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The Institute for European Studies (IES), a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), is calling for candidates to apply for two PhD research positions:


Both research positions are based in Brussels. The expected starting date is 1 October or as soon as possible thereafter.


PhD Research on Migration and Diversity 

The ‘Migration, Diversity and Justice’ (MDJ) cluster of the Institute for European Studies focuses on migration, immigrant integration, justice and home affairs as well as equality and diversity policies (from the local level to the EU and UN). The candidate for the PhD position should develop a research proposal for one of the following two researchs lines of the MDJ cluster: (1) European Anti-Discrimination Policies and Politics; or (2) EU-West African Cooperation in the Field of Migration.  

Research Line 1: European Anti-discrimination Policies and Politics 

Since 2000, the European Union has developed anti-discrimination policies. European cooperation in this field originally raised high hopes among racial equality activists. A few years later, researchers warned however that the new anti-discrimination legislation in Europe was poorly implemented at the national level. Times have changed since the adoption of the European Racial Equality Directive. The participation of right-wing populist parties in governments has become the new ‘normal’ and anti-racist activism, particularly from black and Muslim organizations, has considerably increased. These activists of the ‘second anti-racist wave’ have lost hope in anti-discrimination legislation, and its individual approach. Instead, they demand structural reforms and the ‘decolonization of minds and societal structures’. In sum, anti-discriminsation policies are increasingly polarized. 

The potential PhD candidate should develop a research proposal that deals with the evolution of European and member states’ anti-racist activism and/or anti-discrimination policies since 2000. 

Research Line 2: EU-African cooperation on migration 

Africa has become a focal point in the efforts of European Union actors to better ‘manage’ migration into Europe. Worth over 3.3 billion euro, a new ‘European Union Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa’ (EUTF) has become a powerful instrument in terms of funding and development assistance. Scholars have been following with interest the EU’s external migration governance. Only more recently however, researchers have made an effort to grasp the perspective and ‘agency’ of African migrant-sending and transit countries. This is of central importance. The EU does not negotiate in a vacuum. Partner countries have their own interests and ideas in the field of migration.

The potential PhD candidate should develop a research proposal on EU-African cooperation in the field of migration, ideally with a focus on the agency and behaviour of African actors. We explicitly welcome research proposals that contribute to a comparative understanding of migration policy-making in West-Africa. 

Research themes

The ‘Environment and Sustainable Development’ (ESD) cluster of the IES analyses relevant developments in EU and international climate, environmental and energy law and policy, compares domestic law and policy, and explores related governance arrangements and institutions. In line with the broader IES research focus on the ways in which Europe and the wider world address today’s policy challenges, the ESD cluster specifically focuses on the international and European governance of the climate and energy transition as its overarching theme. 

Within this broader context,candidates for the PhD position should develop a research proposal for one or several of the following sub-themes: 

  • The techno-economic climate transition. Decarbonisation in Europe and elsewhere requires advancing low-carbon innovation in different sectors of our (market) economies. Which policy and regulatory approaches can help align the micro- and macroeconomics towards phasing out GHG emissions? This may include analysis of value chains, the interplay of public and private policies and actions and interaction across sectors and with societal drivers.
  • Democratic governance of the climate and energy transition. How does the climate and energy challenge intersect with other challenges to democratic governance in Europe and elsewhere (including populism, changing geopolitics, etc.)? And how may the democratic quality and legitimacy of decision-making and authority in and beyond nation states (including in the EU) be fostered and ensured in governing the climate and energy transition?
  • Innovative policies and policy frameworks. Innovative policies and policy frameworks in Europe and beyond that align actors and societies towards the climate and energy transition, while remaining flexible and resilient to changing circumstances. Concepts of and approaches to the “circular economy” as a means to advancing the climate and energy transition deserve particular attention.
  • European external relations. The climate and energy transition requires Europe to engage in global outreach and cooperation and it will have profound implications for Europe’s relations with its international partners, especially traditional energy suppliers. At the same time, diplomacy involves an increasing variety of public and private actors and diversifies its tools and channels. How can the EU and its member states best advance international climate policy? How can they productively shape changing relations with external energy partners and develop their diplomatic toolkit? 


The deadline for submitting applications is 15 May 2019.

The PhD candidate will be selected on the basis of the quality of the project proposal, her/his expertise, work experience and qualifications. The following application documents are to be consolidated into a single PDF file sent by e-mail to (subject heading: ‘Migration and Diversity PhD call’ or ‘Environment PhD call’).

  • Completed application form (form can be downloaded here)
  • A one-page motivation letter explaining the candidate’s interest in pursuing a PhD on the chosen topic
  • A curriculum vitae listing all academic qualifications, relevant research experience and previous publications
  • A project proposal featuring a literature review, a research question and proposed hypotheses, a methodological outline and an indicative planning, condensed into no more than 3,000 words.
  • A copy of the highest diploma obtained and transcript of academic grades
  • The contact details of at least two references
  • A copy of a publication (master thesis, academic report or article)

The deadline for applications is 15 May 2019. Short-listed candidates will be informed by early June and interviews with top-listed candidates are expected to take place in the weeks thereafter. The successful candidate is expected to start on 1 October or as soon as possible thereafter.

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