Sociale Wetenschappen

PhD defences in the Social Sciences


PhD Defence Ariadne Driezen - Youth navigating the superdiverse city of Antwerp: constructing and negotiating ethnic and religious symbolic boundaries - 19/12/2023

  • Promovendus: Ariadne Driezen 
  • Promotor: Prof. dr. Gert Verschraegen & prof. dr. Noel Clycq    
  • Date: Tuesday 19 December 2023, 11 AM
  • Location:  Stadscampus, Klooster van de Grauwzusters (Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp) 

The defence is followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before 10/12/2023 at


Young people in Antwerp are brought up in a superdiverse majority-minority city. While some research suggests that individuals live together in these social environments without many difficulties, long-dominant privileged groups nevertheless continue to define social, political and cultural norms, and (up)hold powerful positions. Young people are therefore faced with longstanding social inequalities and stigmatization along ethnic and religious lines, which impact their everyday lives.

Antwerp is characterized by strong anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments and policies, and by emerging ‘nativist’ discourses in which (sub)national identities, such as a Flemish identity, are constructed in mono-cultural, mono-ethnic and mono-religious ways. This study, therefore, aims to discuss how symbolic boundaries are constructed along ethnic and religious lines, and, in addition, how specifically ‘Muslim’ as a social category is constructed to define ‘oneself’ and ‘Others’.

This study draws upon symbolic boundary theory to understand how ethno-religious minority and majority youth experience and navigate their superdiverse social environments, and how they construct, negotiate and rework the ethnic and religious symbolic boundaries they are faced with. In my dissertation, I conducted a survey with 1.039 students in the 5th and 6th year of secondary education, from seventeen schools in Antwerp. In addition, I selected two schools where I conducted in-depth interviews with forty students. 

Overall, my study shows that ethnic and religious symbolic boundaries emerge as bright for these young people and they can actively, creatively and strategically rework and negotiate boundaries they are faced with. In addition, however, my analysis shows that white majority youth lack tools to negotiate their emerging contested white identities in super-diverse settings, and are therefore prone to nativist repertoires. Lastly, my study challenges classical views of religious individualization trends in Western Europe, and my analysis shows a continuing importance of religion as marker for social identities among young people. This urges questions on the changing role and position of religion in superdiverse cities.

PhD defence Julia Steenwegen - Community Education: The invisible supplement to minoritized youth’s educational pathways - 15/12/2023

  • Promovendus: Julia Steenwegen
  • Promotor(s): Prof Noel Clycq & prof Jan Vanhoof
  • Datum, startuur & plaats van de verdediging: Vrijdag 15 december om 14u in de Grauwzusters
  • Contactinformatie: Julia 
  • Bevestigen voor maandag 4 december

Community education, or the organization of educational initiatives by minoritized communities for the benefit of their youth, is a widespread phenomenon. Our understanding of the organization of such spaces, of the goals they pursue, as well as the experience of the pupils attending these schools remains limited. To this end the main aim of this research project is to explore how community schooling is organized and how it impacts minoritized pupils’ educational experiences. I specifically focus on supplementary schools, the most frequently organized form of supplementary schooling which supplements mainstream schools and takes place after-hours or in the weekend. I also add to the existing state of the art which mainly discusses supplementary schools in Anglo-Saxon contexts by investigating supplementary schools in Flanders.

To shed more light on what the role of supplementary schooling is in the lives of its students we take a 4-step approach. First, I start by gathering the current state of the art. Research into community organized educational initiatives is fragmented and has not been brought together to distinguish differences and similarities. Such a systematic review of the literature will inform further studies of community education. Second, as studies overviewing several cases of supplementary schooling are lacking, I add to this literature, and I conduct interviews with the organizers and school leaders of a variety of community schools in Flanders. Investigating the purposes that the school leaders seek to pursue as well as their underlying motivations for doing so, will not only further our understanding of minoritized communities’ educational needs but also the strategies they engage with to meet these needs. 

These two studies are the backbone needed before aiming our attention at the students attending the schools. In the third and fourth study, I rely on the opportunity that arises with these minoritized youth attending two educational settings, widely different in terms of culture and ethnic congruence. As the supplementary schools indicate to emphasize the importance of the teacher-students relationship as well as nurturing a sense of belonging, I conduct interviews with the pupils in the supplementary schools to explore how they perceive the relationship to their teachers and their sense of belonging in each school. The student teacher relationship is crucial to many aspects of students’ educational experience, and I aim to unfurl how students review these relationships in each setting. And last, sense of school belonging has been the topic of much research. With studies showing that minoritized youth have a lower sense of belonging than their majority peers. When these children attend both mainstream schooling and supplementary education in their own communities it is noteworthy to investigate how they construct a sense of school belonging with their experience in each setting. 

