PhD Candidate: Spatial Planning and Flood Risk Management

PhD Candidate: Spatial Planning and Flood Risk Management

Published Deadline Location
15 Apr 6 May Nijmegen

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Job description

As our world is experiencing increasingly frequent and severe flooding events, cities are triggered to envision new forms of adaptation to flood hazards. Spatial planning strategies are key in reducing the consequences of floods, but despite being increasingly advocated, the spatialisation of flood risk management is limited. Integrating spatial planning and flood risk management remains a difficult endeavour. This research aims to better understand why this is so and to develop strategies to better coordinate flood risk management and spatial planning. As a PhD candidate, you will contribute to the existing scholarship on this topical societal issue, and to the research on water governance that is being carried out by the planning group.

Flooding is a threatening human-/climate-induced hazard and the expected increase in the frequency and severity of floods is challenging cities worldwide. Existing scholarship on flood risk adaptation theorises about modes of governance and strives to identify the key governance features for enhancing urban flood resilience. Flood risk management has since long been informed by centralised control and rational problem-solving, resulting in the main strategy of keeping floods away from urban areas through hard control infrastructure. Yet, the emergence of a bioregional approach – which seeks to include communities in the governance of local resources,– the gradual decentralisation of power, the shift from government to governance, and the increasing occurrence of flooding events have triggered and encouraged a change in discourses concerning flood risk management. Modern flood risk management advocates a paradigm shift from a focus on flood defence (reducing the probability of floods) to approaches aimed at reducing both the probability and consequences of floods. Spatial planning can significantly reduce the consequences (vulnerability and exposure) of floods when profiling spatial distribution and land use in floodplains. Nonetheless, spatialisation of flood risk management strategies is hardly achieved in practice.

Driven by the safety-first principle, flood risk management emerges from a culture of resistance. The advocated paradigm shift does not happen in a vacuum; it rather demands technical innovations and, most importantly, changes to current existing institutional arrangements and the set of actors, rules and resources in flood risk management. Rules-in-use (institutions) are not the only incentive or constraint faced by actors involved in decision-making. Flood risk governance lands in highly politicised contexts and it is played out at the interface of institutional settings and power relations, whose interaction may constrain or enable stakeholders in developing or implementing new flood risk management strategies. To better understand the outcomes of decision-making processes in this context, you will be invited to combine discursive-institutional theories with theories on power to conduct a fine-grained analysis of flood risk management and spatial policies and unravel the complexity of implementing spatial strategies for flood risk management. A combination of theories on power and institutional theories allows to move beyond purely institution-centred or power-centred approaches and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the conditions affecting decision-making processes and outcomes.

By using a multiple-case design, this research aims to learn about 1) the behaviour of actors in multi-layered governance structures and nested institutional settings, 2) the discourses actors bring into action arenas and how these shape decision-making processes, and 3) the (transboundary) institutional arrangements for dealing with upstream-downstream conflicts. Empirical insights will be comparatively analysed to better understand current adaptation responses and ultimately help policy-makers design successful governance approaches for enhancing urban flood resilience.

You will be supervised by Dr Corinne Vitale and Prof. Sander Meijerink.

This position may include a 10% teaching component.


Radboud University


  • You should hold an MSc in Spatial Planning, Environmental Planning, or a related discipline.
  • You have academic excellence as demonstrated by your CV and grade transcripts.
  • You are able to undertake teaching and administrative support in parallel with your PhD research.
  • You have an excellent command of both written and spoken English.
  • You have an affinity with interdisciplinary and/or transdisciplinary research.
  • You have the ability to work both independently and in teams.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: We will give you a temporary employment contract (1.0 FTE) of 1,5 years, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, your contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4-year contract).

  • We will give you a temporary employment contract (1.0 FTE) of 1,5 years, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, your contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4-year contract).
  • You will receive a starting salary of €2,770 gross per month based on a 38-hour working week, which will increase to €3,539 in the fourth year (salary scale P).
  • You will receive an 8% holiday allowance and an 8,3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Support Service. The Dual Career Programme assists your partner via support, tools, and resources to improve their chances of independently finding employment in the Netherlands. Our Family Support Service helps you and your partner feel welcome and at home by providing customised assistance in navigating local facilities, schools, and amenities. Also take a look at our support for international staff page to discover all our services for international employees.
  • You will receive extra days off. With full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the statutory 20.

Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.


The Department of Geography, Planning and the Environment (GPE) seeks to provide a deep understanding of how places, from the local to the global level, are politically and materially shaped, experienced and governed, and to contribute to the development of more sustainable and equitable places. GPE's approach goes explicitly beyond a government and policy orientation, addressing the deep political and institutional nature of placemaking and spatial-environmental governance.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 27.002.24



Houtlaan 4, 6525XZ, Nijmegen

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