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Advertising PhD programmes

Advertising PhD programmes requires having a well thought out, operational communication plan that is in alignment with the international communication strategy of the home university. This includes, at least:

  • Having all information for applicants and other interested parties available in English, in a well-designed, user-friendly website.
  • Example: the website of the Erasmus Graduate School of Social Sciences and the Humanities which does not only offer information about courses but also provides extensive research profiles of the various departments and researchers in the school [PhD Candidates] [Research].
  • Example: the Campus France website, where applicants can find the information available for all French universities. The site is in English, French and Spanish. Candidates find offers there (PhD, Master & Post-Doc internships) and a directory of doctoral schools. Campus France is a new public institution, responsible for promoting higher education, hosting and managing the international mobility of students, researchers, experts and guests [PhD Offers].
  • Attending international conferences and educational fairs with bespoke promotion material, to establish contact with potential applicants.
  • Example: Heidelberg Graduate School for the Humanities and Social Sciences participates in person in international recruitment fairs in the USA, Latin America and Europe, but also has dedicated print material about the school to distribute at other international higher education fairs [Link (Spanish Only)].
  • Participating in webinars to promote the PhD programmes of the school.
  • Example: The Central European University Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy and International Relations takes part in various centrally organized webinars and organizes live chats to promote its programme and answer applicants’ questions. [Link]
  • Collaborating closely with university offices and public bodies that work on the internationalisation of higher education.
  • Example: the Graduate School for Social Research in Warsaw is closely connected to the Polish national policy to establish graduate schools across the country.
Advertising PhD positions

Advertising PhD-positions to an international pool of candidates is both part of the overall communication strategy and a means to promote the school. It involves, among other things:

  • Recruiting via international websites. These sites are, for instance Euraxess, Campus France,, DAAD, AcademicTransfer or PhD Germany
  • Recruiting through the international collegial and alumni networks of the school
  • Reserving positions for candidates from less developed countries, low income countries or low middle income countries
  • Establishing contact with applicants, who started their application but seem to have abandoned the process
  • Offering a preparatory programme for applicants who have gaps in their training and cannot start with the PhD
  • Offering help to outstanding applicants to improve their research proposal
Fostering an international community of PhD candidates

The establishment of an international PhD community requires special measures regarding the application and enrolment of foreign students. These can involve:

  • Offering personal online contact to candidates inquiring about positions and applications.
  • Offering online and personal services that help international students find professors, researchers and potential supervisors at the doctoral school.
  • Example: TUHAT, an online tool developed at the Helsinki Doctoral School in Humanities and Social Sciences for finding professors, researchers or supervisors, based on discipline or area of expertise [TUHAT].
  • Offering information to candidates about funding opportunities.
  • Offering (cost-free) short-term stays to international applicants for a personal meeting with professors and potential supervisors, making the application and matching process more efficient.
  • Example: The University of Leipzig Graduate School Global and Area Studies offers stays for a personal meeting between a supervisor and a promising applicant from abroad. The Graduate School covers the costs with means from the DAAD IPID4all ‘Global Areas’ fund (a travel allowance and a lump sum for a maximal five-day stay. Thus, the prospective supervisor gets to know the strengths of the PhD candidate far better, and the fit of the supervisory relationship can be determined more simply than through older methods, such as a written application, Skype- or telephone-interview. Earmarking PhD scholarships or positions for foreign students.
  • Creating an online and/or offline orientation process for incoming international PhD students.
  • Examples: the e-International Welcome Office and the Buddy Mentoring system at Université Paris-Saclay.
  • Collating all necessary practical information in a Handbook, Getting Started Programme, Step-by-Step calendar and so on. This is something most schools have.
Best Practice

The Diversity Policy of the Erasmus Graduate School of Social Sciences and the Humanities is a rigorous and coherent inclusivity programme, designed to ensure that international students and Dutch students with a migration background feel welcome and part of the community during their time at the Graduate School. The school works from the understanding that the recognition of diversity and organization of inclusion needs time and care, the courage to address difficult issues and the strength to change. Each of these elements is supported by bespoke instruments, such as diversity awareness programmes, a PhD Handbook, a programme to combat PhD stress, and a play about sexual harassment.
[PhD Handbook]
[PhD Candidate Wellbeing]
[#MeToo Play]

Best Practice

The Graduate School for Social Research in Warsaw offers a Practical Manual for Foreign Students. This is a comprehensive pdf available on the School’s website to all incoming and prospective students. It is created by the doctoral students themselves and covers a broad range of topics. These cover what to do when you first arrive in Warsaw, how to find short-stay and longer-term accommodation, set up a bank account, details about travel, fares, phone contracts and internet providers, advice on banks and medical insurance, how to get necessary documents, and links to places to build your language skills for free [PDF-link - Direct Download].

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