More than 40% of all PhD candidates in the Netherlands are international PhD candidates. The PNN wants to focus on the needs of these candidates and the specific problems they face. International PhD candidates are not always easy to reach for both the PhD councils (POs) and PNN, so it will be necessary to develop effective strategies for this. Specific attention is also paid to PhD candidates who come to the Netherlands on a scholarship from their home country. These scholarship PhD candidates often have to live on a scholarship that is lower than the salary of employee PhD candidates and sometimes even lower than the Dutch minimum wage. Although some universities provide a so-called "top-up" scholarship, this is not the case everywhere because it is legally complex. Nevertheless, institutions must prevent international PhD candidates from coming to the Netherlands on a scholarship that is so inadequate that they cannot support themselves. Therefore, support for, for example, housing is important, especially in cities where average rental prices are high. Another group that requires special attention is the so-called "sandwich PhD candidates" who are affiliated with two universities, one of which is often a foreign institution.
Integration in the Netherlands, including in the Dutch scientific system, is challenging for many international PhD candidates. The PNN PhD Survey 2020 shows that while cultural differences and language barriers are widely experienced by international PhD candidates, over half of them do not have access to integration support. Additionally, international PhD candidates are more likely to experience mental health issues and unwanted behavior, such as discrimination. Due to differences in (work) culture, lack of knowledge about their rights, and complex institutional procedures, international PhD candidates can find it difficult to advocate for themselves. PNN focuses on providing good, English-language information about the rights and obligations of PhD candidates within different structures and pursuing fair compensation through a 'top-up' system. Additionally, PNN wants to encourage universities to offer more accessible integration opportunities and mental health support.