FAQ Comenius programme

An overview of frequently asked questions about the Comenius programme 2018. Missing the answer to your question? Please contact comenius@nro.nl.


Is a translation of the Calls for Proposal, the forms and the FAQ available?
Yes, the English version of the FAQ is available here. The English Calls for Proposals 2020 will be available early June 2019, and published here: https://www.nwo.nl/en/funding/our-funding-instruments/nro/comenius-programme/index.html.

I’m not comfortable writing my proposal and/or questions in Dutch. Can I submit my proposal for a Teaching Fellowship or Senior Fellowship in English?
Yes, you can. Please use the English application form, which you can find here and here.

Can I send a question in English to the NRO office?
Yes, you can. You can e-mail us at comenius@nro.nl with your question.

Where can I find the new calls for proposals?
The English Calls for Proposals 2020 will be available late June 2019, and published here: https://www.nwo.nl/en/funding/our-funding-instruments/nro/comenius-programme/index.html. The Dutch calls are available at https://www.nwo.nl/financiering/onze-financieringsinstrumenten/nro/comeniusprogramma/index.html

When is the deadline and what do I have to submit?

1. Letter of Intent
A brief statement in which you state that you intend to submit an application. This is not yet assessed in terms of content, but serves to give applicants and the NRO office an indication of the interest in the various rounds and themes. There is, at this stage, no limit or minimum for the amount of words used for the summary; in the (preliminary) application the limit is 250 words.

For the Leadership Fellows the summary is used to approach referees with the request to assess the complete application.

The number of letters of intent received will be announced per email. Submitting a letter of intent is a prerequisite for submitting a full application.

Deadlines Letters of Intent
Teaching Fellows: Tuesday 10 September 2019
Senior Fellows: Tuesday 3 September 2019
Leadership Fellows: Thursday 5 September 2019

Precise guidelines for this preliminary application are published in the Calls for Proposals.

The preliminary applications are assessed by an assessment committee. After the assessment, the applicant receives a positive or negative advice for submitting a full application.

Deadlines Preliminary applications
Teaching Fellows: Tuesday 8 October 2019
Senior Fellows: Tuesday, 1 October 2019

3. Leadership, Senior and Teaching Fellows: Full proposal
Teaching Fellows and Senior Fellows: it is strongly advised to submit an application only when the advice for submitting a full proposal was ‘positive’. Leadership Fellows submit the full application. Guidelines for the full application are listed in the Calls for Proposals.

Deadlines Full Proposals
Teaching Fellows: Thursday, 9 January 2020
Senior Fellows: Tuesday, 3 December 2019
Leadership Fellows: Thursday, 10 October 2019

4. Senior Fellows and Leadership Fellows: rebuttal
Applications in the round Senior Fellows are presented to members of the assessment committee for first assessment. Applicants receive these comments and are given a week’s time to formulate a rebuttal of up to 1000 words.

Applications in the round Leadership Fellows are presented to international referees for first assessment. Applicants receive these comments and are given a week’s time to formulate a rebuttal of up to 1500 words.

Deadlines for the rebuttal
Leadership Fellows: second half of January 2020– within five working days after receiving the referees’ comments
Senior Fellows: first half of December 2019 – within five working days after receiving the committee’s comments

5. Leadership Fellows: interviews
After the assessment meeting, the applicants of the most promising proposals will be invited for an interview with the committee. Invitations will be sent no later than one week before the interviews. The invitation lists the topics for discussion.. Further preparation for the interviews is not necessary.

Leadership Fellows: week of 30th of March 2020

Who can apply?
The requirements that applicants have to meet are described in the Call for Proposals 2020.

Applicants who were rejected in the previous rounds of 2018 and 2019 can still submit in 2020. Please note the changing themes in the Teaching and Senior Fellows rounds. From 2020 onward, the maximum number of full applications that can be submitted to the same ‘tier’ of the grant programme will be limited to two applications in subsequent years.

Who no longer apply for 2020?
As also mentioned in the calls for proposals 2019, the institutions where a Leadership Fellow application has been granted in 2020 are excluded from submission in 2020. Note that this does not apply for institutions that were granted a Leadership Fellow in 2018.

