 of the Income Tax Code 1992 and Com. I.B. 136/27)
** Com. I.B. 41/22, first paragraph and Circular Letter from Directorate II/6 Ci. RH 241/430.824 by Inspector General G.A. DE GROOTE.
Whether or not fellows are required to undergo a medical examination at the occupational health service of the institution where they carry out their research depends on the regulations of their host institution. If a medical examination is required according to the regulations of their host institution, their appointment will not be effective unless a favourable medical report is obtained.
PhD Fellows will receive the applicable fellowship terms and conditions from FWO - Flanders.
With the exception of the provisions of Article 16, holders of a PhD fellowship should not belong to the Academic Assistant Staff or Independent Academic Staff (ZAP) of the universities or assimilated institutions.
Art. 11 bis.
Subject to the general law of contract termination, the fellowship of a PhD fellow, and therefore the grant agreement, will, as a rule, terminate upon expiry of a period of 2 years.
The grant agreement will be immediately terminated by operation of law, without any compensation, if the PhD fellow is no longer affiliated to a university in the Flemish Community or to the Evangelic Protestant Faculty in Leuven or the Faculty for Protestant Theology in Brussels, possibly in collaboration with a Flemish or Federal institution, or if the supervisor no longer holds at least one of the following positions:
1° Independent Academic Staff member with a remunerated appointment of more than 10% at a Flemish university;
2° Independent Academic Staff member with a remunerated appointment of 10% at a Flemish university and whose main task is research;
3° Independent Academic Staff member with a remunerated appointment of 5% at a Flemish university and with an appointment as (assistant) clinical head or an equal function in a university hospital;
4° academic staff member with a remunerated appointment at the Evangelical Protestant Faculty in Leuven and the Faculty for Protestant Theology in Brussels;
5° research director of FWO;
6° a designated beneficiary of an ERC Starting Grant, an ERC Consolidator Grant, an ERC Advanced Grant or an Odysseus II grant, with a Flemish university as host institution.
However, the PhD fellow will, where appropriate, have the right to designate, in consultation with the host institution, an alternative supervisor who meets at least one of the required criteria, and thus prevent dissolution of the agreement.
Also if the supervisor of the PhD fellow is found to have committed a serious breach of integrity which, in the opinion of the host institution, is serious enough to disqualify him/her as supervisor, the PhD fellow can designate an alternative supervisor in consultation with the host institution.
Art. 11 ter.
Furthermore, the grant agreement will be terminated by operation of law, without compensation or notice to the researcher, if the latter commits a breach of integrity which immediately and definitively renders any professional collaboration between the FWO and the researcher impossible.
Art. 11 quater.
As soon as the FWO becomes aware of breaches of the scientific integrity of one of its researchers, the FWO will hear the researcher.
The researcher has the right to legal counsel.
After having heard the researcher, the FWO can make the following decisions:
a) close the case without taking further action;
b) have the facts put down on record and include this record in the personal file of the PhD fellow with the FWO;
c) issue a formal warning and include this warning in the personal file of the PhD fellow with the FWO;
d) dissolve the agreement by operation of law as provided for in article 11ter of the regulations.
The above-mentioned consequences b) and c) may also be taken into consideration by the competent Expertpanel for the evaluation of any application for extension of the fellowship.
Rights and obligations of holders of a PhD fellowship
PhD fellows are administratively and legally dependent on the FWO Board of Trustees, represented by its Chair and its Secretary General. In disciplinary matters, they are subject to the academic authority of the university.
In addition, they undertake to comply with the FWO regulations and those of the academic authorities of the university.
§ 1. The research project proposed by the PhD fellow must be carried out under the direction of a supervisor, possibly in collaboration with co-supervisors.
