PhD position on imagining institutional interventions on land markets using gaming methodology (1.0 FTE)

PhD position on imagining institutional interventions on land markets using gaming methodology (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
8 May 28 May Utrecht

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Do you want to do research using an innovative approach to spark institutional change and provide novel and efficient game design? Apply for this PhD position.

Job description

Climate, energy, nitrogen, and housing crises force societies to make urgent and drastic spatial choices against an ever-increasing scarcity of land. Policymakers have been using spatial designs to address these spatial challenges, employing appealing imaginations of the future to depict changes in the physical environment. These designs are crucial in articulating ambitions for spatial outcomes, but insufficient in bringing about the required spatial transitions, as transitions presuppose institutional changes as well. However, the working of new institutions is sometimes hard to imagine. One example is the institution of a land value tax (grondbelasting). Many academics have advocated this tax; it is considered the least disruptive tax for the economy, it is ‘just’, and it could target several problems, such as housing affordability and unsustainable land use. However, it is often readily dismissed as being too complex. A lack of imagination seems to be responsible for that. 

We are inviting candidates to apply for a PhD position in our research project on imagining institutional interventions on land markets using gaming methodology, focusing on the potential solution of a land value tax as the subject of analysis. The PhD candidate will establish an innovative approach to spark institutional change, providing novel and efficient game design and technology to better understand our imaginative capacities and to improve these capacities.

The PhD candidate will conduct independent research under a professor’s supervision in the section of Spatial Planning. The research includes:
  • conducting desk research on land markets and their institutions, focusing on one particular institution: the land value tax;
  • designing and developing a game to enable stakeholders to interactively study (the implications of) a land value tax;
  • devising, preparing, conducting, and evaluating play sessions with users to (a) engage diverse audiences with institutional imaginaries and (b) learn about imagining institutional change.
The PhD candidate will be required to publish at least three peer-reviewed articles as a first author in academic journals (in compliance with the Open Science policy of Utrecht University). The PhD candidate will also share research findings at international conferences and through publication outlets aimed at other/broader audiences.


Utrecht University


You are an enthusiastic and motivated researcher who has:
  • a Master’s degree in a relevant scientific discipline such as urban or spatial planning, human geography, (spatial) economics, complex systems studies, game studies, or game technology;
  • excellent research skills concerning data collection, analysis, and interpretation and research ethics;
  • knowledge of and/or affinity with Dutch spatial planning policy and issues;
  • skills relevant to designing or developing games in a standard environment (e.g., Unity), or a realistic ability to acquire these skills;
  • an excellent command of the English language and strong (academic) writing skills;
  • an ability to work both independently and in a team;
  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills. 

Conditions of employment

We offer a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,541 in the first year and €3,247 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year.

In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, professional development, (partly paid) parental leave, sports and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.


Sharing science, shaping tomorrow. 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 strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The Department of Human Geography and Planning has its focus on the enhancement of long-term economic development of cities, how to cope with social inequalities, and how to accelerate sustainability transitions of cities and infrastructures. Research on these topics takes place within our research programme “Urban Futures: Transitions Towards Economic and Social Sustainability for Cities”.

Our research programme is the basis for our two-year Research Master's programme Global Urban Transformations, the two-year Geographical Information Management and Applications Programme, and the one-year Master's programmes in Spatial Planning, Human Geography and International Development Studies. The department also runs a large and highly appreciated Bachelor's programme and is part of the Netherlands Graduate School of Urban and Regional Research for PhD candidates. Unique characteristics of the department are its attention for innovations within teaching methods and its strong involvement in the transdisciplinary sustainability research theme.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1209704



Princetonlaan 8a, 3584 CB, Utrecht

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