I do not have an ISAAC-account
You can create your own account via www.isaac.nwo.nl

I have a question about ISAAC
The staff at NRO cannot help you with technical questions about ISAAC (we cannot create an applicant’s account and can therefore not access the applicants’ interface). You can contact the ISAAC helpdesk if you have any technical questions about ISAAC. Please read the ISAAC manual before consulting the helpdesk. The ISAAC helpdesk can be contacted from Monday to Friday between 10:00 and 17:00 hours CEST on +31 (0)20 346 71 79. You can also send your queries by email to isaac.helpdesk@nwo.nl. You will receive an answer within two working days.

My institution, faculty or institution is not yet registered in ISAAC, or the details are incorrect / outdated
Please send an e-mail to relatiebeheer@nwo.nl to make sure that the NWO secretariat can register the correct details. Please include:

  • Complete official name of the institution / department
  • Address (postal address and visiting address)
  • Phone number

Check at least one week before the deadline whether your institution is registered correctly so that NWO staff can change this in time!

Where can I find the form for the letter of intent?
There is no specific form for the letter of intent: you can submit your “letter” through the online application system ISAAC.

Click on the “Apply electronically” button on the specific web pages for the Teaching, Senior and Leadership fellowships and you will be re-directed to ISAAC. There, you can create an account and log in. Please note that, if you are applying for a Teaching or a Senior Fellowship, you have to mention the theme in the summary. If you are applying for a Leadership Fellowship, please use the summary to (also) mention suggestions for international referees.

What should I include in my letter of intent?
When you log in to ISAAC you will be asked to submit some administrative data (name, work address, etc.) In the ‘summary’ field you should at least include:

  • The proposal’s theme (see paragraph 2.3 – 2.6 of the Calls for Senior & Teaching Fellows.)
  • The title of the proposal. (This can still be changed for the preliminary and full applications)
  • A summary. This can also still be changed for the preliminary and full applications There is, at this stage, no limit or minimum for the number of words used for the summary; in the (preliminary) application the limit is 250 words. The summary of a Leadership Fellow’s letter of intent is included in the request to international referees to review the to-be-submitted application. Based on the summary, the reviewers should be able to judge whether they have the right expertise to review the proposal.

Will my letter of intent be more successful if I do…
The letter of intent are not assessed the assessment committee and/or referees, and, therefore will not be assessed on its quality. By submitting a letter of intent, you are granted access to the next stage of submitting a full application.

The letters of intent give as an estimate of the (maximum) number of applications in a specific theme and indicate what expertise the members of the assessment committees should have. Information on the number of submitted letters of intent will be sent to the applicants shortly after the deadline.

Do note that the summary of the letter of intent submitted for Leadership Fellows will be used to approach international referees. They have to be able to judge on the basis of this summary whether they are willing and able to assess the full application.

Do I need a signature of my coordinator / dean / executive board for the letter of intent?
No, you only need this for the preliminary application (Teaching and Senior Fellows) or the full application (for Leadership Fellows).

However, we do advise all applicants to start as early as possible to discuss their intention to submit a proposal with their supervisors. This is especially important for Senior and Leadership Fellows, because of the application limit of one per faculty resp. institution.

If the NRO office notes that more than one letter of intent per faculty / institution is submitted, all applicants and central staff of the institution will be notified. If more than one preliminary application or full application per faculty/institution is submitted, all of them will be disregarded.

Do I have to submit all the names of the members of my team in the letter of intent?
When submitting a letter of intent for the round Teaching Fellows or Senior Fellows you do not have to list your project team members yet. If you chose to do so (in the summary) it will be possible to change these names in the final application. However, when submitting a letter of intent for the round Leadership Fellows, we ask you to provide a preliminary composition of the project team.

Can I get an extension for submitting the letter of intent?
No, we cannot grant postponements. However, it is unlikely that you will need postponement: only the name of the applicant and the theme (Teaching / Senior Fellows) cannot be changed after submitting the letter of intent. You are allowed to make changes in the summary and the members of your team. In fact, it is not mandatory to submit a full summary or details on the team.

