Vacancy: PhD researcher on Environment and Sustainable Development - Institute for European Studies – Vrije Universiteit Brussel (100%)

The Institute for European Studies (IES), a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is calling for applications for one full-time doctoral researcher in the field of environment and sustainable development. Prospective PhD candidates are hereby invited to submit project proposals on the themes described below. The deadline for submitting applications is 15 May 2019.

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 successful candidate is required to:

  • Hold a Master’s degree in political science or law (or equivalent) with excellent study results;
  • Have a good understanding of European (climate/energy) governance in general and in relevant sub-fields in particular, as well as a strong interest in their analysis;
  • Be fluent in English (written and spoken);
  • Be able to work harmoniously in a multicultural environment;
  • Knowledge of the empirical field of study is an asset.
  • Knowledge of additional languages is an asset.

Female candidates are particularly encouraged to apply.


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 € 2.000 net per month) depending on personal situation, and includes contributions for social security. Secondary employment is not allowed. 

The PhD student will be guided by Prof. Sebastian Oberthür and/or Prof. Harri Kalimo. Co-promotership from other Belgian or foreign universities is encouraged. Successful candidates are expected to work at the IES premises in Brussels. 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 the majority of his/her time to research, with contribution expected for occasional teaching activities, to event organisation and to the overall development of the institute. 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 by e-mail to (subject heading: ‘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.

Further information

For more information about the facilities and benefits of employment at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, please visit under the heading ‘future employees’.

For more information on pursuing a PhD at the VUB, please visit the website of the Central PhD Office:

For more information on the Institute for European Studies, please visit

For more information on the ESD cluster at the IES, please visit

For queries about this vacancy, please e-mail Prof. Sebastian Oberthür at (subject: PhD call 2019)