PhD Positions in Law at Maastricht University

  • PHD
  • Starting salary of € 2.395,- per month + benefits
  • 10 March 2021

EU’s external borders are constantly shifting through externalization, i.e. the transfer towards non-EU countries of migration management and international protection responsibilities. EU’s commitment to refugee protection has therefore developed in tandem with attempts to ensure that few asylum seekers would be able to reach the territory of EU Member States to claim asylum. EU’s ambivalent approach to providing protection jeopardises the fundamental rights of those seeking it and puts into question EU’s commitment to global responsibility sharing and solidarity.  At the same time, externalization also results in challenges for EU’s institutional framework and principles, especially competences and institutional balance.

More broadly, the EU continues to institutionalize externalization in its relations with third States, for example, through the introduction of negative conditionality between mobility/legal migration opportunities and control-oriented commitments, and through funding (e.g. EU Trust Fund for Africa). Migration management and protection obligations are often shifted to non-EU countries through soft law instruments in or outside the EU legal framework. This allows to eschew political accountability from the European Parliament, transparency and judicial oversight from the CJEU. Emblematic of this approach is the 2016 ‘EU-Turkey Statement’ in which the EU, the Member States and Turkey explicitly mentions commitments of the EU and its Member States towards Turkey as part of an externalisation cooperation ‘bargain’. With its hybrid legal content and diffused authorship, the instrument evades the EU procedural and institutional framework.

Against this backdrop, we invite doctoral project proposals that relate to the ‘mobility of persons’ cluster of LIMES and scrutinize the shifting of EU’s borders through externalisation and its implications. Envisaged areas of scrutiny include:

  1. the impact of key constitutional principles such as fundamental rights, the rule of law, and solidarity and fair sharing responsibility on EU’s externalisation project;
  2. the role of institutional actors such as the CJEU, the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament in shaping, operationalising and controlling EU’s externalisation project;
  3. how far the institutional framework of the EU and its structural principles (especially institutional balance, competences divide) guide the role between EU and Member States and frame the EU’s action in this field
  4. the legal implications of informalisation under EU and international law, i.e. the use of non-binding agreements and instruments to operationalise externalisation obligations
  5. the use of funding to pursue EU’s migration management objectives concentrating on issues such as its steering and solidarity potential, permissible aims, and management.

The researcher will be based at the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University, The Netherlands, and undertake a 6 month secondment at the European Policy Centre (EPC) in Brussels, Belgium.

Maastricht University
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Maastricht University

Maastricht University is a public university in Maastricht, Netherlands.

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Candidates should make sure that their application letter demonstrates how they meet these requirements:

  • Master degree in European law, Migration Law; Human Rights Law;
  • Strong analytical skills;
  • Outstanding writing skills;
  • An obvious interest in academic research;
  • Capability of autonomously conducting original research as well as working in a team;
  • Fluency in English;
  • Willingness to relocate to Brussels for an external placement at the European Policy Centre (EPC) for six months.

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We offer a 4-year full-time appointment as PhD candidate in one of the research projects under the umbrella of LIMES.

The first year will be a probation period, after a positive assessment the position will be extended with another 3 years.

Remuneration will be according to standard salary levels (CAO VSNU) for PhD students starting with a salary of € 2.395,- with a yearly growth to € 3.061,- gross a month in year 4 (based on a full-time appointment.)

Each year the standard salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%.

You have to be willing to move to (the vicinity of) Maastricht. You will be eligible for an allowance for moving costs. You may also be eligible for an allowance for alternative housing. Other secondary conditions include e.g. a pension scheme and partially paid parental leave.

You will be provided with shared office space and a PC.


The application must be submitted by email and in English, and consists of:

  • the application form containing: personal details (including language proficiencies), the LIMES project targeted, and a research proposal and a work plan which responds to the relevant project description (max. 1.000 words). The research proposal must elaborate on the project description as set forth below. (cf. template)
  • Annex I: A letter of motivation stating the candidate’s qualifications and reasons for interest in the position.
  • Annex II: Curriculum vitae, outlining relevant work experience and research output (where applicable). Applicants who have taken a break in their career should indicate this in their application (and in their CV), so it can be taken into account during the selection process.
  • Annex III: Ethics self-assessment, based on the standard ethical research principles and the ethical principles of H2020 (cf. template)
  • Annex IV: Copy of Bachelor (BA) and (Research) Master (MA) degree and transcript (including GPA)
  • Annex V: Proof of proficiency in English (for applicants who are neither native speakers of English nor have followed an English-taught BA or MA); see below for the expected level
  • Annex VI: One academic paper (course paper; thesis; academic publication)
  • Annex VII: contact information of two references (including e-mail; phone number; mailing address; and relationship to the applicant)
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