Combined these findings do not only add to our knowledge of community education in Flanders and beyond but they also gain us insights into the educational experience of minoritized youth. Building upon these insights, I formulate recommendations for policy makers, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging both the agency and resourcefulness in minoritized communities. 

PhD defence Elien Matthys - Verantwoording en leren op gespannen voet: De rol van evaluatieonderzoek in de verantwoordingsrelaties van sociaalwerkorganisaties. 8/12/2023

Sociaal werkers worden steeds vaker geconfronteerd met een toenemende verwachting om verantwoording af te leggen voor behaalde resultaten. Verantwoording kan zowel intern gericht zijn aan het management, sociale professionals en cliënten van de organisatie om te leren en de praktijk te verbeteren, als extern aan partners of de subsidiërende overheid om prestaties aan te tonen.

Dit proefschrift vertrekt vanuit het spanningsveld tussen opwaarts verantwoorden en intern leren als motieven om sociaalwerkpraktijken te evalueren. Aan de hand van drie casestudies bekijk ik op welke manier een evaluatieonderzoek een bijdrage levert aan beide verantwoordingsrelaties en ga ik na of beide evaluatiedoeleinden met elkaar verenigbaar zijn.

Vanuit de bevindingen concludeer ik dat evaluatieonderzoek zijn meerwaarde heeft in beide verantwoordingsrelaties. Echter blijkt dat verantwoorden en leren als evaluatiedoeleinden niet zomaar met elkaar verenigd kunnen worden indien er geen ommezwaai gebeurd in de manier waarop er aan verantwoording wordt gedaan binnen het sociaal werk.

Daarom pleit ik voor een horizontale verantwoordingsrelatie die de ontwikkeling van sociaalwerkpraktijk centraal zet, zodat leren en reflecteren mogelijk gemaakt worden. Daarbij is het belangrijk dat er aan kenniskruising wordt gedaan vanuit een multi-stakeholder relatie tussen beleidsmedewerkers, sociale professionals, cliënten en sociaalwerkonderzoekers. 

Praktische informatie

  • Promovendus: Elien Mathys 
  • Promotor: Prof. dr. Peter Raeymaeckers    
  • Datum: Vrijdag 8 december 2023, 10u 
  • Locatie:  Stadscampus, Promotiezaal Grauwzusters (Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerpen) 

na de verdediging volgt een receptie, graag je aanwezigheid bevestigen voor  28/11/2023  bij

PhD defence Sara Elloukmani - An exploration of workplace diversity discourses, practices and identities in nonprofit organizations - 5/12/2023

An exploration of workplace diversity discourses, practices and identities in nonprofit organizations

In this dissertation, I question how workplace diversity is put to work in Flemish nonprofit organizations. In Flanders, the nonprofit sector unmistakably deals with a skewed workforce representation, especially in terms of ethnic differences. Building on insights from critical and poststructuralist diversity studies, this dissertation aims to contribute to the literature by examining the context and processes through which differences are established in nonprofit organizations. It more specifically rests on the assumption that the ways in which differentiation in terms of ‘diversity’ is made, is strongly embedded in the characteristics of nonprofit organizations and the positioning of actors in it. Thus, highlighting the specificity of the sector, I unravel (i) how diversity is conceptualized and mobilized, (ii) how it is incorporated and accommodated in organizational environments and (iii) how it relates to the construction of individual identities within the organizational context. 

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Sara Elloukmani 
  • Promotors: Prof. dr. Peter Raeymaeckers & prof. dr. Stijn Oosterlynck   
  • Date and start time: Tuesday 5 December 2023, 10 AM
  • Location:  Stadscampus, Promotiezaal Grauwzusters (Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp) 

The defence is followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before 20/11/2023 at

PhD defence Emile Van Ommeren - Pro Trade, Against Competition: Explaining Firms’ Support for Selective Trade Protection - 10/11/2023

This dissertation challenges the mainstream view that large (multinational) companies – the so-called ‘winners of globalization’ – are unequivocally in favor of trade liberalization. While larger export markets are great for these firms, they also engage in strategic competition with rival companies, generating incentives to lobby for the imposition of highly specific, targeted trade measures. In this study, it is shown that support for these trade barriers is particularly strong among firms that are involved in intra-industry trade (IIT) and global value chains (GVCs). Selective trade protection – such as bilateral tariffs and anti-dumping duties – reduces import competition from the most threatening rivals while limiting the risk that access to foreign markets and crucial inputs will be restricted. The findings shed light on the structural shift towards forms of trade protection that are inherently more discriminatory, which can pose a threat to the international trading system based on the principle of non-discrimination.

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Emile Van Ommeren 
  • Promotors: Prof. dr. Dirk De Bièvre  
  • Date and start time: Friday 10 November 2023, 4 PM
  • Location:  Stadscampus, Hof van Liere, F. De Tassiszaal (Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp) 

PhD defence Marion Lucille Williams - The adaption and use of social media in academic libraries: A comparative study between universities in Belgium and South Africa. 19/10/2023

On Thursday 19 October 2023, Marion Lucille Williams (Department of Communication Studies) cordially invites you to the public defence of her doctoral thesis

The adaption and use of social media in academic libraries:

A comparative study between universities in Belgium and South Africa. 