I did not receive a confirmation
Some universities’ servers or spam filters filter the e-mails sent out automatically by ISAAC. If you do not find a confirmation in your spam-folder, but you do see your application as ‘submitted’ in ISAAC, please send an e-mail with a screenshot from ISAAC to comenius@nro.nl

I would like to withdraw my letter of intent
You can do this by logging in to your ISAAC account. Go to the page of your letter of intent, and click on the button ‘withdraw’.

When cancelling your letter of intent, you are not obliged to state the reason for doing so. However, in order to evaluate this first ‘complete round’ of the Comenius programme, it will be very much appreciated if you take the time to tell us. Please send an e-mail to comenius@nro.nl

I did not submit a letter of intent. Can I nevertheless submit a full application?
No. The letters of intent are used to inform both the NRO office and the applicants on the (maximum) number of applications submitted in a round and theme. Without letter of intent, you cannot submit a proposal.

I submitted a letter of intent, but would like to promote a colleague as applicant. Can I change this?
This is not allowed, and is also not possible to do by yourself, since both the letter of intent and the application are submitted through the account of the applicant. In case you are unable to manage the project and this situation is caused by circumstances beyond your control, please send an e-mail to comenius@nro.nl

Can I change the theme of my application?
No, this is not allowed. (Please see the question about submitting an application without submitting a letter of intent).

Can I change the title and summary of my application, in comparison to the letter of intent?
Yes, you can. However, please notify us via comenius@nro.nl if you decide to change the title. You do not have to notify us on changes in the summary.

I received a (positive) recommendation and I want to convert my preliminary application into a full application. Can I change the parts that were already part of the preliminary application (e.g. summary of the project proposal, problem outline)?
Yes, you can. In the case of a positive recommendation probably only minor changes are required. In the case of a negative recommendation, you are strongly advised to submit a new proposal next year, rather than revise the whole plan in a short time span.

I did not receive a confirmation
Some institution’s servers/spamfilters filter the mails that are automatically sent by ISAAC. If your spam folder does not contain your confirmation either, but your application is noted as ‘registered’ in ISAAC, please send us a screenshot of what you see in ISAAC at comenius@nro.nl.

The ‘drop-down’ menu in the first part of the MS-Word form do not seem to be working
This a communication error between MS-Word and (some versions of) Word and/or other text formatting software used on Apple computers. This problem is solved by opening the form on a Windows-computer.

I cannot insert a scan of the signature of my coordinator / dean / executive board in the application form
If this problem persists you can attach a separate declaration to the application form (please submit this in one PDF).

Because of the limitations in editing options, my co-workers cannot make remarks in the document
The forms have been protected with a password in order to avoid changes to the structure of the document etc If you wish to enable comments, you can consider to turn off this protection. The password for all forms is “Comenius2020”.

Please be careful that you do not make any changes in the headings and/or order of the form. You can check this by taking a new, protected document when submitting your final application.

Is it possible to view examples of successful applications from last year?
It is not common to publish applications. In addition, due to changes to the application form, the applications for 2018 and 2019 are no longer ‘exemplary’ for subsequent rounds.

I have a project in mind with objective [x]. Which theme can I choose best? What are my chances?
These questions cannot be answered by the NRO office. In the Call for Proposals you will find a tool for selecting the right theme. In the application, the applicant has to justify the link with the chosen theme.

Who can I contact for advice on preparing the application?
The NRO office and members of the assessment committee cannot advise you on writing a (specific) application. The NRO office does not make substantive comments about proposals. When preparing the application and the project plan as a whole, it is recommended that you seek assistance from an educational advisor / educational researcher and a subsidy advisor at your institution. In addition, it is recommended that the application is read at least by one colleague and one outsider (the latter to check on jargon, because the assessment committee is a ‘science-wide’ committee, with members from different academic disciplines).

You can download a handout which can be used as a guideline for conversations about your application.

We envision a teaching professionalisation project, aimed primarily at teachers. Students are, at this stage / for the duration of the project not (directly) involved. Can we submit an application for a Comenius grant?
No, in principle you cannot. The projects in the Comenius programme should benefit students at Dutch Higher Education institutes. The project and/or the intervention should therefore take place in the learning environment of the students.