§ 2. The supervisor shall be either:
1° an Independent Academic Staff member with a remunerated appointment of more than 10% at a Flemish university;
2° an Independent Academic Staff member with a remunerated appointment of 10% at a Flemish university and whose main task is research;
3° an Independent Academic Staff member with a remunerated appointment of 5% at a Flemish university and with an appointment as (assistant) clinical head or an equal function in a university hospital;
4° an academic staff member with a remunerated appointment at the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Leuven and the Faculty for Protestant Theology in Brussels;
5° a research director of the FWO;
6° a designated beneficiary of an ERC Starting Grant, an ERC Consolidator Grant, an ERC Advanced Grant or an Odysseus II grant, with a Flemish university being the host institution.
§ 3. All co-supervisors have to be researchers of at least postdoctoral level. Co-supervisors have to be affiliated with a remunerated appointment to a Flemish university, or an academic education from the Flemish School of Arts, or the Hogere Zeevaartschool, or a Flemish research institution, or a Flemish university hospital, or the Transnational University Limburg, or the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Leuven, or the Faculty for Protestant Theology in Brussels, or a federal scientific institution where the co-supervisor belongs to the Dutch-speaking community.
Beneficiaries of a PhD fellowship may not change the subject of their research, except for duly justified reasons and subject to the consent of their supervisor and the FWO. They cannot change host institutions. Host institutions may mutually agree on collaboration and place of employment.
PhD fellows undertake to prepare a PhD by thesis.
PhD fellows may follow a PhD-training. In addition, they may undertake other courses in relation to their research, provided this does not jeopardise the completion of the PhD thesis within the term of the fellowship. The total workload, including both other coursework and duties assigned by their supervisor, shall not exceed 8 hours per week. Such duties may include the supervision of exercises, practica, or seminars - the workload of which counts double (e.g. 1 hour seminar = 2 hour workload) - or administrative or clinical tasks. PhD fellows are not allowed to engage in teaching activities and to undertake teacher training.
The fellowship may not be accumulated with any other remuneration or compensation. However, at the request of the PhD fellow, the Foundation may allow full or partial accumulation with grants for study stays abroad. Holders of a travel grant from the FWO, the Flemish Community, the Federal Government or as part of Cultural Agreements, may accumulate such grant with their fellowship. They are requested to notify the FWO thereof.
Masters of Law, beneficiaries of an FWO grant, must not have been registered with the Bar.
PhD fellows must submit a report on their scientific activities to the FWO at the end of the third and fourth years of their fellowship. A copy of this report must be sent to the head of the institution to which they are affiliated.
All publications and reprints of PhD fellows must mention their title of PhD Fellowship of the Research Foundation - Flanders.
Holders of a PhD fellowship who wish to spend a study stay abroad must ask for permission from the FWO. Such permission can only be granted if the fellow can continue to be subject to the Belgian social security system during his/her stay abroad. Therefore, the PhD fellow must have been registered under the Belgian social security system for at least 30 calendar days prior to his/her departure. In exceptional cases, based on a justified request, the Secretary General may decide to exempt the PhD fellow from the requirement of continuing to be subject to the Belgian social security system.
Holders of a fellowship have to notify the FWO as soon as possible of any temporary interruption in their research, regardless of the cause.
Holders of a PhD fellowship have to register as compulsorily insured persons with the health insurance fund of their choice. In case of illness, they have to send a medical certificate stating the period of incapacity to the FWO within 48 hours; a copy has to be sent, via the supervisor, to the relevant department of the university where the fellowship holder carries out his/her research.
In case of an occupational accident, the FWO Personnel Department has to be notified by telephone within 24 hours in order to avoid penal consequences. The official statement together with a medical certificate has to be sent to the FWO as soon as possible. The occupational medical service of the institution and the supervisor will have to be notified as well.
The PhD fellow is required to notify the FWO forthwith in writing of any change in his/her situation (marital status, birth, change of address, etc.).
The fellowship may be suspended in cases of civil service, prolonged sickness leave, pregnancy and breastfeeding leave, parental leave, palliative leave and leave for medical assistance. In these cases the fellowship will be extended by the period during which no payments were received. Extensions of less than two weeks are not taken into consideration.
