KU Leuven invests in research on sustainable development by excellent students from low resource countries. The goal is to support research relevant to the development of countries in the Global South, to strengthen the local capacity building of the local institution and to ensure the local embeddedness of the researcher upon completing the PhD. KU Leuven promoters can apply for a 4 year PhD project for a candidate from a developing country who wishes to obtain a doctorate at KU Leuven (“developing country” refers to a country on the  OECD DAC-list from the categories “Least Developed Countries”, “Low Income Countries” of “Low Middle Income Countries”). The project must address a topic that is relevant for sustainable development. To strengthen the embeddedness of the research within the concerned country, a co-promoter affiliated with a university or research institute from the same or another developing country must be involved in the project.. Upon completion of the doctorate, the aim is for the candidate to return in order to strengthen the capacity of the collaborating institution. 

Note: for applications for which extensive fieldwork is foreseen/necessary, we refer to the Gobal Minds PhD scholarships Global Minds PhD Scholarships (sandwich formula).


The KU Leuven applicant and (optional) co-promoter meet the conditions to be a promoter or co-promoter of an Internal Funds project. The applicant will also be the promoter of the doctorate at KU Leuven. 
The foreseen doctorate must meet the KU Leuven requirements for the attainment of a doctoral degree (see regulation doctoral degrees and guidelines joint doctoral degree).  The following additional conditions apply: 

  • There is a local co-promoter from the developing country. This co-promoter should have the necessary scientific expertise to supervise the project and is an authority in the field and the institute. This co-promoter should play an active role in the project, remotely or as host during short stays;
  • The research should be conducted at KU Leuven. Short stays or missions to the concerned developing country and/or other foreign stays are allowed, but they must be described in the original application. In case of approval of the application, these stays must be reported to the Research Coordination Office and must be in line with the original application; 
  • The dissertation should be defended within the period of 4 years. The KU Leuven promoter must confirm that this is feasible and that he/she will do whatever is necessary to ensure the doctorate can be finished within the foreseen time period.
  • The PhD candidate must in principle still complete the whole doctoral trajectory. It is possible that the PhD candidate has already started a pre-doc or a doctorate at KU Leuven, but no longer than 8 months (incl. the pre-doctoral period) on the deadline date of this call;
  • The first master’s degree cannot have been obtained more than 15 years ago.
  • The PhD candidate has not applied for a Global Mind PhD Scholarship for the same doctoral project.


Each year a maximum of 10 ‘PhD scholarships for researchers from the South’ can be funded at KU Leuven.

 the doctoral scholarships have a duration of maximum 4 years. The mandate starts on October 1st of the year of the approval (other starting dates are possible on request). In case the PhD student has obtained a doctoral scholarship at KU Leuven before, that period will be subtracted from the 4 year period.
Financial conditions: an approval contains a doctoral scholarship at KU Leuven for 4 years, a predoctoral period of max. 12 months (if the doctoral committee advises to do so) and a one-off reimbursement of travel costs from the home country of the PhD student to Belgium at the start of the doctorate (max. €1000 and based on proof of expenditure). The PhD student is exempt from the tuition fee at KU Leuven. In case a predoctoral period is imposed and the predoc is not successful, the involved candidate can also claim reimbursement of travel costs for the return trip to the home country (max. €1000 and based on proof of expenditure).


In order to be able to apply for a ‘PhD scholarship for researchers from the South’, an authorization to enroll as a doctoral student at KU Leuven must be obtained. We strongly recommend to start this procedure at least 2,5 months before the deadline date in the next bullet, via Admissions (procedures started after 1 January, 2021, might not be finalized in time!). 

The deadline date is March 11th, 2021 at 5 p.m. Applications are submitted using a digital application form (available as soon as possible). In this form you will find further specifications (about the number of pages, language, attachments, and so on). The selection will go through 2 phases: – All applications are evaluated by the Research Council (its Bureau or a subcommittee) based on the academic quality of both the candidate and the research proposal, as well as the quality and relevance of the scientific track record of the promoter and co-promoter(s).  For each application the Research Council (its Bureau or a subcommittee) will ask for a written advice from the doctoral committee on whether the candidate should first take a pre-doctoral program.
– Only applications that were evaluated positively by the Research Council (or its Bureau or a subcommittee) are then transferred to the Interfaculty Council for Development Cooperation (IRO). In this second phase, the IRO Selection Committee evaluates proposals on the basis of two evaluation criteria:

  • the development relevance of the topic, including its importance for sustainable development, and the potential impact of the research on better understanding or solving the development-related problem
  • the local embeddedness of the candidate and the potential to increase local capacity of the involved institution.  

The evaluation by the Research Council (or its Bureau or a subcommittee) and the IRO Council will take place in May and June 2021. 
The final advice will be submitted for confirmation to the KU Leuven Executive Board and the Academic Council.


The application must mainly contain the following elements (see digital application form for further specifications): 

  • Authorization from the doctoral committee to enroll as a PhD researcher. (this authorization is requested via Admissions and is strictly academic. It does not guarantee the funding of a PhD scholarship!)
  • An identification of the KU Leuven promoter and (optional) co-promoter with their CV and a description of the supervision of the PhD student;
  • An identification of the co-promoter at the university or research institute in a developing country with CV and a description of the supervision of the PhD student;  
  • The project description and work plan of the doctoral project, demonstrating the academic strength of the proposal, as well as the development relevance of the research, its potential to solve or better understand the development related problem(s), the way in which the candidate is or will be embedded in the local home institution, and his/her potential to contribute to the capacity strengthening of that institution after completing the PhD. In the work plan, any planned foreign stays must explicitly be described (max. 5p); 
  • The curriculum vitae of the candidate, including a motivation about the stay at the KU Leuven research group, about the development relevance of the research for the involved country, about the ways in which the candidate will be embedded in the involved institution after obtaining the PhD and how he/she will contribute to its local capacity strengthening (max. 3p); 
  • A detailed description of the collaboration and the supervision of the doctorate (max. 1p); 
  • A motivation letter from the KU Leuven promoter containing (a) a clarification of the scientific added value of the project, (b) a description of the developmental relevance of the research and its potential impact on solving or better understanding the development-related problem, (c) a description of the aimed for (or current) collaboration with the foreign co-promoter, and (d) a formal confirmation to fulfill the supervising and logistic task ensuring the completion of the doctorate within the foreseen time period.


The following selection criteria will be used by the Research Council (its Bureau or a subcommittee):  

  • Mainly the scientific quality of the doctoral project and the research competency of the candidate; 
  • The scientific quality of all the (co-)promoters; 
  • The quality of the planned supervision of the doctorate. 

The following selection criteria will be used by the IRO Selection Committee:

  • The development relevance of the research theme, including its importance for sustainable development, and the ways in which the research will have an impact on solving or better understanding the development related problem. 
  • The potential for the local embeddedness of the candidate in the developing country upon completing the PhD, and the ways in which he/she will contribute to the capacity strengthening of the local institution.


International Office is prepared to communicate the advice of the Research Council (or its Bureau or a subcommittee) and the IRO Selection Committee, pending the ratification by the Executive Board and the Academic Council. The applicants will receive the decision in writing as quickly as possible after the official decision. A negative decision is always motivated.


In case the doctorate has not been defended atthe end of the 4 year project, the promoter submits a report with a plan ofaction to complete the doctorate as soon as possible.  In case the doctorate is completed within the 4 year project, it is sufficient to notify DOC about the defense, mentioning the defense date.


Thursday, March 11 2021



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