PhD Candidate: Strategic Violence by Non-State Actors (1,0 FTE)

PhD Candidate: Strategic Violence by Non-State Actors (1,0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
30 May 30 Jun Leiden

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Job description

PhD Candidate: Strategic Violence by Non-State Actors (1,0 FTE)

The Institute of Security and Global Affairs (ISGA) of the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs (FGGA) at Leiden University is looking for a PhD candidate in the field of terrorism and political violence to join a project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and administered by the FGGA.

What you will do

Project description
Non-state actors’ tactical and strategic violence adapts to changes in their operating environment. There are various stimulants for adaptation, including among others, new security measures, changes in a government’s use of violence or aggression, or competition from other non-state actors. Exploring how, when, and why terrorist groups adapt their strategic use of violence is the overarching goal of the ERC funded project Terrorist Group Adaptation & Lessons for Counterterrorism (TERGAP).

To understand how terrorism survives, and sometimes grows, in the face of well-funded and high-priority counterterrorism policies and operations, we must explore and analyse how terrorist groups adapt their strategic use of violence and group decision-making in response to changes in their environment. TERGAP theorizes, seeks to identify, and empirically verify systematic changes and patterns in terrorist groups’ strategic violence in response to two changes in their environment: 1. New opportunities to radicalize, recruit, and mobilize aggrieved and vengeful individuals following government repression; 2. New counterterrorism policies, practices and operations.

The PhD candidate will research activities related to non-state actors’ tactical and strategic violence and decision-making. TERGAP specifically investigates terrorism and counterterrorism, but the PhD candidate can research terrorism, counterterrorism, or other types of political violence, armed conflict, or conflict processes. To align with TERGAP, the PhD candidate’s research is expected to develop a quantitative research design applying statistical, econometric, and/or large-N data modeling.

The successful candidate will join the Terrorism and Political Violence Research Group at ISGA. This is a 100% research position, but opportunities to develop teaching expertise, gain experience, and potentially obtain a BKO (Basic

Teaching Qualification) can be provided in consultation with ISGA and the PhD supervisor. The research should lead to a PhD within a four-year timeframe.
For more information about the project please read The TERGAP Project.

Position description
The PhD candidate will support counterterrorism data collection and conduct independent research. To align with the project’s objectives, the PhD research should build on innovative approaches in political violence research and/or theories, models, or frameworks from other disciplines. The dissertation could lead toward new frontiers in political violence and conflict studies that strengthen our understanding of violent non-state actors’ adaptation and survival. A master’s degree in political science, international relations, security studies, or a related field is ideal, but not required. During the PhD process, the candidate is expected to attend international conferences to present their research; financial support for conference travel and associated costs can be provided in consultation with the PhD supervisor.

The successful candidate will collect cross-national data on counterterrorism practices and policies. The source documents are already identified and will be provided to the PhD candidate. In addition to supporting the data collection project, the PhD candidate can collect, code and use additional information included in the source documents for their dissertation.

The project’s principal investigator is a quantitative social scientist and will be focused on applying large-N/big data techniques, but applicants are not required to have statistical expertise. The successful applicant is expected to develop their empirical or statistical prowess and capabilities during the PhD process. Training and courses are available through ISGA and Leiden University and financial support for external additional training courses can be provided in consultation with the PhD supervisor.

Prospective candidates need to demonstrate a clear affinity with research on political violence, armed conflict, terrorism/counterterrorism, and/or international or national security. The quality of the research statement received outlining the candidate’s contribution to the project will influence the selection committee’s decision. Please see below for what to include in the research statement.

The PhD candidate will be supervised by Dr. Graig Klein (Assistant Professor in Terrorism and Political Violence; Project Principal Investigator) and promoted by Prof. Dr. Edwin Bakker (Professor of Terrorism and Counterterrorism).

Key responsibilities
  • Conduct collaborative and novel research in the fields of terrorism, counterterrorism, political violence, armed conflict, and/or conflict processes;
  • Assist in counterterrorism data collection and coding;
  • Conduct independent and collaborative data analyses;
  • Present their work to academic and professional audiences, both independently and with team members;
  • Submit independent/solo-authored manuscripts to internationally recognized peer-reviewed academic journals;
  • Contribute to co-authored manuscripts to internationally recognized peer-reviewed academic journals;
  • Support the research team’s building of an international network that spans both academics and policymakers/practitioners working in terrorism and counterterrorism;
  • Support the research team’s management of journal articles at various stages of review;
  • Actively participate in discussions at the institute and research group level on research and teaching innovation;
  • Follow PhD courses based on an individual training and supervision plan, including through the Graduate School;
  • Obtain a PhD by completing either an unpublished monograph (thesis) or publishing several articles in peer-reviewed academic journals on a topic related to the project outlined above within a four-year timeframe.

Where you will work
The mission of the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs (FGGA)? Contributing to society. The faculty does this through high-quality interdisciplinary education and (new) scientific knowledge. Whether it is terrorism, security, artificial intelligence or a governance solution to the housing crisis, contemporary issues are comprehensively addressed at


In the heart of The Hague, where important decisions are made, students and professionals come together to gain knowledge and skills. There is much collaboration with academic and societal partners, which ensures that students leave university with a smile and one foot in the future, ready to make a substantial contribution to society.
FGGA is one of the seven faculties of Leiden University. This young, entrepreneurial, innovative organisation has three scientific institutes, two centres, over 3,700 students and 425 staff members. For more information about the faculty, click here.

