PhD on the impacts of automated decision-making on EU asylum decision-making and contestation

PhD on the impacts of automated decision-making on EU asylum decision-making and contestation

Published Deadline Location
22 Nov 15 Jan Tilburg

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The Department of TILT (Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society) has a vacancy for a PhD Researcher in Law. This position will focus on the use of automated decision-making in the field of EU migration and asylum, with a particular focus on the Dutch case. This project will be based on qualitative and ethnographic research on the human and legal effects of automated decision-making at Europe’s borders, and their repercussions on the country level.

Job description

The use of new automated decisionmaking systems (ADS) in migration and asylum processes by the EU raises questions about the ways in which such systems are changing the provision of justice, and particularly due process, in the migration domain. This is taking place on several different levels, each with implications for values including equal treatment, migrants’ human rights, human dignity, and accountability. First, on the level of international migration control, where automation is present in systems designed to analyse and predict migrant flows. Second, at country borders, where ADS such as lie-detection and age-detection are applied to assess the credibility of asylum seekers. Third, on the bureaucratic level, decisions about how to process migrants and their claims are increasingly made according to collective rationales rather than the individually focused decision-making mandated by EU human rights law.
This project will focus on how the ADS used to scale up migration processing are changing the information available to both migrants, and to the individuals and institutions responsible for legal decision-making about migration and asylum. The introduction of systems such as iBorderCtrl is so recent that the implications for legal decision-making are still unfolding, but factors such as error rates, group-based decision-making, statistical reasoning and systemic opacity all require knowledge and decision-making on the part of legal authorities such as advocates, asylum judges and appeals courts. The novelty of these ADS poses an urgent problem in terms of understanding how these actors in the legal system understand the systems in question; how much understanding migrants and migrant associations can have of how technologically assisted decision-making is taking place; and what this means for those who make and support migrants’ claims in court.


This project is part of the Gravitation program Public Values in the Algorithmic Society (algosoc). The Gravitation program is an initiative by the Dutch government to support excellent research in the Netherlands. The funding is reserved for scientific consortia that have the potential to rank among the world's best in their field. Algosoc is a response to the urgent need for an informed societal perspective on automated decision-making. Funded by the ministry for Education, Culture and Science for a period for 10 years, research in the algosoc program will develop a deep understanding of the systemic changes that automated decision-making entails for core public institutions, for society, and for how public values are realized. The research will focus on three sectors: justice, health and media. The program brings together researchers in law, communication science, computer science, media studies, philosophy, public governance, STS, economy and social sciences from five Dutch universities (Amsterdam, Utrecht, Tilburg, Delft and Rotterdam). Together, the algosoc community will develop solutions for the design of governance frameworks needed to complement technology-driven initiatives in the algorithmic society. 


If the vacancy appeals to you, but you are doubting whether you might be THE person we are looking for, please do apply. We encourage all qualified applicants, including minorities, women, people with disabilities, and members of other groups underrepresented in academia to apply. We wish to create a consortium that consists of persons who each contribute in their unique way to the team. Complementarity and not homogeneity is what we are looking for.   


Developing a societal vision on automated decision-making concerns us all. We believe that a diversity of perspectives in our consortium will be important in developing an inclusive societal vision and strive therefore also in our hiring policy for encouraging applicants from diverse backgrounds. We are committed to creating an environment of mutual respect, inclusiveness, equal opportunities with room for situated experiences, diverse perspectives, and ideas to flourish. This commitment applies to our research, organisation, room for flexibility, training, and community activities as well as our hiring strategy.


Tilburg University


Tilburg University is curious about how you can contribute to our research, education, impact, and to the team you will be part of. Therefore, we would like to get the best possible picture of your knowledge, insight, skills, and personality. Below you can find the qualifications we consider important for the position.


  • Completed a Masters degree in migration studies, sociology, political science, public administration or a related field;  
  • Work experience in the area of (migrant) rights will be regarded as an asset; 
  • Excellent qualitative research skills, including ethnographic research, and the ability to travel regularly to conduct fieldwork; 
  • Project management and organisation skills; 
  • Demonstrable interdisciplinary mindset and team spirit; 
  • The ability to collaborate with non-academic partners, exchange ideas and communicate knowledge to non-expert audience;  
  • Excellent writing and communication skills in English. Knowledge of the Dutch and/or another European language is an asset, but not required;
  • The ability to supervise students in writing their Master thesis in Law & Technology and the ability to read and grade Master theses on a variety of topics; 
  • Awareness of ethical concerns and scientific integrity when conducting research;  
  • Be prepared to live in the Netherlands and present at Tilburg University at least 2 days a week in line with TILT's hybrid working policy office hours and commit to integrate in the environment provided by the department TILT and Tilburg Law School. 


