Vacancy: PhD researcher in (Multi-Disciplinary) Legal Research in the Field of Migration (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

PhD researcher in (Multi-Disciplinary) Legal Research in the Field of Migration

1 – Working at the VUB

For more than 50 years, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel has stood for freedom, equality and solidarity, and this is very much alive on our campuses among students and staff alike.

At the VUB, you will find a diverse collection of personalities: innovators pur sang, but above all people who are 100% their authentic selves. With some 4,000 employees, we are the largest Dutch-speaking employer, in the private sector, in Brussels; an international city with which we are only too happy to connect and where (around) our 4 campuses are located.

Add to this our principle of free research – in which self-reflection, a critical attitude and an open, creative mind around scientific and social issues are central – and you have a university that is fundamentally groundbreaking and pioneering in education and research. In short: the VUB all over again.

Moreover, the VUB is a member of EUTOPIA, an alliance of like-minded European universities, all ready to reinvent themselves.

2 – Position description

The Brussels School of Governance, Department Instituut voor Europese Studies, is looking for a PhD-student with a doctoral grant.

More concretely your work package, for the preparation of a doctorate, contains:

You will complete a PhD by drawing on law and migration studies, that can also have a broader multi-disciplinary perspective by drawing on legal and political philosophy and/or theory. PhD proposals that push the analysis of state sovereignty regarding migration a bit further than traditional eurocentric analyses by integrating insights of TWAIL or CRT approaches to international law, or democratic theory, are certainly welcome.

As a PhD candidate you will develop a research proposal for the following researchs line of the Migration, Diversity and Justice centre: The Role of International Courts in Revisiting the Sovereignty of the Nation-State in the Field of Migration.
The traditional understanding of the state as the primary subject of international law, implies a central role for state consent in the making and development of international law. Furthermore, states’ sovereignty and particularly their territorial sovereignty implies that states have the (sovereign) power who can enter and reside in its territory (and who cannot). At the same time, states have accepted to restrict their sovereignty by ratifying human rights treaties. Relatedly, many states have accepted the jurisdiction of international courts to pronounce legally binding judgements, in relation to their compliance with international conventions ratified by them. However, these international courts are all too well aware of the constraints they face: ultimately sovereign states cannot be forced to comply with their judgements. Hence, several international courts have developed strategies to manage this delicate balancing exercise, while gradually rescaling the notion and strength of state sovereignty.

As a PhD candidate you will develop a research proposal that, focuses on the jurisprudence of the ECtHR and the CJEU, and the way in which these courts assess compliance by European nation states (EU member states and non-EU member states) with international human rights in the field of migration and refugee law. It is possible to zoom in on particular of these human rights, provided that this choice is justified.

The project is carried out within the Migration, Diversity and Justice (MDJ) Centre of the Brussels School of Governance (BSoG), which focuses on the multi-level governance of migration, immigrant integration, equality and diversity policies (from the local level to the EU and UN). Research at the MDJ centre explores the ways in which Europe and the wider world address today’s policy challenges.

For this function, our Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering Campus (Elsene) will serve as your home base.

3 – Profile

What do we expect from you?

  • You hold a Master’s degree in law, while some training in political and legal philosophy is advisable.
  • You have a solid legal knowledge;
  • You have excellent study results;
  • You have a thorough knowledge of the relevant academic literature;
  • You are flexible, self-motivated and perseverant;
  • You are fully fluent in English, proficiency in other languages is an advantage;
  • You are proficient with Microsoft Office, with demonstrated experience with Microsoft Excel. Proficiency with other relevant software (SPSS, Nvivo, Stata, R) is an advantage;
  • You are open-minded and creative, and keen on pursuing interdisciplinary research approaches.
  • You have not performed any works in the execution of a mandate as an assistant, paid from operating resources, over a total (cumulated) period of more than 12 months.

The VUB wants to be a reflection of the society where everyone’s talent is valued, regardless of gender, age, religion, skin color, migration background, disability and neurodiversity.

4 – Offer

Are you going to be our new colleague?

You’ll be offered a full-time PhD-scholarship, for 12 months (extendable up to max. 48 months, on condition of the positive evaluation of the PhD activities), with planned starting date 01/10/2024.

You’ll receive a grant linked to one of the scales set by the government.

IMPORTANT: The effective result of the doctorate scholarship is subject to the condition precedent of your enrolment as a doctorate student at the university.

At the VUB, you’re guaranteed an open, involved and diverse workplace where you are offered opportunities to (further) build on your career.

As well as this, you will also enjoy various other benefits:

  • Extensive homeworking options, a telework allowance of 50 euros per month OR an internet fee of 20 euros per month;
  • An open and informal working environment where attention is paid to work-life balance, and exceptional holiday arrangements with 35 days of leave (based on a fulltime contract), closure between Christmas and New Year and 3 extra leave days;
  • Cost-free hospitalisation insurance;
  • Full reimbursement of your home-to-work commute with public transport according to VUB-policy, and/or compensation if you come by bike;
  • A wide selection of meals in our campus restaurants at attractive prices;
  • Excellent and affordable facilities for sport and exercise, a range of discounts via Benefits@Work (in  all kinds of shops, on flights, in petrol stations, amusement parks…) and Ecocheques;
  • Nursery near campus, discount on holiday camps;
  • The space to form your job content and to continuously learn through our VUB learning platforms and training courses;
  • And finally: great colleagues with a healthy drive.

5 – Interested?

Is this the job you’ve been dreaming of?

Then apply, at the latest on 15/05/2024via, and upload the following documents in English:

  • your CV stating academic qualifications, relevant research experience and previous publications
  • a one-page motivation letter
  • A 2000-word research proposal with the state of the art, the relevance of the research topic, a methodological outline combining legal research methodology with empirical (quantitative or qualitative) methodologies, data sources and how the research will be organised in the given time.
  • a copy of a publication (master thesis, academic report or article)
  • contact details (e-mail and phone) of two referees
  • your diploma (not applicable for VUB alumni).

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.

Do you have questions about the job content? Contact Kristin Henrard at or on +32 470 53 46 63.

Would you like to know what it’s like to work at the VUB? Go to, and find all there is to know about our campuses, benefits, strategic goals and your future colleagues.

Would you like more information about EUTOPIA? Go to, and read more about the role of the VUB in the development of the EUTOPIA alliance.