If full-time suspensions of consecutive periods of 3 months occurred, during which the fellowship was not paid out because of prolonged sickness leave, pregnancy and breastfeeding leave, military and/or civilian service, parental leave, and palliative leave, the fellowship will automatically be extended until the end of the academic year. Such an administrative extension will be granted only once, namely at the end of the 4th year of the fellowship. Any suspensions during such automatic extension of the fellowship will not give rise to any further extension of the fellowship. Any application for renewal of the fellowship must, in any case, be submitted during the second fellowship year.
The FWO Board of Trustees may exceptionally grant an extension of up to five years in cases where social and medical reasons result in reduced capacity to work.
Time credit and voluntary part-time employment do not give cause for an extension of the fellowship.
Holders of a fellowship should notify the FWO as soon as possible of such interruptions in their activities.
The fellowship cannot be suspended or extended for any other reason.
Calculation of the grant
The amount of the PhD Fellowship grant is limited to the net salary that the beneficiary would receive as an assistant at a university in the Flemish Community (salary scales applicable to the Academic Assistant Staff of the universities in the Flemish Community in accordance with the Decision of the Flemish Government of 4 May 2001 (BOG 9 1 2002)).
The net grant amount per month is minimum €2,015.51, indexed with 1.7069 as determined on 1 October 2018.
The grant is adjusted to the pecuniary seniority awarded to the PhD fellow. The grant takes into account the family situation and is subject to Social Security deductions. The holiday pay and the end-of-year bonus correspond with the holiday and the end-of-year bonus that the beneficiary would receive as an assistant at a university in the Flemish Community.
§ 1 The pay scale seniority of candidate PhD fellows is calculated taking into account the acquired scientific seniority and the following provisions:
1° - the duration of the appointment under an employment of at least 50% at a university or scientific institution, insofar as the work involves research activities;
2° - the duration of the research activities voluntarily undertaken at a university in the Flemish Community, insofar as these activities account for at least 50% of a regular, full-time employment;
3° - half of the duration of the appointment referred to in 1° and 2° in the case of an employment of less than 50%.
§ 2 The duration of the appointment is calculated per calendar month: fractions of months are not counted. The total extent of the pay scale seniority can never exceed the nominal duration of the eligible periods.
§ 3 Each eligible period of prior employment shall be supported by a solemn declaration.
The grant is linked to the health index as applicable to the academic staff of the universities in the Flemish Community.
The grant is paid monthly, at the end of the month, into a Belgian financial account.
Occupational accidents and liability
PhD fellows are covered by legally required insurance against risks inherent in regular seminar and/or laboratory work, and against accidents on the way to and from work. This insurance covers also temporary foreign assignments for which prior permission has been granted by the FWO. For their travels, fellows may use all the usual means of transportation allowed for carrying passengers over water, in the air or on roads, provided they are not part of the crew.
The third-party liability of fellows is covered by a collective insurance policy taken out by the FWO.
The FWO must be notified of all births. The Foundation will provide the required forms to obtain both the child allowance (*) and the birth premium, which can be requested from the 6th month of the pregnancy.
To preserve their right to child allowance, fellows with dependent children are advised to notify the FWO of any travel abroad. During their stay abroad they must also maintain a domicile in Belgium.
* Pursuant to Art. 51 of the Child Allowance Act, persons who are subject to the comprehensive social security scheme are not entitled to child allowance for themselves.
The holiday periods are the same as those indicated in the regulations of the host institution and are established in consultation with the supervisor.
PhD fellows shall inform the FWO secretariat of the dates of their annual holidays. The holiday pay, calculated on the basis of the grant of the month of June, will be paid into the holder's account during the month of May.
The years spent at the FWO are recognised as seniority when determining the salary of holders who are appointed at Community or subsidised institutions for secondary and higher education with full curriculum, as well as at Flemish and Federal scientific institutions and ministries.
PhD fellows may at any time resign their fellowship provided they have notified the head of the host institution, their supervisor and the FWO thereof.