To maintain a vibrant and active university community, it is important that we meet each other regularly and that the connection between us remains good. Therefore, the premise is that all staff members carry out their work in the Netherlands and that lecturing is done physically.

Conditions of employment

Tilburg University offers excellent terms of employment with attention to flexibility and room for (personal) development. We recognize and reward our employees and encourage the use of talents and strengths.


Tilburg University is committed to an open and inclusive culture, embracing diversity, and encouraging the mutual integration of groups of staff and students. We create equal opportunities for all our staff and students so that everyone feels at home in our university community. 

We work in a vibrant and lively (work) environment on our beautiful campus, close to the forest and easily accessible by public transport. We are committed to a sustainable society and challenge you to make an active contribution to this. 


For this position, we offer:

  • A position based on 0.8-1.0 FTE (32-40 hours per week);
  • It is a vacancy for a temporary position in accordance with Article 2.3 paragraph 8 of the CLA for Dutch universities. You will be given a temporary employment contract for the duration of 16 months. Upon proven suitability and continuation in the same position, you will receive a subsequent employment contract after this period that can be extended to a maximum duration of 48 months;
  • A great opportunity to gain experience in research as well as in teaching because we like to see you spend about 80% of your time on research and 20% of your time in teaching;
  • A salary of €2.541 gross per month for full time employment, based on UFO profile Promovendus and salary scale P of the ⦁    Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. Tilburg University uses a neutral remuneration system for salary scaling that is based on relevant education and work experience;
  • Vacation allowance (8%) and a year-end bonus (8.3%);
  • Vacation days (41 days for a 40-hour work week);
  • Options Model for benefits and reimbursement of moving expenses;
  • Employees from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a tax-free allowance of 30% of their taxable wages. We will apply for this reimbursement for you;
  • You will be enrolled in the General Pension Fund for Public Employers (ABP) through us;
  • Various training courses, for example in leadership skills, personal effectiveness, and career development;
  • A wide range of amenities and facilities and various arrangements to create an optimal work-life balance;


Visit working at Tilburg University for more information on our terms of employment. 


Tilburg University

Tilburg University's motto is Understanding Society. Based on this vision, our more than 1,500 employees conduct research, inspire more than 19,000 students of 110 nationalities, and bring people from different disciplines and organizations together to learn from each other. In this way, we want to contribute to solving complex social issues. In doing so, we work from the fields of economics, business and entrepreneurship, social and behavioral sciences, law and public administration, humanities and digital sciences, and theology. We seek the connection between the various disciplines to find solutions to the major issues we face as a society. Our students are educated to become responsible and entrepreneurial thinkers, driven by solidarity, a sense of responsibility, and empathy, who are able to influence and give direction to a rapidly changing society in an innovative way. Tilburg University has a culture of collaboration and co-creation, at local, regional, national, and international level.


Since its founding in 1963, Tilburg Law School has become one of the leading law schools in Europe.  Through top research and the provision of high-quality university education, the School contributes to society. Tilburg Law School is organized into five Departments: Public Law and Governance; Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, Markets and Society; Private, Business and Labour Law; the Fiscal Institute Tilburg; and Criminal Law. The mission of the School is to understand and improve the role of law and public administration in addressing the social problems of today and tomorrow. Through research and education, our scholars contribute to that mission. 


More than 4,000 students pursue a Bachelor's, pre-Master's or Master's degree at Tilburg Law School. Through this education, we train students in law, public administration, and data science. The Tilburg Educational Profile (TEP) is unique in the Netherlands. Central to it are three core concepts: knowledge, skills, and character. A university education provides students with the latest substantive knowledge and trains them to be critical thinkers and resilient professionals. In addition, the School is committed to innovative educational concepts and, partly in response to the coronavirus crisis, has invested heavily in the quality of online education and in innovative didactic tools to make and keep students inquisitive. 


Tilburg Law School's research is highly regarded nationally and internationally. The Tilburg Law School Departments work closely together in their research in four signature research programs: 1) Global Law and Governance; 2) Law and Security; 3) Connecting Organizations; and 4) Regulating Socio-Technical Change. 


The Department Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) is home to teaching and research on the effects of socio-technical change on the regulation and management of economic activities in an era when information technology is a key driver of innovation. TILT is one of the leading research groups in Europe at the intersection of law, technology, and society. It is based on multidisciplinary research on socio-technical change, aimed at understanding the interaction between technology and social and normative practices to clarify how to address the regulatory challenges of socio-technical change.


  • PhD
  • Law
  • 32—40 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • 21184



Warandelaan 2, 5037 AB, Tilburg

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