The doctoral program of ETF consists of two components: an examination phase and a dissertation phase.

Examination Phase

The examination phase aims to prepare the student for the actual writing of the dissertation by preparing a research proposal and writing a scholarly article on the topic under consideration. To this end, a personal trajectory that may include reading assignments and/or (language) courses is established for the doctoral student in consultation with the supervisor and with the doctoral committee. A doctoral examination marks the transition to the dissertation phase. This exam has the form of an engaged discussion of the student’s research proposal and publishable article with a committee of professors from various departments.


Dissertation Phase

At the beginning of the dissertation phase, the graduate student is assigned one or more supervisors and possibly co-supervisor(s). During the dissertation phase, the student writes a doctoral dissertation under their supervision measuring up to the highest academic standards. The dissertation can be written in Dutch, English, German or French. The dissertation demonstrates the student’s ability to conduct independent research and to make an original scholarly contribution. The student should conduct his research and write and defense his dissertation within the time span of three (full-time) to six (part-time) years. During the whole program, the student accounts for his/he work twice a year through progress reports. An extensive evaluation takes place at the end of the second year of the dissertation phase. The public defense of the dissertation is conducted in English in front of a jury of internal and external experts.


Participation in the annual doctoral colloquium at ETF in Leuven is an essential part of the PhD program. During this week, each doctoral student gives a progress report by means of a presentation of his/her research, which offers the opportunity for extensive feedback from both professors and peers within and beyond the specific field of research. The schedule also provides plenty of time for interaction between doctoral students and their supervisors and workshops are organized for the refinement of research qualities. Most promotions take place during this doctoral week.


The ETF is a member of the Netherlands School of Advanced Studies in Theology and Religious Studies (NOSTER). NOSTER draws together research in the field of theology and religious studies within the Dutch speaking area. Under conditions, doctoral students can become junior members of this research school through ETF.


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