Side header image

PhD position, How public organizations and employees deal with and recover from long-term reform trajectories - 2019BAPFSWEF183

The research group Politics & Public Governance, Faculty of Social Sciences, department Political Sciences of the University of Antwerp, is looking for a full time appointment (100%):

A doctoral researcher (scholarship m/v) for a PhD project on “Slow healing wounds: how public organizations and employees deal with and recover from long-term reform trajectories”

Political change and swiftly changing environments have subjected public organizations such as departments, service delivery agencies and regulatory agencies to long series of intrusive reforms. Although some reforms undoubtedly strengthen these organizations, long and intensive reform trajectories are capable of generating substantial amounts of unrest, uncertainty and resistance. In organizations that are continuously experiencing reductions in staff, mergers and/or splits it is not uncommon for employees to feel unsafe, stressed, fatigued from constant reform, for the organization’s climate to be affected, for strikes to occur and for employees to quit their jobs. It is even possible that such reform trajectories create a substantial degree of distrust between politicians and the organization or internally within the organization – often providing fertile ground for further turmoil. Thus, the wounds of such reform trajectories often linger within the organization for long periods of time, a process dubbed ‘repetitive change syndrome’. It can for instance take years before an organization has recovered from an intensive merger process gone wrong.

In short: we know that intensive reform trajectories can have harmful consequences, not only at the individual psychological level, but also at the group- and organizational levels and even for the implementation of political choices and policies. But why do reforms cause paralyzing effects in one organization and not in others? And how can an organization suffering from repetitive change syndrome recover over time?

In this interdisciplinary 4-year PhD project you will incorporate elements from public administration, organizational science and organizational psychology to answer these questions. Through extensive interview- and focus-group research in various organizations within the Belgian public sector you will generate new insights into the mechanisms that explain both the success of some reforms as well as how others may generate detrimental side-effects such as uncertainty, unrest and reduced job satisfaction. You will work in a team with experts in public administration, econometrics and law and will complement this team with a strong profile in qualitative social- and behavioral research. Although your primary contribution will consist of qualitative research, there is also room for you to contribute to the quantitative research performed by the research team.

Job description

  • Performing research in a 4-year PhD trajectory.
  • Performing extensive qualitative research in several Belgian public organizations with long reform trajectories.
  • Analyzing and processing qualitative data and reporting findings to participating organizations.
  • Developing internationally leading and innovative scientific publications that provide a substantial contribution to the state-of-the-art in not only public administration, but also in organizational psychology and the management sciences.
  • Contributing to quantitative research.
  • Participating in the international public administration, organizational psychology and management science communities and presenting findings on national and international conferences.

Profile and requirements

  • You at least possess a Master’s degree in a relevant field (holders of diploma’s in public administration, public management, (organizational- or industrial) psychology, organizational sociology, organizational science or management science are particularly encouraged to apply. Holders of equivalent diplomas are also encouraged to apply.
  • You have a strong interest in the public sector. Knowledge of the Flemish, Belgian or Dutch public sectors is considered an advantage, although it is not strictly necessary.
  • You are trained in and/or have experience with qualitative research methods. Experience with for instance (interpretative) interviewing techniques, focus-groups, Delphi-studies, or other qualitative methods, as well as experience with qualitative data-analysis (for instance in NVivo or Atlas.ti) is a strength.
  • You are interested in and capable of transcending individual scientific disciplines and incorporating insights and techniques from various scientific fields.
  • You are capable of transcending the boundaries of qualitative and quantitative research; training and/or experience in quantative analysis methods is an asset.
  • You have an excellent academic track-record.
  • You are interested in the human side of public management, that is to say the well-being and perceptions of employees and stakeholders of public organizations.
  • You communicate well, possess presentation skills, at least speak fluent Dutch and English (affinity with French is considered an advantage) and possess excellent academic writing skills in Dutch and English.

We offer

  • a PhD scholarship funded by the FWO (Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, or Fund for Scientific Research) for an initial period of two years, with an extension until September 2023 after positive evaluation. The anticipated starting date is September 1, 2019, although this can be altered slightly if necessary (scholarship is already available at the University of Antwerp);
  • a dynamic and stimulating research environment in the research group Politics & Public Governance, with excellent support, extensive methodological and conceptual training, a place in a strong research team with an interdisciplinary focus, a strong emphasis on international cooperation and international peer-reviewed scientific output, as well as opportunities for research stays at other (foreign) universities;
  • the freedom to adapt the project to your own conceptual and methodological expertise and interests, within the boundaries established in the initial project outline;
  • more information about staff, projects, publications and networks on:
  • public Administration research at University of Antwerp ranked 35th on Global Shangai Ranking for PA 2018 (see

How to apply?

  • Should you be interested in applying for this position, you will need to submit your application online until the closing date 19 July 2019. Your application should contain the following documents:
    • a Curriculum Vitae;
    • a short research proposal in which you indicate how you would perform the research (ca. 2 pages, do not be afraid to provide your own ‘twist’ to the proposal, focus on the problem statement, research questions, theory and methodology);
    • a motivation letter in which you thoroughly outline why you are the best candidate to perform PhD research on this subject, what your current knowledge of the subject is and how you comply with the profile outlined in this opening;
    • copies of relevant diploma’s and grade lists for your Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees;
    • a recent English paper which shows your analytical and academic writing skills;
    • a list of at least two referee contacts that we might contact;
    • one or more recommendation letters is recommendable.
  • Next to that, you should also send these documents to and by that same date.
  • A pre-selection will be made from amongst the submitted applications.
  • The selected candidates are invited for an interview. The interviews will take place between 23 and 30 July 2019;
  • More information about the application form can be obtained from
  • For questions about the profile and the description of duties, please contact Prof. dr. Koen Verhoest ( or Bjorn Kleizen (; tel: 0031653587749).

The University of Antwerp is a family friendly organization, with a focus on equal opportunities and diversity. Our HR-policy for researchers was awarded by the European Commission with the quality label HR Excellence in research.

We support the Science4Refugees initiative and encourage asylum-seeking, refugee scientists and researchers to apply for a job at the University of Antwerp.