Vacancy Phd Researcher - Project 'Representative democracy in crisis'

Vacancy notice for a PhD researcher in Political Science

The Department of Political Science of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is hiring a PhD researcher for the project ‘Representative democracy in crisis: Rumour has it’ funded by the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek – Vlaanderen (FWO).

The belief that representative democracy is not functioning well (any more) is gaining traction. Evidence for this belief is routinely found in the decrease of citizens’ political participation (e.g., waning membership of political parties, decreasing voter turnout), and the low level of citizens’ trust in central representative institutions, such as parliament, political parties, and government. To remedy the ‘democratic deficit’ of contemporary democracies, scholars and civil society actors are increasingly promoting forms of participatory and deliberative democracy, such as referenda and citizen panels. Clearly, these remedies define the problem of contemporary democracies in terms of their failing representativeness. The concept of representation, however, is highly contested and it is unclear what citizens precisely expect from representative democracy. To better grasp the nature and scope of today’s so-called democratic deficit, this project seeks to study how citizens themselves ‘make sense’ of representative democracy. To this end, the project studies how citizens debate, criticise and justify representative government in everyday life settings. It will use a focus group research method involving citizens living in Belgium to grasp and analyse these feelings and attitudes.


  • Holder of a Master degree in Political Science or closely related field. Last year students are encouraged to apply, at the condition that they obtain their MA-degree before the start of the scholarship; i.e. October 1st, 2017.
  • Research interests in representative democracy, practices of political representation, and citizens’ attitudes toward representative government.
  • Good knowledge of qualitative methodology (or willingness to acquire the necessary expertise).
  • Good organisational and time management skills.
  • A good command of spoken Dutch and French (or willingness to improve one’s command of the other language during the scholarship).
  • A good command of English, both in writing and speaking.


The PhD grant is for four years. You will become an actively contributing member of the research programme on ‘Evaluating Democratic Governance in Europe’ (EDGE). The EDGE programme offers a stimulating working environment in a dynamic and internationally oriented political science research team. You will have no teaching obligations but will be allowed to engage in a limited amount of teaching if this is judged appropriate for your academic development.

Depending on your experience and academic merits you will receive a salary on one of the pay scales laid down by the government. Hospitalisation cover and free use of public transport for travel to and from work are provided. Should you prefer cycling to work, VUB also offers compensation for your trajectory. Both VUB campuses have extensive sporting facilities and a nursery is within walking distance.

STARTING DATE is October 1st, 2017.
Last year students are encouraged to apply. The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is an equal opportunity employer.


Questions regarding the PhD scholarship can be addressed to Professor Eline Severs ( and Professor Kris Deschouwer (

APPLICATIONS should include:

  • a letter of motivation
  • a full CV (including degrees obtained for each study year, the title of your MA-thesis, and, when applicable, a list of publications, courses taken, and conference presentations)
  • a project outline, including a central research question and research design (maximum two pages)

The deadline for applications is August 20th, 2017.

Please send the above documents electronically to Professor Eline Severs ( and Professor Kris Deschouwer (