Frequently asked questions

Application procedure

How can I apply for a grant?

To be eligible to submit an application, you first need to be nominated by two professors working at Dutch universities. All professors at Dutch universities are invited to nominate candidates (deadline: 1 May). After being nominated by two professors, you will be sent login details that you can use to submit your application online. 

What are the criteria to be met to apply?

Yes, the conditions to be eligible to submit an application are as follows:
-  You have to have been nominated by two professors at Dutch universities and have received login details to access the application form on our website.
- You have to have been awarded or be due to be awarded your PhD between the 1st of January 2020 and the 15th of June 2022. Your thesis must be officially approved no later than the 31st of December 2021. 
-  You have to convincingly demonstrate that you are socially committed in your research work by means of an essay in which you describe how you work in education, how you work with fellow researchers and how you handle ethical issues.
- To carry out your research project you have to spend 9-12 months abroad, conducting research at a reputable university or institute where you have not previously conducted research or spent time for reasons of study. A longer stay is possible, but will not be supported with funding from the Niels Stensen Fellowship.
- Your planned departure date has to be between 1 January and 1 September of the following year.
- It must be your intention to return to the Netherlands after the research project to assume a position at a Dutch university or research institute.

What information do I have to provide in my application?

Your application should be submitted online using the form provided. The form includes questions about your general personal details, your academic education, PhD, colleagues, proposed research project and the estimated costs. We will also ask you to designate three referees to recommend you for the scholarship.

You will be requested to upload the following annexes in PDF form:
- your curriculum vitae, in which you can present yourself and your ancillary activities; there is no fixed format
- an essay of no more than 1 page demonstrating your social commitment and your vision in relation to ethical dilemmas
- a list of your publications, making a distinction between peer-reviewed and other publications
- an official letter of invitation from the university or institute abroad you will be visiting for the research project, describing the arrangements agreed (signed and on the organisation's letterhead)
- a clear summary of the research project (max. 1 page)
- an extensive working plan for the research project (max. 20 pages) covering at least the following points:
- the situation in the field of your proposed research/study visit;
- the academic position of your host institute and of researchers affiliated with the host institute;
- the significance of your research/study visit for the relevant field;
- the extent to which your research is innovative or ground-breaking;
- possible relevance for other academic/scientific fields;
- the proposed research methods;
- the duration;
- the institutes or laboratories you want to work in, the academic/scientific leadership there, the contacts in place, the facilities offered to you, etc.;
- planned publications. 

Nominations and references

May a professor nominate more than one candidate?

Yes, this is allowed.

May a referee recommend more than one candidate?

Yes, this is allowed.

May the person who nominates a candidate also act as referee for them?

No, this is not allowed. A nominator can not also function as a referee.

Are there any rules regarding referees?

You will be asked in the application form to designate three referees. The referees may be professors, university teachers or postdoctoral academics. At least two of them should be affiliated to Dutch universities or research institutes. You are responsible for approaching the referees and inviting them to recommend you by means of the form.

The referees should return their letters of reference directly to the Niels Stensen Fellowship. The letters of reference should be produced on letterhead of the university or research institute and personally signed. We expect short reference letters (max. 1 page) in which personal word choice of the referees is important. In the reference letter the personal qualities of a candidate should mainly be discussed, as we have already received the CV from the candidate itself.

We have noticed that the reference letters of a number of candidates are too similar, leading to the conclusion that the referees did not write all the text themselves; this is not appropriate. We trust that the professor fully supports the content of the letter, with personal word choice being important.

We do not send the letters of reference on to you.


I do not have Dutch nationality. Is that a problem?

No. What counts is that you have obtained a PhD from a Dutch university, are currently working at a Dutch university or research institute and intend to continue your research in the Netherlands after the grant period.


I have a PhD from a non-Dutch university. Does this qualify me for the Niels Stensen Fellowship?

No, unfortunately it does not. You have to have a PhD from a Dutch university. You can still be eligible if you obtained your Master's degree at a non-Dutch university as long as you have a PhD from a Dutch university.

