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Regulations for Special PhD Fellowship


Art. 1.

Pursuant to Article 18 of the Decree of 30 April 2009 on the organisation and financing of science and innovation policy and the decision of the Flemish Government of 10 November 2011 on subsidisation by the Research Foundation - Flanders, the Flemish Government grants the Research Foundation - Flanders a subsidy for the purpose of supporting individual researchers.

Art. 2.

§1. These regulations govern the eligibility of applications, appointment, implementation, suspension and termination of the special Ph.D. fellowship (*) of the Research Foundation - Flanders, calculation and payment of the grant, rights and obligations, occupational accidents, liability, child allowance and annual holidays of the grant holders.

§2. The internal and external peer review with regard to the evaluation of the submitted grant applications is governed by the FWO regulations "Internal and external peer review".

§3. These regulations are without prejudice to the general regulations of the Research Foundation - Flanders.

§4. Detailed information, full regulations, and forms are available online.

(*) French nomenclature: Bourse spéciale de doctorat du Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique – Flandre (FWO).
German nomenclature: Besonderes Doktorstipendium des Fonds für Wissenschaftliche Forschung – Flandern (FWO).
Dutch nomenclature: Bijzondere Doctoraatsbeurs van het Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek – Vlaanderen (FWO).

Applications and seniority

Art. 3. (as amended by decision of the Board of Trustees 20/12/2023)

§1. A special temporary fellowship, without any obligation to repay, can be granted to PhD candidates, in order to help them complete their research, with a view to obtaining a PhD by thesis.

§2. The candidates must be employed in a permanent position. They must be able to obtain study leave (for scientific activities or for activities of general interest) or unpaid leave (not a sabbatical) for one year, with the guarantee of being able to return to their job at the end of this period of leave.

§3. At the start of the fellowship, candidates must be holder of a diploma at least equivalent to a master's degree following a bachelor's degree and awarded by the competent institutions in one of the countries of the European Economic Area or Switzerland. Candidates with a degree that was not awarded in one of these countries should hold a master's degree and a declaration from the university administration concerned confirming that it will permit the candidate to write a doctoral thesis.

§4. For the application of the preceding paragraph, master-after-master diplomas, as described in the Higher Education Register at, are not taken into consideration.

§5. Diplomas awarded by the competent institutions in one of the countries of the European Economic Area or Switzerland or diplomas awarded by the competent institutions in the French-speaking Community are recognised as equivalent to diplomas awarded by the competent institutions in the Flemish Community in accordance with the Decision of the Flemish Government on the codification of the decree provisions relating to higher education of 11 October 2013, the applicable European directives or a bilateral agreement.

Art. 4.

Candidates must submit their applications in English and be affiliated to a university in the Flemish Community or to the Evangelical Protestant 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.

Art. 5. (as amended by decision of the board of trustees of 27/11/2019)

Clinicians can also apply for the special PhD fellowship to the extent that they meet the other admission requirements, as included in these regulations. The term "clinicians" refers to doctors, veterinarians, dentists and pharmacists who are recognized as a medical specialist, veterinary specialist, dental specialist, or pharmacist specialist in Belgium at the latest at the time of the application until the end of the fellowship.

Art. 6.

Persons cannot apply for a special PhD fellowship if they have previously, even if only partially, been the beneficiary of an FWO predoctoral fellowship. Due to the specific aim of the special PhD fellowship, those working in scientific research (*) at the time of application are not eligible to apply.

* For the university colleges this excludes group 2 assistant staff as well as group 3 staff, but not group 1 staff (junior practical lector, senior practical lector, junior lector and senior lector). For the universities this excludes assistant staff and independent academic staff. Junior practical lectors or practical assistants with an appointment of maximum 50% are eligible to apply.

Art. 7.

When submitting their application, candidates must present a certificate from their supervisor in which the latter:

a) agrees to assume the scientific responsibility for the relevant research and to act as supervisor of the candidate at the faculty where he/she wants to present his/her PhD thesis;
b) affirms that the research has advanced sufficiently to allow it to be completed subject to one year's full time work;
c) confirms that the research is of such a nature that it cannot be completed without the candidate being released from his/her duties.

The supervisor must hold at least one of the following appointments:

  • a minimal ZAP appointment or equivalent appointment with PhD of minimum 50 percent at a principal host institution referred to in Article 4 of these regulations;
  • an appointment as research director of the Research Foundation - Flanders;
  • an ERC Grant with a principal host institution referred to in Article 4 of these regulations;
  • an Odysseus II grant with a Flemish university as principal host institution.