The Institute of Security and Global Affairs (ISGA) is a scientific institute specialising in security issues. ISGA is part of the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs of Leiden University.
ISGA analyses and studies security issues with local, national, transnational and global impact. These include crises, intelligence, terrorism, war, violence and cybercrime. The institute is characterised by a multidisciplinary research approach.

ISGA is based in the residential city of The Hague, the international city of peace, justice and security. Inspiring interactions are maintained with other knowledge institutions, regional, national and international governments, the private sector and NGOs.

The PhD candidate will join the Terrorism and Political Violence Research Group at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs (ISGA). Our research group is comprised of a number of academic researchers and practitioners who share a research interest in terrorism, counterterrorism, inter/national security, social movements, and political violence. Our core teaching activities within ISGA focus on the specialization track in Governance of Radicalism, Extremism, and Terrorism in the Crisis and Security Management (CSM) MSc programme. We also contribute to other teaching programmes within ISGA. You can find more information about the research group on the website.

What you bring
In this team, we are looking for someone who can work independently. Every job is different, so in the beginning we will devote attention to your onboarding. If some of the work activities are new to you, we will look together at what you need, and draw up a development plan. This position is a good fit for you if you recognise yourself in the following:
  • Master’s degree completed by the time of the appointment, ideally in political science, international relations, security studies, computation social science, economics, or related field. Master’s degree in other disciplines will be considered if degree or field of research is relevant to studying group adaptation. A research master’s degree is considered an asset;
  • Demonstrable ability and enthusiasm for research at the intersection of conceptual and policy-oriented research;
  • An explicit interest in terrorism, counterterrorism, political violence, and/or armed conflict;
  • Experience with quantitative research methods and willingness to develop expertise;
  • Availability to travel outside the Netherlands if necessary;
  • Demonstrable good time-management skills;
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team in an organized and results-oriented fashion;
  • The PhD thesis and/or journal articles will be written in English and therefore excellent command of English is required. Dutch language skills are not a requirement, but will be seen as a plus;
  • Academic publications will be seen as a plus.

What we offer
Our goal is to work together to create a transparent and inclusive work environment in which everyone feels welcome and appreciated. Our organisation is always evolving and we need your ideas for improvement and innovation to take us further. We want to devote attention to your personal development.

You can count on an enjoyable job within the socially relevant world of education and research. The University's challenging and international work environment is located just steps away from the bustling city centre of The Hague. We also want to work with you to devote attention to your health and vitality, for example with the fun activities we organise through Healthy University.

We also offer:
  • An employment contract for the duration of 1+3 years. This contract falls under the CLA of Dutch Universities;
  • A salary of a minimum of € 2.770,-- and a maximum of € 3.539,-- gross per month, based on a full-time appointment (38 hours) (scale P);
  • A holiday allowance (8%), an end-of-year bonus (8,3%), and an attractive pension scheme at ABP;
  • Flexible working hours: as a standard, you are entitled to a minimum of 29 leave days on the basis of a full-time working week of 38 hours; you can also save for extra leave, for example by working 40 hours a week, and in this way accrue an extra 96 leave hours, or exchange 96 leave hours for a 36-hour week.
  • Lots of options when it comes to secondary employment conditions; we can, for example, discuss options for a sabbatical or paid parental leave. Within our terms of employment individual choices model, you can exchange leave days and/or salary for benefits such as an advantageous sports subscription or bicycle scheme, and we also offer child-care options;
  • If your work allows it, hybrid working is possible within the Netherlands;
  • A home-working allowance (day and internet allowance) and attention for good workplaces.
  • All our PhD students are embedded in the Graduate School of Governance and Global Affairs. Our graduate school offers several PhD training courses at three levels: professional courses, skills training and personal effectiveness.
  • Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

For more information about employment conditions, see Job application procedure and employment conditions.

What we find important
Promoting an inclusive community is central to Leiden University’s values and vision. Leiden University aims to be an inclusive community in which all students and staff members feel valued and respected, and are able to develop to their full potential. Diversity in experiences and perspectives enriches our teaching and strengthens our research. High-quality education and research means inclusive education and research.

Want to apply or find out more?
If you want to apply straight away, click the application button.

Please ensure that you upload the following documents in PDF format, quoting the vacancy number:
  • Motivation letter, including your relevant interest and experience in the subject matter and in doing advanced research (max 1 page)
  • Curriculum vitae (if applicable list any publications, statistical program skills, and/or other programming/coding skills)
  • A writing sample (postgraduate thesis or publication)
  • A research statement, where you will pitch your specific ideas on how you would approach the project. This should include: your research question(s); how you would approach answering these questions (i.e. a preliminary research design, appropriate data, and analysis methodologies); and what you consider to be the academic (empirical and/or conceptual) contributions and relevance of the research (max 1000 words);
  • The names and addresses of two referees (no recommendation letters required at this stage).

If you would like more information about what the job entails, please contact Dr. Graig Klein, email

You can apply until June 30 2024; Shortlisted candidates may be interviewed July 15. Interviews could be held through an online platform. The selected candidate will start in fall 2024 (ideally September 1).

To help us get to know each other better, we follow a number of steps in the application procedure. For more information, see
  • We believe mobility is very important. That is why we are also publishing this vacancy internally. In case of equal suitability, we will give priority to the internal candidate.
  • A pre-employment screening (references, diplomas, certificate of good conduct (VOG)) may be part of the selection procedure.
  • Acquisition in response to this vacancy is not appreciated. If you nevertheless choose to send us CVs, no rights can be derived from this. #LI-Hybrid


Leiden University


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 14933



Rapenburg 70, 2311EZ, Leiden

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