I was awarded my PhD more than a year ago. Am I eligible for a grant?

To be eligible to apply for a grant in this year, your PhD must have been awarded after 15 June last year. In 2015 the Committee introduced the requirement that candidates must have received their PhD no more than one year ago. Previously the maximum was two years. This decision was prompted by the growing number of applications received by the Committee. In some cases exceptions can be made, you can ask for an exception to be made in the application form. The Committee will then take your situation into consideration when reviewing the application.

For example: in the medicine field a postponement of one year can be considered, for maternity leave during your PhD a postponement of four months can be considered.

I have not yet been awarded a PhD. Can I still apply?

For you to be eligible to apply it has to be reasonably certain that you will shortly be awarded a PhD. You should provide us with a written statement from your university no later than 31 December of the current year confirming that the thesis committee has approved your thesis. The date of the PhD award should be before 15 June of the following year. If you have been awarded a grant and we do not receive this statement in time, the grant will be cancelled.

Social Commitment

How do I prove my social commitment?

The Niels Stensen Fellowship programme is implemented by Porticus, the international charity organisation that manages the grant-giving programmes of the Brenninkmeijer family entrepreneurs. The work of both Porticus and the Niels Stensen Fellowship is inspired by Catholic social teaching, human dignity and social justice are key values of this teaching. The Committee gauges the extent to which candidates are aligned with these values by asking about their social commitment.

A socially committed researcher will have developed a personal vision on the relevance and impact of their research. They will work with integrity, engage in a dialogue with society and demonstrate a willingness to share their knowledge with colleagues and students. Social commitment is about the relationship between the researcher and society, not about the valorisation or social relevance of the research as such.

The Committee assesses the essays on:

- Authenticity ( intrinsically motivated, plausible story);

- Unselfishness (teaching, helping peers);

- Versatility (not just your own field);

- Environmental awareness (recognizing ethical dilemmas).

Instructions for the essay:
You are requested to write an essay of no more than one page about your private life in relation to research, social commitment, academic and/or Christian tradition. There are no fixed rules for the essay, but we have suggested some aspects below that you might want to address:
- ethical dilemmas you experience in your work;
- the way you relate to your professional peers;
- your accountability to society;
- how society benefits from your work;
- your motivation for doing this work;
- what you (as a researcher and/or leader) can add to society in the future;
- the role played by your religion or personal beliefs in your work.
The essay is intended to enable you to express your own vision rather than to obtain more information about your background or career. It will usually have more impact if you can support your vision with examples of actions you have taken or specific results achieved.

Employment during fellowship

Do I have to be employed by the university or research institute abroad?

That is not obligatory. Your status at the university or research institute abroad will depend on what you have agreed with them. In some cases, researchers are on the payroll, but more often they have the status of visiting researcher or fellow. You are also free to work abroad on a self-employed basis. In that case it is important to be thoroughly informed about the consequences in terms of tax, pension contributions, insurance premiums, etc.

May I remain employed by a Dutch university or research institute?

You may certainly remain employed by a Dutch organisation (under a contract for a small number of hours or even zero hours). We will deduct any income from the grant awarded (see under GRANT AMOUNT below). A zero hours contract is strongly recommended, because insurance premiums will remain.

May I stay abroad for a longer/shorter period than the 9-12 months the grant is awarded for?

The grant is awarded for a period of no less than 9 months and no more than 12. A grant will not be awarded for less than 9 months. You may extend your stay by a few months, but we will not fund the extra time. We do expect you to intend to return to a Dutch university or research institute.

Alumni expectations

What else is expected of me as a grant holder or alumnus?

The Niels Stensen Fellowship Committee intends to organise an annual conference at the end of summer on social issues relating to academic and scientific research. All scholarship holders and alumni will be personally invited. Their presence and active contribution would be greatly appreciated. The Committee understands, however, that it is inevitable that some of them will be working abroad at that time.

I am not sure that I will be given a position in the Netherlands after the scholarship period.

We understand this. What matters to us is your intention to return to work at a Dutch university or research institute.