A supervisor who does not hold any of the above appointments but a ZAP appointment with an appointment percentage less than 50 percent but at least 10 percent, may act as supervisor provided he/she:

  • is a beneficiary of a research fellowship of the FWO;

or is additionally appointed at:

  • a principal host institution as referred to in Article 4 of these regulations;
  • a Flemish academic hospital;
  • a Flemish hospital with an academic character;
  • a recognised Flemish or federal research institution;
  • a Strategic Research Centre (SOC);
  • an academic programme of a Flemish School of Arts.

Furthermore, the total employment percentage at the institutions referred to in this paragraph must amount at least to 70% of a full-time equivalent.

Candidates with both a ZAP appointment of 5% and an appointment as clinical head or assistant clinical head or an equivalent function at a Flemish Academic Hospital can also act as supervisor.

All co-supervisors are ZAP or researchers at least at postdoctoral level.

Art. 8.

The applications will be submitted to a scientific commission, which will judge the candidates. The commission reports to the Board of Trustees of the Research Foundation - Flanders. They are appointed by the Board of Trustees of the FWO.


Art. 9.

§1. The special PhD fellowship falls within the scope of the Royal Decree of 28 November 1969 implementing the Law of 27 June 1969 amending the Decree Law of 28 December 1944 concerning the social security of workers as provided for in Article 15(2) of the said Royal Decree.

§2. The special PhD fellowship is exempt from personal income tax in accordance with Article 90(2) of the Income Tax Code of 10 April 1992, the Com. I.B. 41/22 and Circular Letter Ci. RH 241/430.824 from Directorate II/6, for a period of one year.

§3. Pursuant to Article 143(1) of the Income Tax Code of 10 April 1992 and the Com. I.B. 136/27, grants are not considered as income. Grant holders qualify as tax dependents.

Art. 10.

All holders of a special PhD fellowship will receive the applicable fellowship terms and conditions from the FWO.

Art. 11.

§1. Subject to the general law of contract termination, the grant agreement, will, as a rule, terminate upon expiry of a period of 1 year.

§2. The grant agreement will be immediately terminated by operation of law, without any compensation, if the grant holder is no longer affiliated to a host institution referred to in Article 4 of these regulations, possibly in collaboration with a Flemish or Federal scientific institution, or if the supervisor no longer holds at least one of the positions referred to in Article 7 of these regulations.

§3. In such a case, the grant holder has the right to propose, in consultation with the host institution, an alternative supervisor who meets at least one of the relevant criteria set out in Article 7 of these regulations, so as to prevent the agreement from being terminated.

§4. If the supervisor of the grant holder 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 grant holder can designate an alternative supervisor in consultation with the host institution.

Art. 12.

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 Research Foundation - Flanders and the researcher impossible.

Art. 13.

§1. As soon as the Research Foundation - Flanders becomes aware of breaches of scientific integrity by one of its researchers, it will hear the researcher.

§2. The researcher has the right to legal counsel.

§3. After having heard the researcher, the FWO can make one of the following decisions:

  1. close the case without taking further action;
  2. have the facts put down on record and include this record in the personal file of the grant holder with the FWO;
  3. issue a formal warning and include this warning in the personal file of the grant holder with the FWO;
  4. terminate the agreement by operation of law as provided for in Article 11 of these regulations.

Rights and obligations of holders of a special PhD fellowship

Art. 14.

Holders of a special PhD fellowship 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.

Art. 15.

Beneficiaries of a special PhD fellowship may not change the subject of their research without the consent of their supervisor and FWO. They are not allowed to change host institutions unless expressly authorised by the host institutions involved. Host institutions may mutually agree on collaboration and place of employment.

Art. 16.

Holders of a special PhD fellowship undertake to complete a PhD by thesis.

Art. 17.

§1. Grant holders may enrol on a PhD course. 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.

§2. Grant holders are not allowed to take on teaching assignments or attend teacher training courses.

Art. 18.

§1. The fellowship may not be accumulated with any other remuneration or compensation.

§2. However, at the request of the fellow, the Research Foundation - Flanders may allow full or partial accumulation with grants for study stays abroad.

§3. 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. Holders of such travel grants must notify the FWO thereof.

§4. Masters of Law, holders of an FWO grant, must not have been registered with the Bar.

Art. 19.

§1. All publications and reprints by grant holders must mention their title of holder of a special PhD fellowship of the Research Foundation - Flanders and the FWO file number of their fellowship.

§2. All research-related communication must mention the FWO affiliation of the grant holder.

Art. 20.

