Three PhD Positions in Climate Change Politics; Environmental Governance (1.0 FTE)

Three PhD Positions in Climate Change Politics; Environmental Governance (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
10 Feb 14 Mar Utrecht

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Job description

Utrecht University has opened three new full-time four-year positions for doctoral (PhD) Researchers in the field of climate change politics and environmental governance. The three doctoral Researchers will become part of a major new research project investigating adverse societal reactions to domestic climate policy being led by Dr James Patterson. The project, titled “Climate Backlash: Contentious Reactions to Policy Action (BACKLASH)”, runs over 5 years (2021-2026), and is funded by the European Research Council (ERC). 

The core aim of the BACKLASH project is to understand contentious reactions to ambitious climate policy. While there are increasing calls for ambitious climate change policy, when it is actually taken, it can trigger strong pushback (e.g. protests, policy rollbacks). Addressing this challenge is crucial for realising transformative climate action that actually works. This research will advance our knowledge of policy-society relations, and help find new ways of addressing contentious public good problems in contemporary governance. 

The three doctoral Researchers will play a key role within the overall BACKLASH project by comparatively studying responses to climate policy in various locations, using various methods. The foci of the three projects are as follows: 
  • Project 1: Patterns of response to climate policy in OECD countries. 
  • Project 2: Post-adoption politics of climate policy (e.g. Australia, Canada). 
  • Project 3: Social movements and their outcomes in climate politics (e.g. France, United Kingdom). 

The three doctoral Researchers will work closely together under the supervision of Dr Patterson and other individual project supervisors/promoters throughout the entire four-year period. The BACKLASH project adopts a team-based approach where the doctoral Researchers have a key role and responsibility for helping to collaboratively deliver the project’s objectives. At the same time, you should be willing to bring your own conceptual and empirical innovation to the project in order to build your independent research skills and outlook. As one of our doctoral Researchers you will be well-supported through supervision, training courses, funding to attend conferences and workshops, and involvement in global research networks, to ensure your success and develop your career trajectory.


Utrecht University


  • Master’s degree (or equivalent) in political science, policy studies, public administration, sociology, environmental studies, or a related discipline;
  • Research focus and/or interest in relevant fields (e.g. governance, policy, sustainability) with an interdisciplinary orientation;
  • strong quantitative or qualitative skills, matching the project/s for which you apply;
  • strong interest in theories and concepts;
  • strong analytical skills and attention to detail;
  • willingness and interest to develop new methodological skills;
  • ability to communicate complex information, and to interact effectively with both elite and lay participants and audiences;
  • ability and enthusiasm to work both independently and as part of a larger team;
  • willingness to travel internationally for fieldwork, conferences, training, and research exchange;
  • strong English language skills (written and verbal), as well as skills in other relevant languages will be an asset;
  • intellectual curiosity and motivation to address important real-world problems through rigorous and ambitious academic enquiry.
Start date:
The three PhD projects will begin in September, but earlier may also be possible.

All three PhD Researchers are expected to obtain a doctoral degree from Utrecht University within four years, based on published articles in top-tier academic journals.

Conditions of employment

You will be offered a position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intention that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,395 in the first year and €3,061 in the fourth year (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, (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.

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 three PhD Researchers will be based in the Environmental Governance group, one of four sections within the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development. The Environmental Governance group is a dynamic, ambitious and internationally leading team of over fifty social science Researchers with a focus on fundamental and policy-oriented research in environmental governance across local to global levels. PhD training programmes are provided by the Graduate School of the Faculty of Geosciences and, if required, other graduate schools at Utrecht University and beyond. The working language of the institute is English. 
Utrecht University is one of the leading research universities in Europe, with particular strengths in sustainability, climate change, and geography, among others. The doctoral Researchers we are hiring will be able to develop their research at the interface of, and with the support of, key strategic themes of the university (“Pathways to Sustainability” and “Institutions for Open Societies”), opening up numerous opportunities for university-wide interaction.

The city of Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, with a historic centre and an internationally oriented culture that is strongly influenced by its centuries-old university. Utrecht has been consistently ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the Netherlands, and is well-connected to local and international transport hubs.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2395—€3061 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1140382



Domplein 29, 3512 JE, Utrecht

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