PhD position in Education/Statistics - Road to Resilience project (1.0 FTE)

PhD position in Education/Statistics - Road to Resilience project (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
20 Apr 22 May Utrecht

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Are you interested in studying protective factors in education through state-of-the art statistical techniques? Apply for this PhD position!

Job description

Are you interested in studying protective factors in education through state-of-the art statistical techniques? Do you want to contribute to scientific progress as well as perform socially relevant research? Apply for this PhD position!

The PhD position is part of the ‘Road to Resilience’ project. The aim of the project is to use and develop state-of-the-art Bayesian techniques to unveil the mechanisms behind resilient trajectories in atypical literacy acquisition during primary education.

Literacy is essential for academic outcomes, employment, participation and well-being. In the Netherlands, there are concerns about increasingly poor literacy outcomes of primary school children. At the same time, we know that some children with initial language and literacy problems can show resilience under the right circumstances. To more fully understand the mechanisms of literacy acquisition, it is essential to learn more about language and literacy development in the face of adversity. In this project, we move beyond the tradition of identifying risk factors for atypical development and shift focus towards protective factors and compensatory mechanisms of resilience.

To make this unique approach work, we apply and further develop Bayesian statistical techniques that provide essential solutions for the possibilities and challenges of developmental observational data. Compared to traditional frequentist statistical methods, the Bayesian framework allows for the incorporation of prior information which can decrease the required sample size to obtain valid inferences and increase the complexity of the model. The PhD candidate will (learn to) apply Bayesian structural equation modeling (SEM) and further develop the use of so-called shrinkage priors in Bayesian SEM.

The project involves collection of cross-sectional and longitudinal data. The sample will contain typically developing children, as well as children with dyslexia and children with a developmental language disorder (DLD). Data collection is spread out across multiple years to reduce workload and allow for analyzing and writing throughout the project (writing can start from day one based on available pilot data). Data is collected through a combination of psycho-diagnostic tests and surveys. The data will cover reading and spelling skills, risk factors for dyslexia and DLD, and potential cognitive, socio-emotional, educational, interpersonal, and family-related protective factors.

The responsibilities of the PhD candidate are:

  • conducting the research (literature research, designing instruments, recruiting schools, pre-registering studies, collecting and analysing data, preparing and storing data packages for sharing);
  • coordinating data collection (with students);
  • writing international scientific publications and a dissertation that combine the theoretical and statistical aspects of the project;
  • giving presentations at (inter)national scientific conferences;
  • active participation in the research team of the UU Department of Development & Education in Diverse Societies (DEEDS) and the department of Methodology and Statistics (M&S);
  • knowledge utilization: collaborating and sharing findings with practitioners (e.g., professional publications and presentations for teachers/practitioners);
  • following courses/trainings (e.g., at the local graduate school).
Your work will also include teaching activities (10-20%). You will be well guided and supported by two daily supervisors, one from DEEDS and one from Methodology and Statistics (M&S), as well as two senior supervisors (one from Education and one from DEEDS).


Utrecht University


We are looking for an enthusiastic colleague (m/f/x) who meets the requirements below:

  • You have (completed or almost completed) a Research Master’s degree in the field of Social and Behavioural Sciences* and affinity with advanced statistics.

Alternatively, you may have:

  • a (completed or almost completed) Master’s degree in the field of Social and Behavioural Sciences, well developed analytical and statistical skills, and you are willing to follow additional statistics courses, or;
  • a (completed or almost completed) Research Master’s degree in Methods & Statistics and a Bachelor’s degree in the field of Social and Behavioural Sciences.
  • You are either a fluent speaker of Dutch or are willing and able to learn Dutch within one year. Understanding and speaking Dutch is essential for the data collection of this project and will make it easier to connect with colleagues. We offer free Dutch language courses.
  • You have the ambition to conduct excellent scientific research and are willing to collaborate across scientific fields and with educational practice.
  • You are social, well-organized, communicative and collaborative.
  • You have excellent verbal and written communication skills in English.
* Preferably in Educational Sciences, Educational Psychology or Developmental Psychology.

Conditions of employment

You will work in a collaborative, social and dedicated team. We will guide you in your research and teaching tasks, which will help you develop your academic career and help you find your way within our Faculty and University.
  • We offer a position for 1.0 FTE for 4 years. 
  • The gross salary ranges between €2,443 in the first year and €3,122 in the fourth year of employment (Scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment.
  • The salary is supplemented with an annual holiday pay of 8%, and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3% per year.
  • Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here.


A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences is one of the leading faculties in Europe for research and academic teaching in Cultural Anthropology, Educational Sciences, Interdisciplinary Social Science, Pedagogical Sciences, Psychology and Sociology. We are a faculty at the heart of society and one which cooperates closely with others. Our almost 6,000 students are enrolled in a broad range of undergraduate and graduate programmes. We have approximately 900 faculty and staff members, who all work closely together to educate and train young talent and to research and find solutions to scientific and societal issues. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth and Institutions for Open Societies.

The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences aspires to have a diverse body of staff and students and strives to create and sustain a safe and inclusive environment for everyone, in line with Utrecht University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2443—€3122 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1188305



Domplein 29, 3512 JE, Utrecht

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