PhD Candidate in Political Science – Universiteit Leiden – Leiden

  • Leiden

Universiteit Leiden

Key responsibilities

The PhD researcher will be part of the project “Do developmental coalitions transform governance? A subnational approach” hosted at the Institute of Political Science at Leiden University. This project will take place under the supervision of Dr. Jonathan Phillips (principal investigator), Dr. Maria Spirova and Dr. Leila Demarest.

The objective of this project is to understand why some societies achieve more rapid and sustained progress in economic and social development than others. Faced with deep-rooted geographical, historical and institutional challenges, and recurrent economic, conflict and climatic shocks, developing countries have made little progress following the development community’s prescriptions of specific policy packages or ‘good governance’ reforms. Instead, there is a growing academic consensus that deeper political processes shape the development paths that countries follow – that the ‘developmental’ coalitions formed among political elites, and between elites and society, can alter incentives for state-building, institutional strengthening, and investments in public goods. Yet, the types of coalitions that matter, and under what circumstances, remain contested, and current evidence is restricted to cross-national correlations or narrow case studies that fail to demonstrate the causal role that these relationships play.

To address these challenges, this project seeks to leverage variation at the subnational level within federal countries, taking advantage of the larger number of units and more credible counterfactuals to provide more rigorous empirical evidence on the political roots of development progress. It is envisaged that the successful candidate will draw on the recent explosion in available spatial microdata on surveys and public services – particularly healthcare, education and transport – to develop local measures of development progress and compare the performance of subnational governments with distinct coalitions, exploiting variation both between subnational units and over time. The project will entail considerable work to refine the measurement of the explanatory and outcome variables, analyze large datasets, and apply quantitative research designs that might include synthetic controls, difference-in-differences, regression discontinuities or multi-level models. Quantitative findings are expected to be complemented by fieldwork and interviews to both validate the measurement choices and explore the mechanisms by which specific coalitions have (or do not have) impact.

Within these objectives, the specific focus and research design of the project will be agreed in discussion with the successful candidate and the supervision team, taking strong consideration of the candidate’s interests and abilities. The geographic focus of the study targets large federal developing democracies with significant repositories of relevant data – particularly Brazil, India, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa – and projects could focus on one or more of these cases, depending on the candidate’s interests and expertise.

As part of the position of PhD researcher, candidates will receive PhD research training. Candidates will be expected to teach two courses per year, usually as a tutorial instructor.

Selection criteria

  • Applicants must hold (or be near completing) a (research) master’s degree in political science or in a relevant discipline. They have written (or are near completing) a master’s thesis.
  • Applicants have a demonstrated interest in the politics of development or governance and have experience analyzing subnational politics with the tools of comparative politics or political economy.
  • Applicants must have prior training in, and a strong command of, both quantitative and qualitative research designs methodologies. Experience with causal inference techniques, which might range from regression discontinuities to process tracing, is an advantage.
  • Applicants must have proficiency in statistical software such as R, Stata, or Python (R preferred).
  • Applicants meet the English language requirements of the Graduate School of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. A working understanding of other relevant languages is an advantage.
  • Research at our Faculty/Institute
    The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences consists of five institutes: Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Political Science, and Psychology. The faculty has approximately 7000 students and 1000 staff members. Within the institutes, not only education is provided but also groundbreaking research is conducted that pushes the boundaries of our understanding of human behaviour and societal structures. What makes our faculty unique is the diversity of research topics, the various styles of teaching, and the way professional support is organized; this provides you with the opportunity to explore and develop your interests and expertise. Visit our website for an impression: .

    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 appointment would be for 1 year, after which it can be extended by 3 years subject to a positive evaluation.

    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. High quality teaching and research is always inclusive.

    Please submit online your application no later than 23:59 CET on 26 April via the blue button of our application system.
    Applicants should submit online:

  • A motivation letter explaining how your interests and expertise fit with the project (maximum 2 pages),
  • An academic CV,
  • A research-based writing sample (article, thesis or term paper).
  • The names and contact details of two people who can be contacted directly to submit recommendation letters, commenting on the candidate’s professional qualifications and suitability for the position. Please note that no reference letters have to be submitted at the application stage, but these will be requested for shortlisted candidates.
  • Online interviews are expected to take place in the week of 13th May. In-person interviews are expected to take place in the week of 27th May 2024, where interviewees will be requested to make a short presentation with their initial proposal of how they would contribute to the project. You are kindly requested to be available in these periods.

    Enquiries from agencies are not appreciated.

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