§1. Fellows who wish to spend a study stay abroad must ask for permission from the Research Foundation - Flanders and the relevant host institution.

§2. 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 grant holder 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 fellow from the requirement of continuing to be subject to the Belgian social security system.

Art. 21.

Holders of a special PhD fellowship have to notify FWO as soon as possible of any temporary interruption in their research, regardless of the cause.

Art. 22.

§1. Fellows have to register as compulsorily insured persons with a health insurance fund of their choice.

§2. In case of illness, the fellow must send the medical certificates stating the period of incapacity to the Research Foundation - Flanders within 48 hours. A copy of the medical certificate must be sent, via the supervisor, to the competent service of the university where the fellow carries out his/her research.

Art. 23.

The fellow must as soon as possible notify the Research Foundation - Flanders in writing of any change in his/her situation, such as change in marital status, birth, change of address, and the like.


Art. 24.

§1. The fellowship cannot be suspended or deferred for any reason whatsoever except for those set out in this article.

§2. The fellowship may be suspended in cases of 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 the fellowship was suspended.

Extensions of less than two weeks will not be taken into consideration.

§3. Fellows must notify the FWO as soon as possible of any interruptions in their activities.

Calculation of the grant

Art. 25. (as amended by decision of the board of trustees of 27/03/2019 and 27/11/2019)

§1. FWO fellows will be fully reimbursed the cost of their travel card for commuting to and from work by public transport (train – tram – bus – metro). For staff living abroad, only travel costs up to the Belgian border will be reimbursed.

§2. Fellows of the Research Foundation - Flanders are entitled to a bike allowance per kilometre when using their bike for:

  • the entire commute trip, i.e. commuting by bike from home to the workplace, without using any other mode of transportation. 
  • a portion of the commute trip, i.e. before or after any other mode of transportation is used. 


  • The fellow uses his/her bike for commuting purposes on at least 80% of the days effectively worked in a month.
  • The distance travelled (single trip) is at least 1 kilometre.

The per kilometre amount is equivalent to that payable to the staff of the Flemish government.

The fellow should apply for the bike allowance via the FWO e-portal.

Any change during the year must be notified immediately to the HR department.

§3. The amount of the grant is identical to the last net salary of the main activity limited to the salary the beneficiary would receive as assistant at a university in the Flemish Community, as laid down by the Decision of the Flemish Government of 4 May 2001 laying down the salary scales of assistant academic staff of the universities in the Flemish Community. For persons holding a permanent appointment in education, only the salary of one full time employment is taken into account. Furthermore, pursuant to the general principle of predoctoral fellowships, the candidate is required to renounce any secondary activity and the associated remuneration.

Art. 26.

The grant is linked to the health index as applicable to the academic staff of the universities in the Flemish Community.

Art. 27.

The grant is paid monthly, at the end of the month, into a Belgian financial account.

Occupational accidents and liability

Art. 28.

§1. Grant holders 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. The legally required insurance policy covers also risks of regular seminar and/or laboratory work as well as accidents on the way to and from work during the temporary assignments abroad for which prior permission has been obtained from the Research Foundation - Flanders.

§2. The third-party liability of fellows is covered by a collective insurance policy taken out by the Research Foundation - Flanders.

§3. In the event of an occupational accident, the personnel department of the Research Foundation - Flanders must be notified by telephone within 24 hours.

§4. The official statement together with a medical certificate must be sent to the FWO as soon as possible.

§5. The occupational health service of the host institution with which the fellowship is affiliated, as well as the supervisor, must be notified of the occupational accident.

Child allowance

Art. 29. (as amended by decision of the board of trustees of 27/03/2019)

§1. The birth of a child must be notified to the Research Foundation - Flanders.

§2. Fellows must themselves take the necessary steps to join a child allowance fund and request the latter to send them the forms required to claim family and maternity benefits.

§3. To preserve their right to child allowance, fellows with dependent children must notify FWO of any professional travel abroad. During their stay abroad they must also maintain a domicile in Belgium.

Annual holiday

Art. 30.

§1. The holiday periods for fellows are the same as those stipulated in the regulations of the host institution and are established in consultation with the supervisor.

§2. Grant holders must inform the secretariat of the Research Foundation - Flanders of the dates of their annual holidays.

§3. The holiday pay, calculated on the basis of the grant of the month of June, will be paid into the fellow's account during the month of May.

Final provision

Art. 31.

Holders of a special PhD fellowship may at any time resign their fellowship provided they have notified the head of the host institution, their supervisor and FWO thereof.

Note: the English version of the regulations are only a translation and have no legal force.