7.4.1.1PhD Fellowships

A PhD fellowship FR allows young researchers to pursue a PhD and to develop into independent scientists with a critical mind-set. Fundamental research in the context of a PhD fellowship stands for challenging and innovative research. A PhD Fellowship SB allows young researchers to prepare a PhD, and to develop into strategically thinking and innovation-oriented scientists. Strategic basic research in the context of a PhD grant stands for challenging and innovative research, which, if successful, may in the longer term lead to innovative applications (products, processes, services) with economic added value for specific companies, for a collective of companies, or a sector, or to socioeconomic benefits in line with the Flanders 2025 transition areas.

On average 982 applications are submitted each year for a FR fellowship. Invariably slightly more women (five-year average 52,98%) than men (five-year average 46,95%) apply for a FR PhD fellowship. In the period 2016-2020 there were also three applications by a non-binary person (0,06%). An average of 627 applications are submitted each year for a SB PhD fellowship. The smaller number of applications may be explained by the required economic finality of research applications submitted to this funding scheme.  Here we see a greater number of applications submitted annually by male candidates (five-year average 55,06%) than by female candidates (five-year average 44,85%). Three applications were submitted by a non-binary person. Overall, the number of applications and the proportion of male and female applicants is fairly consistent and well balanced for both funding schemes between 2016 and 2020.

Table 1. Number and percentage of applications for a FR PhD fellowship 2016-2020

Gender applicant20162017201820192020
#%#%#%#%#%
M48648,45%49548,62%47144,35%43646,83%41746,59%
F51651,45%52351,38%59155,65%49553,17%47653,18%
X10,10%00,00%00,00%00,00%20,22%
TOTAL1003100,00%10018100,00%1062100,00%931100,00%895100,00%
Gender applicant20162017201820192020
#%#%#%#%#%
M48648,45%49548,62%47144,35%43646,83%41746,59%
F51651,45%52351,38%59155,65%49553,17%47653,18%
X10,10%00,00%00,00%00,00%20,22%
TOTAL1003100,00%10018100,00%1062100,00%931100,00%895100,00%
Gender applicant20162017201820192020
#%#%#%#%#%
M48648,45%49548,62%47144,35%43646,83%41746,59%
F51651,45%52351,38%59155,65%49553,17%47653,18%
X10,10%00,00%00,00%00,00%20,22%
TOTAL1003100,00%10018100,00%1062100,00%931100,00%895100,00%

Table 2. Number and percentage of applications for a SB PhD fellowship 2016-2020

Gender applicant20162017201820192020
#%#%#%#%#%
M34952,72%37355,51%38255,20%30456,93%31855,30%
F31347,28%29944,49%30944,65%22942,88%25644,52%
X00,00%00,00%10,14%10,19%10,17%
TOTAL662100,00%672100,00%692100,00%534100,00%575100,00%
Gender applicant20162017201820192020
#%#%#%#%#%
M34952,72%37355,51%38255,20%30456,93%31855,30%
F31347,28%29944,49%30944,65%22942,88%25644,52%
X00,00%00,00%10,14%10,19%10,17%
TOTAL662100,00%672100,00%692100,00%534100,00%575100,00%
Gender applicant20162017201820192020
#%#%#%#%#%
M34952,72%37355,51%38255,20%30456,93%31855,30%
F31347,28%29944,49%30944,65%22942,88%25644,52%
X00,00%00,00%10,14%10,19%10,17%
TOTAL662100,00%672100,00%692100,00%534100,00%575100,00%

We also considered the gender of the supervisor. Over the 2016-2020 period, 72,68% of the applications for FR PhD fellowships were submitted with a male supervisor and only 27,26% with a female supervisor. Similar observations can be made for the SB PhD fellowships where, over the period 2016-2020, 76,27% of the applications were submitted with a male supervisor and only 23,73% with a female supervisor. In both funding schemes there seems to be a slow positive trend towards a more balanced representation of male and female supervisors. The underrepresentation of female supervisors is likely a reflection of the underrepresentation of female researchers among the senior academic staff in the universities. Of note, in our dataset there are no senior academic staff who identify themselves as non-binary.

Figure 1. Proportion of applications for FR and SB PhD fellowships analysed by gender of the applicants and gender of the supervisor. A/B refers to gender of the applicant / gender of the supervisor. The 5-year average proportion is shown.

FRSB0%5%10%15%20%25%30%35%40%45%Share of applicationsM/MM/FF/FF/MX/MX/FGender of applicant / gender of supervisor051015202530354045M/MM/FF/FF/MX/MX/F FRSB0%10%20%30%40%Share of applicationsM/MM/FF/FF/MX/MX/FGender of applicant / gender of supervisor010203040M/MM/FF/FF/MX/MX/F FRSB0%10%20%30%40%Share of applicationsM/MM/FF/FF/MX/MX/FGender of applicant / gender of supervisor010203040M/MM/FF/FF/MX/MX/F