Vacancies for 3 fully-funded PhD candidates

UPDATE II: Shortlist announced

Dear applicants,

Let me, first of all, thank you for your interest in our research project. It has been inspiring to read all your motivation letters about your future ambitions. Many of you have indicated how the international organizations you work with — in your jobs, internships, and research — are under significant pressure. This makes us even more convinced about the relevance of our research project.

As noted previously, we received an incredible number of 234 applications for the 3 available PhD positions. As a result, it has been difficult for the selection committee to make an initial choice. We have, however, now put together a shortlist of candidates and invited them for a job interview later this month. If you have not received an invitation for an interview, this means unfortunately that you have not been shortlisted. Unless shortlisted candidates withdraw, it is unlikely that you will eventually be selected.

Given the high number of applicants, it is impossible to provide individual feedback on your applications (and we will ignore emails requesting feedback). Let me, however, use this opportunity to provide some general feedback.

In line with the profile of PhD candidate, our primary selection criteria is academic qualifications. We appreciate work experience, for instance in international organizations, but ultimately we are looking academic skills. Our research project concerns — more than many other PhDs projects — fundamental and not applied research. It is funded by the European Research Council, which funds fundamental research, and does not prioritize societal impact. The PhD candidates will have to focus strongly focus on theory, methods and writing academic papers. Prior academic qualifications are, in this respect, a good indicator.

In terms of academic qualifications, we generally looked for the highest possible distinction from leading internationally-oriented universities (to give you an idea, short-listed candidates have generally scored well above 8.0 in The Netherlands; well above 70 points in the United Kingdom; lower than 1.5 in Germany; well above 16 points in France/Belgium). In addition, we looked for strong affiliation with the research project and fundamental research, as evidenced by course work and motivation letter. Our decisions were often informed by reading your written papers multiple times, with a focus on your theoretical contributions.

Many of you are qualified to pursue a career in academic research. The competition for our positions is simply very high. We short-listed the applicants that fitted our research project best. I wish you well in your future (academic) careers.

Hylke Dijkstra
Chair, Selection Committee

NB: The Selection Committee also included 3 full professors, a representative from our Faculty’s Graduate School, and a project member.

UPDATE: Selection procedure

The deadline for applications is now over. We have received 234 applications for the 3 PhD positions. We are thrilled and also slightly humbled by such a tremendous interest in this project.

The selection committee will now study all the applications in detail. We expect to announce a shortlist in the beginning of April. All updates about the selection procedure will be posted only online here. We are unfortunately not in a position to comment further on the procedure or to give individual feedback on applications.

Thank you so much for your interest in our project!


Original vacancy text

Applicants are invited for 3 PhD positions in the project “Who gets to live forever? Toward an Institutional Theory on the Decline and Death of International Organisations”. This research project is funded by the European Research Council. The principal investigator is Dr. Hylke Dijkstra. The starting date is 1 September 2019.

Research project

International organisations are currently under pressure. The World Health Organization was heavily criticized over its handling of the 2014 Ebola outbreak. The World Trade Organization seems incapable of mitigating an American-Chinese trade war. The United States quit UNESCO in 2018 and The United Kingdom will exit the EU in 2019. The ultimate way for states to show that international organisations have outlived their purpose is to disband them. This happens frequently: no less than a third of the international organisations created between 1905 and 2005 have formally ceased to exist.

This large research project seeks to complete the theory on the “life and death of international organisations”. We know how international organisations are designed and develop over time. Yet we know virtually nothing about decline and death. The project therefore addresses the question why do international organisations decline or die? The main hypothesis is that some international organisations live longer due to their institutional characteristics. Through a mixed-methods research approach, this project aims to develop an institutional theory on the final stage in the life of international organisations.

Job description

The research project consists of a principal investigator, a postdoctoral researcher and 3 PhD candidates. The 3 PhD candidates will conduct qualitative case studies of international organisations at risk of decline and/or death in the post-Cold War era. Each of the PhD candidates will be responsible for one policy area. The first PhD candidate focuses on trade and finance; the second PhD candidate on environment and energy; and the third PhD candidate on foreign policy, security and military affairs.

For these case studies, the PhD candidates will gather a comprehensive set of data. This includes the official documents of the relevant international organisations and the member states, where available the minutes of meetings, newspaper reporting, think tank reports and secondary literature. In addition, the PhD candidates will conduct interviews with relevant officials, including the civil servants working for these international organisations as well as national diplomats and civil servants. Periods of fieldwork are planned and travel is required.

