PhD on The Influence of Academic Work in Human Geography and Planning on the Dutch Spatial Order (1945-2000) (1.0 FTE)

PhD on The Influence of Academic Work in Human Geography and Planning on the Dutch Spatial Order (1945-2000) (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
17 Oct 1 Dec Utrecht

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For the project 'Academic Impact Strategies for Long-term Engagement' we are looking for a PhD candidate!

Job description

We are looking for a PhD candidate who studies the historical impact of academic work in human geography and planning on the spatial order of the Netherlands. More specifically: what was the role of geographic research and geographer-planners in shaping ideas, practices, institutions and policies that made the modern Dutch urban and rural landscapes? And how were places of work, leisure and residence built and interconnected accordingly in the second half of the 20th century (1945-2000)?

The project is funded by NWO as part of the VIDI Grant "Academic Impact Strategies for Long-term Engagement" (AISLE) led by Dr Michiel van Meeteren.

In recent years, there have been frequent calls and efforts to rejuvenate the once-famous Dutch approach to spatial planning after twenty years of market-led development and skepticism of state intervention. However, to be able to successfully do state-led interventions in the spatial order, a lot of institutions, knowledge and social networks need to be in place. It requires a knowledge infrastructure that relies on widespread knowledge of human geographical insights of planning practitioners. This project addresses this question historically. Configuring the modern Netherlands will investigate where and how geographers and planners influenced the spatial order in the post-1945 Netherlands and how the associated science-society interface reacted to the changing political-economic circumstances. It was the political-economic conjuncture around the post-war Fordist welfare state and its eventual crisis and reconstruction that conditioned the knowledge and labour needs of Dutch spatial planning. The post-war reconstruction period (1945-1965) heralded the 'golden age' of Dutch spatial planning. Dutch geographers were recruited en masse to staff the newly erected national, provincial and local spatial planning departments. This period culminated in the establishment of academic chairs in urban planning (planologie) at universities in the 1960s, which were staffed by geographers who had been working in practice in the 1950s. During the 1970s and 1980s, geography professors repeatedly rejuvenated this intimate relationship with applied research in a changing Netherlands. They promoted geographers' labour markets in planning, liaised with chambers of commerce, helped students set up consultancies and built large research programmes to evaluate the latest national spatial plans such as the VINEX memorandum.

This PhD project will catalogue the contribution of geographers and planners to the making of the modern Netherlands, tracing these academic disciplines’ societal impact in changing political-economic conjunctures. Moreover, the project will highlight the contribution of (academic) geographers to the history of Dutch spatial planning, complementing the urban design focus of much of the existing literature. The PhD trajectory’s prime data source will be a combination of archival and interview research, where the creation of a new digital archive of 20th century documents and correspondence is an important pillar. Therefore, familiarity and/or interest in historical/archival methods, qualitative research and digital and computational analysis of large archives are important features of the role. In addition, the research will draw on the results of a large scale alumni survey, conducted by the larger project team. The project will also engage with the contemporary spatial planning community to learn for the future from the past.  

You will be systematically uncovering, documenting, cataloguing and tracking the influence of the Dutch academic disciplines of human geography and planning on the spatial order of the Netherlands at different scales. We will look at the national scale but also at provincial and municipal institutions as well as the role of applied research centres, conferences and the like. This influence could be intellectual, through publications; social, through advisory work; or indirect, through the job market and social networks of students and peers.

A first task will be to build a digital repository of relevant studies, policy documents and other archival documents coupled with the collection of oral histories of the creators and users of these documents. In subsequent research phases, the research will focus on the digital curation and analysis of these materials in order to make assessments of impact. We expect that parts of the text content of this volume of materials can also be analysed assisted by techniques developed in natural language processing, information retrieval, text mining, and machine learning. Having proficiency or experience with these methods is appreciated, but in case the candidate has a different methodological specialisation, we could solve this through teamwork. Lastly, you will be involved in co-organising workshops to debate research findings with academics and practitioners.

The position starts on February 1, 2024.


Utrecht University


We are looking for an enthusiastic, motivated team member who brings the following:
  • You have a Master's degree in Human Geography, Spatial Planning, History, Science and Technology Studies, Public Administration, Sociology, or a related field with a clear affinity for geographical and/or historical research.
  • You have experience and/or a strong interest in a combination of archival research, oral history research, and the potential use of automated content analysis of text corpora.
  • You are fluent in Dutch (because of the archival language), and you have excellent academic writing skills in English.
  • You have affinity with debates around urban planning, and the role of academia in society.
  • You are intellectually curious, flexible, and quality conscious, have planning and time management skills, a collaborative attitude and good communication and social skills.

Conditions of employment

You will be offered 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 €2,770 in the first year and €3,539 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.


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 Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow.

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 Spatial Planning investigates sustainability challenges in the context of an ongoing worldwide trend of increasing urbanisation. The department's 'Urban Futures' research programme focuses on the enhancement of long-term economic developments of cities, the inclusion and social inequalities in relation to transnational mobilities, the health outcomes of urban living as well as on the governance and planning of sustainability transformations of cities and urban regions. It develops novel theoretical and empirical approaches that are not solely at the forefront of academic debates but that also create new perspectives on successful policies and interventions to address urban challenges.

Our research programme is the basis for our research Master's programme Geographical Information Management and Applications and professional masters 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 a special team focusing on innovations within teaching methods, a centre of expertise which brings the knowledge from fundamental research outside our university by educational programs for high-school teachers, and professional consultancy for public partners.


  • Research, development, innovation; PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1216024



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