PhD and Equivalent Doctoral Degrees: The ERC Policy
1. The necessity of ascertaining PhD equivalence
The ERC Work Programme clearly states that the eligible Principal Investigator must be a
holder of a PhD degree or equivalent. First-professional degrees will not be considered in
themselves as PhD-equivalent, even if recipients carry the title "Doctor". It is however
recognised that there may be cases where applicants can provide certified evidence of
substantial training that has qualified them to plan, direct and perform an independent
research programme. Such training on top of research experience and a professional degree
may amount to PhD equivalence, thus fulfilling the ERC’s PhD degree requirement.
2. PhD Degrees
The research doctorate is the highest earned academic degree. It is always awarded for
independent research at a professional level in either academic disciplines or professional
fields. Regardless of the entry point, doctoral studies involve several stages of academic work.
These may include the completion of preliminary course, seminar, and laboratory studies
and/or the passing of a battery of written examinations. The PhD student selects an academic
adviser and a subject for the dissertation, is assigned a dissertation committee, and designs
his/her research (some educators call the doctoral thesis a dissertation to distinguish it from
lesser theses). The dissertation committee consists usually of 3-5 faculty members in the
student's research field, including the adviser.
3. Independent research
Conducting the research and writing the dissertation usually requires one to several years
depending upon the topic selected and the research work necessary to prepare the dissertation.
In defending his/her thesis, the PhD candidate must establish mastery of the subject
matter, explain and justify his or her research findings, and answer all questions put by
the committee. A successful defense results in the award of the PhD degree.
4. Degrees equivalent to the