Postdoctoral Researcher in Societal Engagement in Education in European Universities

Postdoctoral Researcher in Societal Engagement in Education in European Universities

Published Deadline Location
14 Nov 7 Jan Amsterdam
FTE: 0.8 - 1

Job description

The world is facing a complex set of societal challenges - from COVID-19 to climate change – to address which the higher education institutions (HEIs) are tasked to foster more societal engagement and global connectedness within their teaching and learning activities to impart students with relevant competencies to face such 21st century challenges. This also resonates with the vision of VU Amsterdam to enrich its educational practices through societal engagement and greater collaboration and cooperation across disciplinary and international boundaries. In line with this vision, along with 9 other research-intensive and innovative Universities, VU Amsterdam plays an important part in the AURORA European Universities alliance that works to foster cooperation across and beyond European universities to equip students and teachers with the skills and mindset to address societal challenges and contribute to societal impact.

In the first phase of the AURORA alliance (2020 – 2023), the project developed a broadly shared educational vision, and defined standards, procedures and approaches to governance that contribute to strengthening the alliance and its contribution to progressing educational practices that focus on societal engagement, sustainable development goals, promoting development of key transversal competencies among students and teachers, and instilling in all Aurora members the skills and the mindsets needed to tackle the societal challenges of tomorrow. The next phase -AURORA2030 project – aims to leverage its previous lines of progress to stimulate academic excellence and societal engagement across all AURORA Universities, influencing societal change through future-proof education and research with a shared focus on innovative pedagogies that foster societal engagement, such as service learning and co-creation. The project will focus on fostering inter-institutional learning, knowledge sharing, and the development of competencies among teachers and staff to improve and strengthen education and research that fosters societal change. Further, the project will realize a living learning community of students, faculty, staff, administrators and other community stakeholders across the Aurora ecosystem to continue collaboration, co-creation and innovation.

In this postdoctoral research project, you will be part of the AURORA2030 project – Workpackage 4 which focuses on Teaching and Learning for Societal Impact. Within this Workpackage you will be involved in both project management and research. You will be tasked to create a community of engaged academics/researchers across AURORA Universities to share societal engagement practices in education, and to foster mutual learning and co-development of joint frameworks on innovative pedagogies that serve as a benchmark for teaching and learning in AURORA. In your research position, you will use interactive and interventionist methodologies for monitoring, evaluation and co-design. You will also explore through comparative analysis, the different education practices across different Universities to uncover design configurations/frameworks for societal engagement in Education.

The position involved contribution to this research area for 50% of the time, and teaching in various courses offered by the Athena Institute for the other 50%. Teaching tasks include lecturing, course coordination, workgroup coaching as well as supervising Master students during their internships and literature reviews on various topics in the Athena Institute’s educational programmes

Your duties
  • Managing the tasks/activities within the Workpackage 4 (Teaching and Learning for Societal Impact) in the AURORA2030 project, and having oversight of and building connections with the other workpackages within the project
  • developing a research programme within the project that pertains to societal engagement practices in education, comparative analysis of such practices, and development of consolidated configurations, models or frameworks related to the topic
  • supervision of junior researchers and a PhD candidate
  • teaching master students, including course coordination and thesis supervision, in courses that are part of the Institute’s transdisciplinary teaching portfolio
  • linking up education/research efforts at VU with the real-world issues addressed in co-creative multi-stakeholder initiatives. You also assess and evaluate the added value of VU involvement
  • publishing articles in high quality journals. You also communicate research findings and insights via other, more widely accessible forms of writing and presenting
  • contributing to administrative tasks and responsibilities of the Athena Institute
  • engaging with stakeholders both inside and outside of academia in co-learning processes
  • contributing to a pleasant, diverse, and safe work environment at the Athena Institute


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


  • You have a PhD, preferably in the field of Educational Science or Science (public health, health sciences, medicine, biomedical science, sustainability sciences, science & technology studies, system innovation, and other related sciences with interest/differentiation/experience in societal engagement and research, science communication, citizen science, inter/transdisciplinarity); but also scholars with an affinity for sociology of knowledge, knowledge co-creation; public policy or public sector transformation; organizational change (incl. communities of practice, reflective practitioners); or related fields are invited to apply.
  • You have excellent project management and coordination skills, along with excellent communication and network building skills.
  • You have experience with designing and facilitating focus group discussions and reflection sessions as part of change processes. You are familiar with participatory research methodologies, such as reflexive monitoring in action, learning histories, most significant change techniques.
  • You hold a network of relevant (inter)national contacts and you are a team player.
  • You have relevant publications in good quality journals that showcase your prowess in scientific research, writing and publication.
  • You have teaching skills and are an engaged and inspiring lecturer, as demonstrated by student evaluations.

You have an excellent command of English, and a good command of Dutch.

Conditions of employment

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. On full-time basis the remuneration amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of €3,226 (scale 10)
and a maximum €5,090 (scale 10), depending on your education and experience. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for a period of one year with a possible extension conditional upon assessment of adequate functioning. The maximum duration of the appointment is 4 years.

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment,
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus,
  • solid pension scheme (ABP),
  • possibility to save holiday hours, for sabbatical leave,
  • child daycare facilities available on campus


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 31,000 students. We employ over 5,000 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
Working at the Faculty of Science means working together with students, PhD candidates and scientists who are focused on their discipline, yet also have a broad view of the world. We are proud of the collegial working environment within the faculty, which is characterised by an ambitious and pragmatic attitude with commitment to the bigger picture. At the Faculty of Science, scientists and students work on fundamental and complex social issues for a sustainable and healthy future. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to malnutrition, from genetics to pharmaceuticals and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research cover the full breadth of the natural sciences. Scientific teaching and research is highly experimental, technical, computational and interdisciplinary in nature. This is why we collaborate extensively with leading research institutes and industry. The faculty has over 11,000 students studying across 40 educational programmes and employs over 1,600 staff spread over 10 scientific departments, making us the largest science faculty in the Netherlands.

Athena Institute, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences
The position is offered within the Athena Institute, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences. The institute’s mission is to study and design interfaces between science and society to contribute both to a deeper understanding of innovation processes as well as a responsible implementation of research and innovation in society. Athena’s research program amongst other focuses on analysing complex global health challenges, designing interventions and conducting participatory monitoring and evaluation research. The section presently has a position vacant for a Postdoc/Lecturer.
For more information about the Athena Institute visit our website.

Additional information

Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until 07/01/2024.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Prof.dr. M.B.M. Zweekhorst
Position: Chair Innovation and Education in the health and life sciences

No agencies


  • Postdoc
  • 30.4—38 hours per week
  • €3226—€5090 per month
  • Doctorate
  • 16540


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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De Boelelaan 1105, 1081HV, Amsterdam

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Application procedure

Application procedure

Make sure to apply no later than 7 Jan 2024 23:58 (Europe/Amsterdam).