Grant Amount

How is the grant structured?

The grant consists of three components:
1) an allowance for living expenses (see: what are the standard allowances for living expenses?)
2) an allowance for travel expenses (see: what are the standard allowances for travel expenses?)
3) an allowance for ancillary expenses incurred during the scholarship period. You can request a maximum of € 5,000 for any ancillary expenses you expect to incur during your research project (for items such as the bench fee, conference costs, costs of training programmes, etc.). A detailed estimate of these expenses should be submitted and evidenced afterwards by means of a statement and receipts/invoices.

What are the standard allowances for living expenses?

The allowance for living expenses is a tax-free payment of € 3,166 per month for the duration of the grant, adjusted upwards or downwards depending on the cost of living in the country in which you are carrying out research. We are aware that the cost of living can vary substantially from region to region or city to city within one country, but we have to base the allowance on the country average.

Click here to open or save the file showing the standard allowances. You can add an additional 10% to the living expenses for each family member travelling with you, up to a maximum of 25%. Please note that an additional allowance can only be requested, for family members that are already born on the date of the application deadline. Pregnancies at that time can not be calculated in your budget.

The standard allowances in the table are based on a scholarship period of 12 months. If you will be staying for less than 12 months, prorate the allowance amount. If you will be carrying out your research project at two different locations, calculate the standard allowances for the two locations on a prorated basis (based on the number of months to be spent at each location).

What are the standard allowances for travel expenses?

The travel allowance is based on the great-circle distance:

Travel allowance
Km's EUR
< 1000 250
1000 - 1500 500
1500 - 2500 750
2500 - 5000 1.000
5000 - 10.000 1.500
> 10.000 2.000

Travel allowance is a standardized amount per country. You can also apply for a travel allowance for your partner and your children if they are accompanying you.

Please note that an additional travel allowance can only be requested, for family members that are already born on the date of the application deadline. Pregnancies at that time can not be calculated in your travel budget.

I will have other income during the scholarship period.

If you will have other income during the scholarship period, such as ongoing salary payments or another grant, we will reduce the amount of the grant.

Will I have to pay tax on the scholarship I receive from the Niels Stensen Fellowship?

No, the amount you receive for living expenses is tax free. The allowances for travel costs to and from the research location, for attending conferences and for your research costs are characterised as reimbursement of expenses and are also tax free. You do, however, have to provide us with documentation for these expenses.


What types of insurance will I need?

You will certainly need to ensure you have adequate medical and third-party liability insurance. Check with your insurer whether your policy offers sufficient cover abroad. It is also advisable to ask the institute you will be visiting if there are any special arrangements in place.

Are there any other types of insurance I should look into?

You may want to arrange disability insurance, travel insurance, baggage insurance and home contents insurance in the destination country.

- Disability insurance: please note that claims under this type of insurance are paid out as a one-off lump sum rather than in periodic instalments. There are exceptions to this; for more information please contact UWV (the Dutch body implementing employee insurance schemes) while you are still employed by a Dutch organisation. Different rules sometimes apply to some professionals such as doctors. You may also be eligible for disability insurance under the conditions of employment with a non-Dutch university.
- It is up to you whether you opt to take out travel and baggage insurance.
- It is also up to you whether you opt to take out home contents insurance in the destination country. Some insurance policies also cover your home contents abroad for a limited period. Your insurer will be able to provide more information on this. It may also be possible to temporarily extend your current policy to include cover abroad.

May I include insurance costs as "General expenses"?

No, insurance costs should be paid from the allowance you receive for living expenses.

AOW and pension

What about contributions towards state and private pensions?

You can pay voluntary pension contributions. No separate amount is included for this is in the living expenses, however.
If you will continue to be employed in the Netherlands, we advise you to contact the Human Resources department of your university or research institute. They will be able to inform you as to whether your employer will contribute towards your pension.

Where can I get further information about state and private pensions?

For information about state pension contributions you can contact the Dutch Social Insurance Bank (SVB). For information about your private pension, please contact your pension fund.