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Admissions and application

Admission requirements

Student profile

The PhD programme requires expertise in the area of medical education. A theoretical basis comparable with a Master in Health Professions Education is required. If you do not have this theoretical background, we advise you to start with the Master of Health Professions Education (MHPE). Participants can always contact us to inquire whether their previous education is sufficient for being selected as a potential PhD candidate. 


The PhD programme in health professions education requires expertise in the area of medical education. A Master degree in health professions education or an equivalent Master degree, offering a comparable theoretical and methodological basis, is necessary in order to join the programme. Without knowledge of the health sciences, medical education literature, and methodological and statistical research experience we advise against starting directly with our PhD programme in health professions education. 

For candidates who do not yet fulfill the entrance requirements for the PhD programme, we also offer a Master of Health Professions Education programme (MHPE) which provides a solid basis for a PhD, but also much more

Towards the end of the application procedure, you will be asked to send an official copy of your diploma, which will be verified. You do not have to send this copy during the first stage of application (along with the application documents mentioned in the application procedure).


The PhD programme is taught in English. All submitted materials must be in English, and all communication during the programme will be in English. Thus, candidates must have sufficient English proficiency. The TOEFL score should be 550 or above on the paper-based test or 80 or above for the computer-based test, with a minimum of 20 points per skill (reading, listening, speaking and writing).

Application procedure

Step 1: Contact SHE

Contact the School of Health Professions Education ( to inform us of your interest in the PhD programme. All candidates should first write a research proposal. A candidate can start with the PhD programme only after this proposal is approved.

Step 2: Write a research proposal

If you are interested in the PhD programme, we encourage you to attend the advanced course 'Writing a PhD Research Proposal'. It is also possible to enter the programme by directly submitting a research proposal. Below, you can find the steps for direct submission.
The research proposal has to describe a central research question that is well-embedded in the current, peer-reviewed literature, along with a proposed series of at least four empirical studies (including the methods used for each study) to investigate the question. The proposal should also include a description of the setting in which the studies will be conducted, a reference list of literature, and a timeframe for the entire project.

Examples of SHE PhD proposals
SHE PhD Proposal Michaela Wagner 
SHE PhD Proposal Mohamed Al-Eraky
She PhD Proposal Shiphra Ginsburg

Criteria for a high-quality research proposal
When you start writing a research proposal, you should carefully read the literature and answer the following questions:
• What has already been investigated regarding your topic of interest?
• What is known so far?
• What are the strengths and the weaknesses of the studies conducted so far?
• What evidence is lacking?
• What are issues that are under debate?

The criteria used to assess proposals include:
• Are the studies of scientific importance?
• Are the studies of theoretical, practical and methodological importance?
• Are the problems and research questions clearly defined and researchable?
• Are the studies original?
• Are the proposed design and methods appropriate to answer the research questions?
• Are the studies feasible? Is the working plan well-thought-out?
• What is the practical importance of the studies?

PhD courses
Relevant workshops and courses for PhD candidates are offered by Maastricht University and by the Interuniversity Centre for Educational Research (ICO). One such course, which is recommended to PhD applicants, is the advanced course 'Writing a PhD Research Proposal’.

Step 3: Submission of your PhD proposal

Your PhD research proposal has to be submitted through the web-based portal Journal of SHE PhD Projects in order to be reviewed. Please follow the steps below to submit your proposal:
1. Make sure that you have contacted SHE about your interest in pursuing a PhD.
2. Make sure that your PhD proposal follows the SHE standard format for writing your research proposal.
3. Go to the webpage of the Journal of SHE PhD Projects and follow the steps of the submission process. Please note: the system describes submitting an article, but this refers to a PhD proposal in your case. If you have trouble submitting your proposal, contact us via:
After submission, the SHE coordinator will send your proposal to two independent reviewers.

Step 4: Acceptance of the proposal

When you submit a research proposal, the PhD oordinator on behalf of the SHE research director will conduct the first review. If the topic of the proposal does not fit with our expertise or if the proposal is far below our standards, it will be rejected and cannot be resubmitted for one year.
If the PhD oordinator thinks that the proposal might be of interest, the proposal is reviewed by a review committee (using a standard review form). The research director will take a final decision based on the advice of the review committee.

Based on these reviews, a decision will be taken with three possible outcomes: 1) rejected, 2) needs improvement, or 3) accepted. This process normally takes four to six weeks. Acceptance of the candidate will be primarily based on the quality of the research proposal and the candidate’s CV.

Step 5: Required documents

If the proposal is accepted, the PhD secretariat will contact you with further instructions and requests.

• Submit a curriculum vitae (including personal details, master’s degree, professional work experience, educational experience, other academic activities and current research interests).
• Submit a letter of approval (written by the institute where the applicant is currently employed), in which it is stated that the institute agrees on the involvement of the applicant in the PhD programme, as well as who will be involved as the external supervisor (if needed) and under which conditions. The supervisor and co-supervisor(s) are expected to actively contribute to papers written as part of the PhD programme, and as such, they are generally listed as co-authors.

Final decisions on admission and on the appointment of supervisors are taken by the research director.

After acceptance and prior to starting the PhD programme

Presentation of PhD research proposal

Once PhD candidates are officially accepted into the programme, they are required to present their project proposals during a (virtual or onsite) "SHE presents" meeting. This provides each PhD candidate the opportunity to make themselves known to the research community and their fellow PhD candidates, and to increase the candidate's sense of belonging to the SHE research community.
Although the PhD programme is distance-based, the candidate will preferably come to Maastricht for face-to-face communication on a few occasions during the programme (normally at the start, in the middle and at the end of the programme, as well as for the defense and final completion of the thesis).

Furthermore, it is possible to arrange face-to-face meetings with your supervisors during international conferences that they participate in by making appointments in advance to meet them during conference lunchtimes.

If statistical or methodological support is needed, the PhD candidate should specify this in the research proposal and pay separately for the extra support. The same holds for editing or improving the English language of papers.

Course fee

The annual tuition fee for the PhD in 2022 is €4,700 and includes registration, library access and supervision. Accommodation, travel costs, expenses related to data collection and processing as well as printing costs of the dissertation are not included in the fee.
The fee needs to be paid each year at the start of the year. If it takes more than four years to complete the dissertation, the fee also needs to be paid for each additional year. The annual fee is increased with 10% each year or an be adjusted otherwise by SHE each year without prior notice.

Additional costs

Estimated costs for printing the dissertation in the Netherlands is €2,000. Printing can also be done in your home country or institution. Participants are free to choose where they print the dissertation.
If statistical or methodological support is needed, the PhD candidate should specify this in the research proposal and pay separately for the extra support that is needed. The same holds for editing or improving the English language of papers.

Cancellation policy

If a PhD candidate decides to stop their participation in the programme, he/she has to inform the research director and PhD coordinator. No fees will be refunded in this case. The SHE research director can also decide to end supervision and terminate the PhD project if progress or the quality of the work does not meet the requirements or for other reasons not specified. The minimum requirement for acceptable progress is one completed manuscript (ready for submission to a journal) per two years. If participation in the PhD programme is terminated before the dissertation is ready to be defended, no fees will be refunded.