Because the PhD candidates work in a larger research project, team work is essential. In addition to their individual work on their dissertation, the PhD candidates will contribute to regular project team meetings and joint academic publications. The PhD candidates will receive extensive training, including regular supervision, training by the Graduate School of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Netherlands Institute for Government, and where relevant the European Consortium for Political Research. PhD candidates can also benefit from a visiting fellowship at a foreign university.


You hold a MA/MSc degree in international relations, political science, public administration or a related discipline (or are expected to obtain such a degree by 31 August 2019). You have received excellent grades and you have an obvious interest in academic research, particularly qualitative research methods. You are capable of autonomously conducting original research as well as working in a team. You are fluent in English; knowledge of other languages such as the official UN languages is an asset.

What we have to offer

We offer a dynamic and challenging job in an internationally-oriented organisation where young people receive an advanced education and scholars conduct exciting research. She / he will be part of an international network of top universities and renowned scholars within the field.

We offer a 4 year full-time appointment as PhD student. The first year will be a probation period, after a positive assessment the position will be extended with another 3 years.

Remuneration will be according to standard salary levels for PhD students starting with a salary of € 2.325,- with a yearly growth to € 2.972- gross a month (based on a full-time appointment). Each year the standard salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%.

You have to be willing to move to (the vicinity of) Maastricht. If you do not already live in Maastricht (or its direct surroundings) you will be eligible for an allowance for moving costs. You may also be eligible for an allowance for alternative housing. Other secondary conditions include e.g. a pension scheme and partially paid parental leave.

You will be provided with shared office space and a PC.

Maastricht University’s Terms of Employment are laid down in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local university provisions apply as well. For more information please see the website: / employees / A-Z.

Starting date: 1 September 2019.

Maastricht University 

Maastricht University is renowned for its unique, innovative, problem-based learning system, which is characterized by a small-scale and student-oriented approach. Research at UM is characterized by a multidisciplinary and thematic approach, and is concentrated in research institutes and schools. Maastricht University has around 16,300 students and 4,300 employees. Reflecting the university’s strong international profile, a fair amount of both students and staff are from abroad. The university hosts 6 faculties: Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law, School of Business and Economics, Faculty of Humanities and Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS) has about 250 staff members, and about 1,600 students. More than 76% of the students are non-Dutch (64 different nationalities). All programmes are offered in English and some are also offered in Dutch. FASoS offers two 3-year bachelor’s programmes: Arts and Culture and European Studies. It also offers eight different 1-year Master’s programmes and two 2-year research master’s programmes.

Research is organised around four programmes: Politics and Culture in Europe; Science, Technology and Society Studies; Arts, Media and Culture; and Globalisation, Transnationalism and Development. The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is housed in the historic city centre of Maastricht.

Graduate School

Our Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences offers the opportunity to pursue a PhD in the interdisciplinary field of arts and social sciences. You receive a coherent program of introductory courses, intensive supervision and frequent discussion with the senior researchers inside and outside the Faculty. The Programme can be characterized by its international and interdisciplinary nature and the emphasis on cultural and societal issues of the modern world.

The School focuses on four themes:

1. Politics and Culture in Europe.

2. Maastricht University Science, Technology and Society Studies.

3. Globalisation, Transnationalism and Development.

4. Arts, Media and Culture.

Further information on the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and its Graduate School may be accessed on:

Additional Information

Further information on the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is available on our website:

Any inquiries about the position or the project may be addressed to the principal investigator: Dr. Hylke Dijkstra (


Interested candidates are invited to submit:

  1. A letter of motivation stating the candidate’s qualifications and reasons for interest in the position; please explicitly state your preference for one of the three policy areas ([1] trade and finance; [2] environment and energy; [3] foreign policy, security and military affairs)
  2. their CV;
  3. Grade transcript of previous education at MA/MSc level and undergraduate level;
  4. Two academic papers (course papers; theses; academic publications);
  5. the contact information of two references (including e-mail; phone number, mailing address, and relationship to the applicant).

Maastricht University is committed to nurturing an inclusive culture and a welcoming atmosphere. This inclusiveness strategy has resulted in a very diverse representation of nationalities and cultures. We strongly believe that diversity (including, but not limited to nationality, age and gender) of the staff and student population will increase the quality of UM education & research. Fostering diversity and inclusivity creates an academic community where individual talents thrive, and values and differences are cherished. We strongly encourage you to apply if you are qualified for this position.

The deadline for submitting your application is 15 March 2019. 

Selected candidates will be invited for an interview on 25 April or 3 May (first round) and 23 May (second round). Up-to-date information about the selection procedure will be posted on the project website:

Please send your application electronically to the Secretariat of the Faculty Office: