PhD Candidate Improving freshwater quality in the Netherlands: legal aspects (0.8 - 1.0 FTE)

PhD Candidate Improving freshwater quality in the Netherlands: legal aspects (0.8 - 1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
17 Feb 19 Mar Utrecht

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The institute of Jurisprudence, Constitutional and Administrative Law is looking for a PhD Candidate for a four-year research!

Job description

Over a period of four years, you will conduct PhD research under the guidance of various colleagues. The objective of your research is to generate relevant results for Dutch society and the legal community. The research will be organised in consultation with the supervisors, prof.dr. H.F.M.W. (Marleen) van Rijswick and prof.dr. F.A.G. (Frank) Groothuijse.

The ecological and chemical quality of freshwater resources is essential for planetary and human wellbeing. In the EU, freshwater quality is governed through the Water Framework Directive (WFD). EU Member States are required to achieve the water quality objectives by 2027, but many struggle to realise these. This particularly applies to the Netherlands, one of the most densely populated Member States, with a high degree of industrialisation and intensive agriculture negatively impacting upon the quality of freshwater resources. Achieving WFD water quality ambitions in this complex setting is a multifaceted challenge that requires cross-sectoral collaboration, which however appears extremely difficult to realise. As this problem is not unique to the Netherlands, innovative ways to break out of the sectoral mode of governing water quality may provide valuable lessons for other Member States.

The Foundation for Applied Water Research STOWA has commissioned a research project involving 2 PhD candidates and 5 senior researchers to analyse what is needed to achieve the WFD water quality objectives in the Netherlands after 2027 and to translate scientific findings into  practical tools and guidelines for water management professionals and other stakeholders. The 2 PhD candidates will closely collaborate, each from a distinct knowledge domain. PhD candidate 1 will address the policy and governance dimensions of the challenge, whereas PhD candidate 2 will address the legal dimensions.

PhD candidate 1 will focus on the following subjects:
  • Pathways to break away from lock-in practices that currently impede cross-sectoral collaboration for water quality improvement, including different perspectives on water quality objectives and the persistent organisation of public policy into specialised silos and voluntariness as leading principle in cross-sectoral action. What is the potential of area-based approaches in this context?
  • Instruments to stimulate actors outside the water management domain (including agriculture, industry, and spatial planning) to implement effective water quality management measures.
  • Monitoring systems that stimulate the continuous evaluation and adjustment of water quality governance to enhance effectiveness towards water quality objectives.
PhD candidate 2 will focus on the following subjects:
  • How should the requirements from the WFD be understood, also in relation to other societal challenges in the context of area-based policy?
  • What options does the WFD and other legislation offer for a more integral, area-based approach to water quality governance? And if such options exist, why are they not utilised?
  • To what extent can objectives, responsibilities, and the implementation of policy instruments be assigned and coordinated in such a way that WFD objectives and related policy objectives are achieved before and after 2027?
Methods will include desk research, case study law analysis, interviews, focus group sessions, and comparative case studies in other EU Member States that struggle with similar problems. In parallel to the research, STOWA will organise frequent interaction between the researchers and water management professionals and other stakeholders, with the aim to provide access informants and other data sources and to secure the relevance and usefulness of (intermediate) findings (valorisation).

The subject of your dissertation falls within the research programme Water and Sustainability, conducted within the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law. The PhD research topic concerns the question of how Dutch waters can be protected using legal instruments available to various competent government bodies in the field of environmental law (such as water, nature, environment, spatial planning, agriculture) and how and by whom these instruments can be deployed and enforced in order to achieve area-specific policy and decision-making. Your letter of motivation should ideally express what appeals to you about this subject, and the ideas you have about the execution of the PhD research.

In addition to setting up and conducting your own research, you will also devote some of your time to sharing knowledge by participating in internal and external research meetings and by helping to organise such meetings. A portion of your working hours will also be set aside for training and development, for example by attending courses for PhD candidates. A small percentage of your time will be allocated to gaining teaching experience.


Utrecht University


What do you bring with you?
  • You enjoy being part of a team, and express that by being open to various types of collaboration, sharing knowledge and experiences, and contributing to a collegial, open and inclusive work environment.
  • You have good verbal and written communication skills.
  • You are interested in water governance and law.
  • You have the ambition of conducting innovative and thorough research, and to earn a PhD based on that research within four years.
  • You have good research skills, preferably experience with empirical research, and are open to improving them further with the help of your supervisors’ feedback.
  • You are willing to teach for part of your contractual working hours.
  • You have earned a university degree in Law. Knowledge of and interest in European and Dutch environmental law is required for this position.
  • You are fluent in Dutch and English at the C1 proficiency level (CEFR). This is relevant in view of the envisaged interaction with Dutch water professionals and stakeholders, both for data collection and engagement/valorisation. Furthermore, because we teach courses in both languages, and because we work with an international group of students and staff good command of both languages is of importance. We offer courses to help employees achieve the necessary language proficiency level.

Conditions of employment

We offer a temporary position (0.8 - 1.0 FTE) for 18 months in an international working environment. After positive evaluation, this can be extended to 4 years in total or to 5 years in case of a part-time contract of 0.8 FTE. The gross salary ranges between €2,541 and €3,247 (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). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.


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.

The Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance is a faculty at the heart of society, with a strong focus on social issues. Our subjects of Law, Economics and Governance give us a strong mix of academic disciplines that complement and enhance each other. This is a unique combination and a mark of our faculty's strength.

The School of Law is part of the Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance. ‘Law in Utrecht’ stands for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research in and of the primary fields of law, and for an intensive and eclectic legal education in a small-scale academic community. The school’s education and research primarily focus on the core law fields and the relationships between them. The school aims to play an active and unique role through innovative legal research into socially and academically relevant issues, with a challenging education that trains students to become legal scholars who can lead social change.

We work with a diverse group of employees and students. We highly value a work environment where everyone is acknowledged and appreciated, dares to speak out, and is treated with respect. We ask all of our employees to contribute to an open and inspiring work- and learning environment for students and staff members from every background. Together we ensure that everyone feels welcome and has the opportunity to develop their full potential. For information about the topic of ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion’ at Utrecht University, see this page.

Quote by a colleague: Nicola Harvey, PhD Researcher Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law: Doing a PhD within the Utrecht University Centre for Water Oceans and Sustainability Law gives you access to a large number of colleagues in different stages of their academic careers who are passionate and knowledgeable about matters concerning water and/or environmental law. This creates a space in which you may share your ideas and receive insightful feedback from colleagues such that you feel supported and challenged to grow in your own research.


  • PhD
  • Law
  • 28—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1205787



Newtonlaan 201, 3584 BH, Utrecht

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