Vacancy: PhD in Politics of Climate and Migration (Leiden University)

The Institute of Political Science in Leiden University’s Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences invites applications for the position of

PhD Candidate in Political Science (Politics of Climate and Migration) (1.0 FTE)
Vacancy number 14512

Key responsibilities
We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD researcher to conduct independent research at the Institute of Political Science at Leiden University. Specifically, we invite applicants to develop an innovative PhD proposal on empirical and normative issues around the ‘Climate Migration’ Dilemma (see next section).

The PhD project will be supervised by Dr Katharina Natter, Dr Rebecca Ploof and Professor Jan Aart Scholte. Together, we offer comprehensive support, including expertise in comparative politics, political theory and global affairs, methodological guidance, and career development support. Moreover, the Institute offers ample opportunities for presenting your research, gaining experience in organizing academic events, and developing a strong profile for your post-PhD career.

PhD candidates receive thorough research training at Leiden University. The PhD position also includes a generous financial package (see terms and conditions below) for fieldwork, conference attendance and training. Candidates are expected to teach two courses per year, usually as tutorial instructor.

The ‘Climate Migration’ Dilemma
Climate change and migration are among the most pressing challenges of the 21st century in both the Global North and the Global South. While climate activists and migration activists are usually politically aligned, their positions tend to collide on the use of the terms ’climate migration’ and ’climate refugees’.
Migration scholars and activists tend to object to such terms. They argue that these terms obscure the complex dynamics of migration, strip people of their agency, and threaten refugees’ legal protection under the 1951 UN Geneva Convention In contrast, climate activists and scholars often deploy the terms ‘climate migration’ and ‘climate refugee’ to highlight the extreme migratory repercussions that climate change is expected to generate and to advocate for immediate action to protect the environment. In framing climate migration as an emergency, they regularly resort to rhetoric warnings (e.g. ‘floods of refugees’), commonly used by nationalist and xenophobic actors.

This can create an unexpected narrative convergence between climate activists and nationalist far-right actors, who adopt environmental concerns, such as the protection of pure and pristine nature for their own citizens, to back up their traditional, anti-immigration positions. While this political narrative is not mainstream (yet), the repositioning of nationalist, far-right actors on the issue of climate change is likely to gain further ground. Analyzing the political implications and normative risks of the terms ‘climate migration’ and ‘climate refugee’ is thus urgently needed.
In this context, we invite prospective PhD candidates to develop a research proposal that empirically studies and normatively reflects on this intersection of migration, environmentalism and nationalism. As a prospective PhD researcher, you are free to propose your own theoretical framework, research design, case selection and methodology depending on your skills and interests, though we have also included some possible lines of inquiry below.

Empirically, the project could examine how climate activists, migration activists, and nationalist groups understand, deploy, and mobilize around the term ‘climate migration’. It could delve into the narratives or advocacy strategies of (trans)national organizations (e.g. NGOs, social movements, political parties) and unpack their perceptions of the political opportunities and challenges associated with the term.

Conceptually, the project could critically explore normative questions about the risks and rewards of crisis discourse around migration and climate change. The project could put the empirical material collected in conversation with, for instance, theoretical analyses of the power of discourse and knowledge; the politics of emergency and ‘exception’; or the anti-democratic impact of depoliticizing climate change.

The ‘cases’ studied could be countries, (transnational) social movements, or specific political actors within or across countries of the Global South and/or Global North. Similarly, a variety of data collection and analysis methods (e.g. participant observation, process tracing, content, discourse or sentiment analysis, semi-structured or life history interviews etc.) could be relevant.
We hope that the research design you propose will generate new empirical and normative insights into the interplay between climate activists, migration activists, and anti-migration nationalists – and are looking forward to read your research ideas!

Selection criteria

  • Applicants show enthusiasm, independence and relevant skills to implement the proposed research project.
  • The proposed research project creatively addresses empirical and normative questions raised by the ‘Climate Migration’ Dilemma.
  • Applicants hold (or are close to completing) a (research) master’s degree in political science or other relevant social science discipline. They have written (or are near to completing) a master’s thesis.
  • Applicants have prior training in and a good command of the methodologies suggested in the research proposal, be they ethnographic, interview-based, quantitative and/or normative.
  • Applicants ideally already have knowledge of interdisciplinary research on issues relevant to their proposal, including migration, climate change, nationalism and/or social movements
  • Applicants meet the English language requirements of the Graduate School of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences at Leiden University. Proficiency in other languages relevant for the proposed research project is highly recommended.
  • Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an (online) interview in the period 7-15 May.

Research at our Faculty/Institute
The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences comprises four institutes: Education and Child Studies, Political Science, Psychology and Cultural Anthropology & Development Sociology. The Faculty also includes the Centre for Science and Technology Studies. The Faculty is home to 7,000 students and 1000 members of staff. Our teaching and research programmes cover diverse topics varying from adoption to political behaviour. For more information, see

The Institute of Political Science has a strong research tradition in various areas of comparative, Dutch and international politics, as well as political theory. The Institute has around 85 academic staff, including many non-Dutch scholars, and houses a number of editorships of international refereed journals and book series. Members of the institute are also involved in a number of the university’s multi-disciplinary research centres, including Central and East European Studies, International Relations, Parties and Representation, Political Philosophy, Centrum voor Nederlandse Politiek en Bestuur and ReCNTR. The Institute is based in Leiden and in The Hague, where a large part of the teaching is done.

The Institute offers a range of programmes at the Bachelor and Master levels and also trains PhD students in political science. The BSc programmes include general Political Science (in Dutch & English, in Leiden), International Politics (in Dutch & English, in Leiden), and International Relations and Organisations (in English, in The Hague). The one-year MSc programme (taught mostly in English) includes five specialisations in Leiden and one in The Hague.

Terms and conditions
The position starts on 1 September 2024. We offer a full-time PhD position. The salary is € 2,770.- to € 3,539.- gross per month (pay scale P, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities). The PhD position includes a generous financial package for fieldwork (up to 10,000 EUR) as well as for attending scientific conferences and substantive/methodological training (up to 6,250 EUR).

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with an additional holiday bonus (8% of annual salary) and end-of-year bonus (8.3% of annual salary), training and career development. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. More at

Diversity and inclusion are core values of Leiden University. Leiden University is committed to becoming an inclusive community which enables all students and staff to feel valued and respected and to develop their full potential. Diversity in experiences and perspectives enriches our teaching and strengthens our research.

Further enquiries can be directed to Dr Katharina Natter, email:

Please submit your online application no later than 23:59 CET on 15 April 2024 via the blue button of our application system.
Applicants should submit online:

  • A motivation letter (max. 2 pages) outlining the candidate’s interest in and suitability for the position.
  • A CV covering relevant study and work experience, language proficiency and other skills.
  • A research proposal (max. 2000 words, excluding the bibliography) outlining a specific research question, its academic and societal contributions, as well as the theory and methods suggested to study the ‘Climate Migration’ Dilemma.
  • A Master’s thesis, academic paper or article. This will be used to assess the applicant’s ability to formulate and delimit research tasks and analyse and present research results.
  • The names and contact details of two referees. No reference letters should be submitted at the application stage: they will be requested for shortlisted candidates.

The selection interviews will take place in between 7 and 15 May 2024. You are kindly requested to be available in this period.

Apply via the Leiden University website.