This does not mean that teacher professionalisation cannot be a part of a Comenius project. In fact, in case of the Senior and Leadership fellow projects, this is very likely.

We envision a research project that has the potential to lay the foundations for an educational innovation. The innovation / intervention will take place after the duration of the proposed project (with different funding). Can we apply for a Comenius grant?
No, in the Call for Proposals you will find that the innovation has to be implemented during the course of the project. In projects with a longer duration (Senior and Leadership) it is allowed to take some (more) time for initial research.

My project is primarily aimed at students at a different, non-Dutch institution. Can I submit a proposal?
No, projects should be aimed primarily at innovating and improving higher education in the Netherlands.

My institution is a publicly funded higher institution, but the programme is not, because it is a post-initial programme. Can we still apply?
No, you cannot. Projects in the Comenius programme should take place in initial higher education programmes and/or programmes that aim to improve access to initial higher education.

This is because the funds for the Comenius programme stem from funds that have become available after the start of the student loan system. Projects should be aimed at students who would ‘otherwise’ have received a student grant.

At, the moment, my  position at a higher education institute is shorter than the full duration of my project, but I might receive this if the grant is awarded to my proposal. Can I submit an application?
Yes, but only if you also submit a guarantee signed by the department/faculty that your contract will be extended for the full duration of the project. This also applies if your appointment is smaller than the required 0.5 fte. The context in which your project is implemented is crucial for the success of the project. It is therefore necessary that your contract and/or the people you can work with are not in question.

I have a position at a Dutch Higher Education institute, but gained the majority of my experience in teaching at the higher education level abroad. Can I submit a proposal?
Yes, you can.

My team members work in a different team with another supervisor and/or at another faculty. Should we include declarations and signatures of every single supervisor/dean?
No, you will not have to. Please make sure that in the declaration of the supervisor / dean of the applicant, the undersigned declares that he/she discussed the role of all members of the team with their supervisors. If necessary, you could further expand on the way other departments/teams are involved in the description of the plan and/or the team.

Do I need to upload a separate CV along with my proposal?
No, you don’t have to. In the application form you will find space to list your professional experience relevant to this project. Aside from the budget form, you cannot upload separate documents to ISAAC.

I have a question regarding the years of experience required to submit a proposal for Teaching / Senior / Leadership Fellowship
You can add the years of experience gained at different institutions in the Netherlands and/or abroad.

How important is my (teaching) experience? How does this relate to the assessment of my vision for higher education?
The committee uses both your listed experience and the Professional Statement to assess whether your profile suits the Teaching / Senior / Leadership profile and whether your experience matches the proposed project.

In a strong professional statement, the applicant connects his/her teaching experience, vison on education, the proposed project and the envisioned next step(s) in their teaching career.

How do I provide access to examples of my teaching experience for the committee, if this teaching material is not publicly available?
You can upload files via a file-sharing platform (eg Dropbox, SURF file share, Drive) and copy & paste the link in the table in the application form.

If I am listed as a team member in a Senior or Leadership fellow proposal, and the proposal is granted, will I be allowed to apply for a Teaching or Senior Fellowship myself in future rounds?
Yes, since it is only the applicant who is ‘formally’ named as Fellow, you can still submit your own projects on other tiers in the programme.

What do the “maximum fees” as listed in the Call for Proposals mean?
This means that the fees you list for the persons on the budget estimate cannot exceed these amounts. If the real costs are below these fees, you are advised to use the real costs. These fees are explained in further detail in the Guide to Government Fees for 2017, which is available at www.nwo.nl/nroprojectbeheer.

To determine the actual costs at your institution, please contact the financial controller at your department.

What does the phrase “Of the total FTE for which budget is requested, at least 30% must be for the applicant/project leader” (Call for Proposals Teaching Fellows) mean?
This condition is installed to guarantee that at least a considerable part (30% of the total time spent on the project) is carried out by the applicant / project leader. This does not mean that at least 30% of the budget for salary costs should be reserved for the applicant. Because of the variations in hourly fees, this can vary.

This condition is not applicable for the Senior and Leadership fellows, since these teams are bigger and more diverse.

Can I include costs for user-licenses for software that has been developed before the start of the project and/or has not been developed by me as material costs in the budget estimate?
No, you cannot, even if these licenses are required specifically for the project. Do you wish to include these costs in the total budget for the project? Please show that these costs are covered by co-financing from your department/institution. Note that co-financing has to be guaranteed at the moment of submitting your proposal.

I work with a partner institution which is also a publicly funded HE institute. Can we list the costs of personnel of the other institution under ‘Staff costs’?
Yes, you can. However, if your proposal is granted the ministry will transfer the money to the institution of the applicant. This institution and the partner institution should then arrange the division of the budget among themselves.

I work with an organisation that is not a publicly funded Higher Education institute. Can I list the personnel costs of the partner institution on our budget estimate under ‘personnel costs’?
No you cannot. These costs should be listed as material costs. This is because the funds in the Comenius Programme are primarily aimed at Dutch HE institutes. Please keep in mind that there are limits to the maximum amount of material costs.

An alternative could be to fund these hours as co-financing (in kind, in the form of personnel costs). Please keep in mind that the total co-financing budget cannot exceed the total requested budget.

Note that the requirement of 30% of the hours invested in the project are allocated to the applicant (Teaching Fellow) still applies.

When will I receive news on my application?
The planning for every round in the Comenius Programme is listed in the Call for Proposal. All communication is sent to the e-mail address of the applicant as registered in ISAAC.

Who are in the assessment committee?
To prevent external influences / pressure, the names of the persons in the assessment committees are confidential. A profile of the committee as a whole is listed in the Calls for Proposals.

The assessment committee for the full applications generally consists of the same members as the assessment committee for the preliminary applications.

Who are in the interview panel (Leadership Fellows)
When you are invited for an interview, you will receive a list of the members on the panel.

When do I have to submit progress and completion reports
Every year in December, the NRO will request progress reports from the project leaders. In the summer before the planned end date, a request for a concluding report will be sent. By submitting the progress reports, the project leaders shows that the obligation of effort as formulated in the Call for Proposals has been met. If the NRO does not receive a report, it will inform the ministry of OCW. This may lead to the halt of the second and third tranche of the budget of a Senior or Leadership Fellow.

In the report, the project leader furthermore answers some questions on the project in the context of the Comenius programme. These serve as input for an evaluation of the Comenius programme which is planned for 2021.

NRO shares the reports with the ComeniusNetwork.

How do I submit any financial accounts of the project?
Because the budget for the Comenius projects is paid directly by the ministry of OCW, and not by NWO/NRO, NRO does not ask for an account of the budget.

The ministry of OCW does not ask for a separate project account. Rather, the spendings on the project should be shown in the regular financial report of the institution. The guidelines for these reports are known by the financial controllers at every instution.

 Can we spend money before the official start of the project?
Yes, this is allowed by the ministry of education. However, please also consult the controllers at your own department.

The progress of my project is delayed / will have to be postponed
If the new planned end-date is no later than October in the year of the original end-date (for instance: original end-date July 2019, new planned end date 1 October 2019) you do not have to report this. If, however, a longer extension is needed, please send an e-mail with an explanation to comenius@nro.nl. If the delay is cleared, the enddate will be changed in ISAAC, and you will receive requests for a progress and/or conclusion report later than originally planned.

Please note that the 2nd and 3rd tranches for a Senior and Leadership project will not be delayed. The money can, however, be spend next year.

The composition of my team changes, should I report this?
If this does not concern the project leader, you can mention this in the progress and/or concluding reports. If the project leader changes, please send an e-mail with an explanation and the name and e-mail address of the new project leader to comenius@nro.nl. If the change does not have (significant) consequences for the progress and character of the project, the change will be cleared by NRO. The new project leader will receive all further communications from NRO. With regards to the membership of the ComeniusNetwork, please contact comeniusnetwerk@knaw.nl

My question is not listed in the FAQ
Please send an e-mail to comenius@nro.nl

If you send us an e-mail with a question on a specific tier, please mention “Teaching Fellow”, “Senior Fellow or “Leadership Fellow” in the subject line.