Throughout your PhD studies
You will find on this page the information about your PhD studies in the Faculty of Sciences.
Doctoral candidates are required to register for both the PhD and doctoral research training every year. The registrations are submitted to the Dean’s approval, on the recommendation of the Supervisory Committee and the Department’s Doctoral Commission.
Attention ! If the completion of the PhD thesis has taken more than four years – or six years if the doctoral candidate is on a full-time assistant contract – registration is only authorised by the Dean on the basis of a justification by the Supervisory Committee and with the explicit agreement of the Department’s Doctoral Commission.
The doctoral training and the research related to the preparation of the doctoral thesis are overseen by
The Supervisor must hold a PhD title, obtained through the defence of a thesis, or an “agrégé de l’enseignement supérieur” qualification, and must be a permanent member of the ULB academic staff or a “chargé de cours temporaire”.
The Co-Supervisor (if any) must be a member of the ULB academic staff, a “Professeur de l’Université”, or a permanent staff member of another higher education institution. He/she may also be a permanent staff member of a research institute or organisation with which the ULB has signed a thesis supervision agreement. Any member of the Faculty’s scientific staff who has earned a PhD degree through defence of a thesis, and whose contract with the university covers the expected duration of the thesis, may be appointed as a Co-Supervisor.
If a Supervisor is scheduled to retire within four years, the Doctoral Commission will appoint a Co-Supervisor who will replace the Supervisor after his/her retirement.
The Supervisory Committee is formed by the Department’s Doctoral Commission as soon as the doctoral candidate has been admitted to the PhD programme. This Committee includes the Supervisor, the Co-Supervisor (if any) and at least two more members of a university's academic staff. It is chaired by a member other than the Supervisor and Co-Supervisor. If ever a vote is tied, the Chairperson’s vote will be decisive.
The Supervisory Committee sets the contents of the doctoral training. It awards ECTS credits for the work carried out as part of the doctoral research training, and grants a pass for successful completion of the training.
The Supervisory Committee meets with the PhD student at least once a year in order to assess his/her progress. On the basis of this annual evaluation, the Supervisory Committee informs the Doctoral Commission in writing of their opinion regarding the registration of the candidate.
The Dean, the President of the Doctoral Commission, the Supervisor or the PhD student may ask at any time for an evaluation by the Supervisory Committee. The purpose of these meetings is to assess progress in the research, to ensure the quality of supervision and to estimate the probable date of submission.
During their PhD, doctoral candidates will be subjected to an intermediate evaluation by their Supervisory Committee, in order to assess whether their thesis can be completed according to schedule.
The PhD student will give the members of the Supervisory committee a report on its work and project that will mention the purpose, the results, conclusions and the proposed work plan. In a public session, the PhD student will make an oral presentation of the progress of his/her work before the Supervisory Committee and the thesis Supervisor. It is recommended that candidates present their work during a doctoral school’s specific day.
The evaluation takes place during the first or second year of the PhD. If the Supervisory Committee agrees, it may also take place during the third year for assistants and for doctoral candidates with a part-time research position, and in the fourth year for doctoral candidates with no research position.
The Supervisory Committee grants a pass or a fail based on the intermediate evaluation, and informs the Faculty Doctoral Commission of its decision. If the intermediate evaluation is successful, the work that led to it is validated with 20 ECTS of doctoral research training credits.
On the basis of the Supervisory Committee’s opinion, the Doctoral Commission shall inform each doctoral student of its appreciation of the work (report and oral presentation) and may make a series of recommendations on the continuation or the reorientation of the work in case of problems. In the event of a major failure, the evaluation may be unfavourable. The Jury shall take any necessary measure, and may even prematurely terminate the doctoral thesis.
Change of PhD Supervisor
The procedure to follow in such a case is detailed in article 15 of the new regulation.
In order to award the title of Doctor, the Faculty Jury, after consultation with the Supervisory Committee, sets up a thesis Jury specific to each doctoral candidate and appoints its Chairperson and Secretary. The thesis Jury is composed of the Supervisor, the Co-Supervisor (if any), and at least four other members, all of whom must hold the title of doctor obtained through the defence of a thesis, or the Belgian “agrégé de l’enseignement supérieur” qualification. At least three members of the Jury must be on the university’s academic staff. At least two members must come from outside the ULB.
The Faculty Jury may call upon experts or consultants, even if they do not hold the title of doctor, to assist the thesis Jury in an advisory capacity. The thesis Jury must be formed within one month of submission of the thesis, unless the date falls between 15 July and 15 August.
Submission and defence
When the doctoral candidate believes his/her thesis manuscript to be almost ready for submission, he/she informs his/her Supervisor accordingly. Within one month, the Supervisor will let the doctoral candidate know whether he/she considers the thesis ready for submission. If the Supervisor does not give the go-ahead, the doctoral candidate may seek a second opinion from the Supervisory Committee, again within a period of one month. Details related to the private and public defences are fixed by articles 23 and 24 of the regulation.
The private defence takes place behind closed-doors with the participation of at least two thirds of all thesis Jury members, including the Supervisor and at least one member from outside the ULB. Members unable to attend the defence are invited to submit their duly justified opinion on the content and the form of the thesis in writing. Should the Jury determine that the thesis demonstrates serious deficiencies, it allows an extension, of maximum six months, to allow the doctoral candidate to carry out the work required to make significant changes to the thesis. The thesis Jury must make these changes explicit, and inform the doctoral candidate immediately, and again in writing within eight days, with a copy being sent to the Dean. Within fifteen days, the Dean must set a new and final date for the public defence. The thesis is rejected if the doctoral candidate fails to meet the thesis Jury’s requirements. Should the thesis Jury determine that more than six months’ work is required to improve the thesis, it decides that a new private defence must be arranged. The doctoral candidate will be informed of this decision immediately, and again in writing within eight days, together with an explanation of the reasons behind it, with a copy sent to the Dean.
The public defence takes place with the participation of at least half of all thesis Jury members, including the Supervisor. Members unable to attend the defence are invited to send the thesis Jury, in writing, their duly justified opinion on whether the title of Doctor should be awarded.