Interdisciplinary PhD

What is an interdisciplinary PhD?

An interdisciplinary PhD (= interdisciplinary doctorate, combined degree) is a doctoral degree awarded by Ghent University in two (or more) different disciplines. The candidate must have at least one supervisor from each discipline involved. If multiple faculties are involved, the main faculty's regulations and procedures serve as the basis for the negotiation of the collaborative agreement between the faculties.

Interdisciplinary PhDs combine two or more existing doctoral degrees at Ghent University, and can cross faculties as well as disciplines. If several faculties are involved, one of them is given the role as main faculty and is responsible for administrating the interdisciplinary PhD in coordination with the partner facult(y/ies).

Upon a successful defence, the candidate is awarded a single diploma mentioning:

  • The combined degree
  • The interdisciplinary nature of the degree
  • The faculty or faculties involved
  • The interdisciplinary examination board

A diploma supplement is also issued, which mentions the fields of study involved and the interdisciplinary nature of the evaluation.

Who can do an interdisciplinary PhD?

PhD candidates enrolled at Ghent University can initiate the procedure for an interdisciplinary PhD, provided they can satisfactorily motivate the interdisciplinary nature of their project in a research proposal (see Conditions).

Why do an interdisciplinary PhD?

Starting an interdisciplinary PhD is a choice worth considering when a project spans different disciplines or draws on knowledge and methodologies from clearly distinct academic fields.

As a candidate, you might realize that your project has grown in multiple directions and that you need additional supervision or academic resources from outside your original discipline. You may notice that your findings in fact contribute to other scientific areas, perhaps leading to doubt as to where your project fits in. Or you might wish to secure a diploma that endorses your project’s cross-curricular initiative, proficiency, and collaboration. In any case, formalizing your project’s interdisciplinary identity ensures that your expertise will be recognized by more than one discipline.

Interdisciplinary PhDs can also offer valuable experience for supervisors, introducing new ways of doing research and allowing their professional network to expand across Ghent University. The university itself benefits from supporting interdisciplinary PhDs because they stimulate cooperation between staff members at different departments and faculties and generate innovative research output.

When do an interdisciplinary PhD?

An interdisciplinary PhD can:

  • Be established from the start of the PhD trajectory
  • Become interdisciplinary during the course of the PhD trajectory
  • At the very latest be initiated three years after the first enrolment of the doctorate at Ghent University (as specified in the Education and Examination Code for Doctoral Matters, Art. 32, §4)

Conditions and criteria

In order to qualify for an interdisciplinary PhD, a number of administrative conditions and content-specific criteria need to be taken into account.

  1. The PhD candidate is the one who initiates the application for an interdisciplinary PhD.
  2. Only combinations of two or more existing doctoral degrees at Ghent University are allowed. Both combinations within one faculty and combinations between two or more faculties are eligible.
  3. At least one supervisor per discipline involved needs to explicitly support and approve the application.
  4. Every application includes a specification of the disciplines involved, and a written motivation detailing the interdisciplinary nature of the project. To determine whether the project is eligible for an interdisciplinary PhD, the following minimum criteria are assessed by the faculty/faculties:
  • The disciplines differ sufficiently.
  • The expertise, knowledge, and methodologies from each of the disciplines involved are equally necessary for the successful execution of the project. The execution of the research proposal is only possible by means of an integrated, concentrated approach. The research cannot be divisible into multiple monodisciplinary researches which could be executed under supervision of separate supervisors. None of the disciplines involved may be an auxiliary science to one of the other disciplines involved.
  • The research carried out must result in new scientific findings in each of the disciplines involved or contribute to knowledge development in a new (budding) discipline.
    See also Education and Examination Code for Doctoral Matters, Art. 31, §2.

  1. If the candidate aims to combine doctoral degrees that are offered by different faculties, a main faculty is appointed, which is responsible for the administration of the doctorate, in consultation with the partner faculty (or faculties).

  • The supervisor that belongs to the main faculty is appointed as the administratively responsible supervisor.
  • It is the responsibility of the main faculty to inform the other faculty or faculties if there are changes to the modalities of the enrolment for the combined degree.
  • The PhD candidate must be admitted to the doctorate by each of the faculties involved, based on the admission procedure that is in force there.

  1. Every discipline is represented in the examination board.
  2. During the doctoral examination the examination board evaluates the interdisciplinary character of the dissertation based on the three criteria for interdisciplinary research as stated above.

For all institutional regulations concerning interdisciplinary PhDs, please consult the Education and Examination Code for Doctoral Matters, part V.


The steps below apply to PhD candidates. For information for ATP faculty staff, please see this step-by-step plan.

  1. Send an e-mail to stating that you would like to do an interdisciplinary PhD.
  2. A coordinator will send you further instructions and an application form.
  3. Complete the form together with your supervisors and return it to
  4. When the application is approved and signed by all parties involved (candidate, supervisors, and dean/s), you will receive an email detailing the change from a regular PhD to an interdisciplinary PhD.

Funding for PhDs

Please visit this webpage for an overview of the different funding possibilities for research at Ghent University.


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