IES PhD Call on International Security

The Institute for European Studies (IES) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is calling for applications for one full-time doctoral researcher in International Security. Prospective candidates are invited to submit project proposals in accordance with the instructions below by 15 May 2017.

Project description

Geopolitical competition has returned to Europe with a vengeance. The Russian revanchist push in Eastern Europe and the arc of instability alongside North Africa and the Levant put the European continent at risk. At the same time, the geopolitical and geoeconomic rise of Asia, the US strategic “rebalance” towards that region, and the changing character of military-technological competition present a number of challenges and opportunities for Europeans, and compel them to think more globally, i.e. beyond their backyard. Within this broad framework, PhD project proposals are invited to explore any of the following sub-themes, which may also intersect:

  • Geopolitical competition in and around Europe. Russia’s annexation of Crimea, endemic instability in the Middle East and North Africa, and the wave of terrorism assailing the European continent have confronted Europeans with insecurity and zero-sum struggles for geopolitical influence. Projects may explore the evolving balance of power in all its manifestations in the broader European neighbourhood and/or specific parts thereof (the Arctic, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the Sahel).
  • The rise of Asia and the US “rebalance.” Europe and Europeans cannot avoid being influenced by global dynamics. Projects may explore the geopolitical impact of the rise of Asia and/or US “retrenchment” from Europe/the Middle East on European security and prosperity. Of particular interest are geopolitical dynamics in the Korean Peninsula, the Indian Ocean region and Eurasia, Europe-India relations, Russia’s ‘pivot’ to Asia, Sino-US relations, or Japan’s ‘normalisation’, as they may impinge on Europe.
  • Political warfare. Whether globally or regionally, geopolitical competition relies considerably on economic instruments of power (trade agreements, sanctions, monetary policy), cyberwarfare and strategies of (dis)information. Projects may explore in what ways these different instruments of power can be harnessed for meeting strategic ends, and/or how they may interact with each other.
  • The return of hard power. Mounting geopolitical competition, in Europe and beyond, has rekindled debates on nuclear deterrence, anti-access and area denial strategies, the future of air-, land and sea-power, the use of special operations forces and counter-terrorist strategies and capabilities. Projects may envisage engaging in comparative analysis of such hard power capabilities of European countries, NATO and potential adversaries.


A successful applicant must:

  • hold a Master’s degree in International Relations/political science, strategic studies, European studies or social sciences writ large, with excellent study results
  • be fully fluent in English
  • have a thorough knowledge of international security


We offer employment as a full time doctoral researcher.

Contract: full-time research grant for one year, renewable on an annual basis for a maximum of four years. Extension of the contract is subject to the agreement of the doctoral committee. Remuneration is at the level of a full-time research assistant at a Flemish university (i.e. approximately € 1.900 net per month) and includes contributions for social security. Secondary employment is not allowed.

The IES requires that at least a (co)promotor of the project be from the IES. Co-supervision from other Belgian or foreign universities is encouraged. Successful candidates are expected to base themselves in Brussels to work at the IES premises. Office space and equipment will be provided along with a budget for travelling and other research-related expenses.

The PhD researcher will be expected to devote most of his/her time to research; additional tasks will include occasional teaching activities, event organisation and contributions to the overall development of the institute (including the support of major research projects). The researcher will prepare papers, attend conferences and produce research publications as she/he carries out the PhD.

The IES is committed to creating and supporting a diverse work environment and is an equal opportunity employer.

How to apply

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 per email to (subject heading : Int Sec PhD Call)

  • Completed application form (form can be downloaded here)
  • One-page motivation letter explaining the candidate’s interest in pursuing a PhD on the chosen topic
  • Curriculum vitae listing all academic qualifications, relevant research experience and previous publications
  • 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
  • Copy of the highest obtained diploma and transcript of academic grades
  • Candidates must also provide two letters of recommendation written on their behalf. Referees are requested to send their signed letters directly to

The deadline for applications is 15 May 2017. 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 can start as of 1 October or as soon as possible thereafter.

Further information

For further inquiries, please contact Prof. Dr. Luis Simón ( and Prof. Dr. Alexander Mattelaer (