Obtain a doctorate
Do you want to obtain the title of doctor through research in information science? On this page we inform you about the possibilities within the Faculty of Science at the Open Universiteit. Through targeted recruitment, PhD students (AIOs) are appointed. If you are hired, you will join the Open Universiteit. In addition, so-called external PhD students are active. External PhD students are not employed by the Open Universiteit, but work under the supervision of an OU-professor (the supervisor) outside the university on their dissertation and make use of the facilities provided by the Open Universiteit. You can take the initiative to work as an external PhD student yourself.


You can start a PhD trajectory with a master’s degree. The subject of the research must fit within the faculty's research plan and match the expertise and interests of one of our professors.

Entry requirements for the PhD trajectory

A PhD student is expected to produce an article approximately every year that is accepted by an international peer-reviewed journal or a conference of a comparable level. In order to achieve this, it is necessary that also an external PhD student can devote sufficient time to the research. What is sufficient here depends on the degree of synergy with the job, but being able to spend two days a week on research is a minimum requirement.

The PhD trajectory as an external PhD student is preceded by a phase in which you write a research proposal. In this phase you are an aspiring external PhD student and will have one year to formulate a proposal in consultation with the intended promoter; in the meantime, the Open Universiteit provides access to the necessary scientific literature. The completed proposal will be assessed by a committee, based on criteria such as relevance, originality and feasibility.

After approval of the proposal, you will become a full PhD candidate. A contract will be concluded in which the facilities to which you are entitled, the services required and the period of validity of the agreement will be determined. Often the employer also makes time and facilities available; the agreements about this are also recorded. The duration of the promotion process is usually between 4 and 7 years.


The faculty, supported by the Open Universiteit Graduate School (OUGS), offers various facilities:

  • Guidance, both in making the research proposal and in carrying out the PhD trajectory.
  • Digital library facilities at the home location.
  • Training through courses of OUGS and of national research schools in the field of computer science and information science.
  • Membership of an (online) research community (via OUGS and Open Universiteit PhD Network).
  • Participation in faculty research meetings.


For a PhD at the Department of Information Science, please contact prof. dr. Rob Kusters.
For a PhD at the Faculty of Science, please contact prof. dr. Bastiaan (B.J.) Heeren.

Completed PhD projects

Janssens, Guy, 'Understanding complexity of ERP implementations: Exploration of three complexity research approaches', dissertation, Open Universiteit Heerlen, 2017.

  • 17 March 2023
    Pien Walraven
    'Aligning through complexity: a co-evolutionary information systems alignment approach to address complex environments in the pursuit of business-IT alignment'
    Promotores: prof. dr. ir. Remko Helms en prof. dr. Marjolein Caniëls
    Copromotores: prof. dr. ir. Johan Versendaal en dr. Rogier van de Wetering
    Faculty of Science
    Press release (in Dutch): Promotie: Business-IT alignment in complexe organisaties is mensenwerk