Academic libraries have become hubs of technology, changing the responsibilities of academic libraries. In the Global North, academic libraries have taken the lead in adopting various social media platforms, to enhance service delivery and dissemination of information to students. Similar adoption models are seen with academic libraries in the Global South, but not all are adopting these innovative methods of communication. With these technological advancements, academic libraries have an obligation towards students to increase their level of high-tech preparedness and skills development. The problem prompting this research was the lack of technological advancements and lack of infrastructure at a university situated in the rural outskirts of South Africa, which led to a comparative study with other academic libraries in Belgium and South Africa. In light of the uneven distribution of resources between academic libraries in Belgium and South Africa, the study examined how academic libraries might be considered as places to create social capital. It is against this backdrop that this study researched the perceptions of library professionals and students at academic libraries in Belgium and South Africa to investigate the adoption and use of social media, in particular, Facebook and Twitter as service delivery tools in academic libraries. Academic libraries play a fundamental role to provide innovative library services to students and faculty members in support of teaching, learning and research. Therefore, the need for library services to adapt to 21st-century technologies is crucial to avoid stagnation. The study was carried out in two phases and in phase one the participants were selected from three academic libraries in South Africa and three in Belgium. The second phase used interview data from student respondents from the University of Antwerp in Belgium and from the University of Limpopo in South Africa.

This thesis is a collection of papers focusing on the adoption and use of social networking platforms at higher education institutions. This qualitative study examined the adoption and non-adoption of social media and the utilisation of such innovative technologies in academic libraries. The study emphasised the importance of staying current with emerging technologies to embrace library services and to facilitate liaison between the library and students. While the majority of students perceived Facebook and Twitter as important communication tools, which are easy to use, the minority were not supportive of the adoption of social media in a library setting.

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Marion Lucille Williams 
  • Promotors: Prof. dr. Alexander Dhoest 
  • Date and start time: Thursday 19 October 2023, 4 PM

PhD defence Jiyan Faris 19/10/2023

On Thursday 19 October 2023, Jiyan Faris (Department of Communication Studies) cordially invites you to the public defence of her doctoral thesis 

Media Capture. The Political reality of Media Undergoing a Transitional democracy. The Case of Kurdistan region in Iraq after 2003. 

When authoritarian regimes are overthrown, it is commonly expected that the emerging political systems will adopt Western-based models of democratic government, for instance regarding freedom of speech. According to existing studies, however, the practical realities of these ‘transitional democracies’ often defy this expectation. This doctoral dissertation investigates how the concept of media capture allows us to understand the media environment in transitional democracies by analysing the different mechanisms with which powerful social actors attempt to control media in a transitional democracy. The dissertation makes an in-depth case study of media in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq (KRI) since 2003. 

To this end, it puts forward a highly innovative mixed methods design, in which a quantitative content analysis and interviews with journalists are used for the level of financing, document analysis and interviews with state officials and politicians for the level of regulatory control, and document analysis and interviews with journalists and editors in chief for the level of journalistic culture. In this way, this research not only puts forward a multi-methodological approach that combines the paradigm of political economy with rigorous social-scientific research. It also makes this study comprehensive and able to triangulate its results across these different levels, thereby offering a multidimensional picture of how these mechanisms add to our understanding of (the level of media capture in) media atmosphere in transitional democracies.

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Jiyan Faris 
  • Promotors: Prof. dr. Pieter Maeseele  & prof. dr. Kevin Smets
  • Date and start time: Thursday 19 October 2023, 2 PM
  • Location:  Stadscampus,  de Meerminne, Aula S.M.005 (St-Jacobsstraat 2, 2000 Antwerp)  

The defence is followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before 15/10/2023 at

PhD defence Jonas Nicolaï - 29/9/2023

On Friday 29 September 2023, Jonas Nicolaï (Department of Communication Studies) cordially invites you to the public defence of his doctoral thesis 

Comedy off course:

the changing faces of political satire in Flanders and the Netherlands 

Today’s mediated public sphere is increasingly characterized by a proliferation of political satire formats, underbuilt by the growing acknowledgment that humour can enact political work and contribute effectively to public debate. This doctoral dissertation explores the societal role of political satire within contemporary media landscapes in Flanders and the Netherlands by (i) examining the evolving roles and self-perceptions of professional satirists, and (ii) interrogating the evolution of satirical critique against the backdrop of shifting socio-political contexts. 

These questions are addressed in four empirical studies which investigate two instances of political satire in Flanders and the Netherlands—television news satire and stand-up comedy—embodied by respectively the Flemish and Dutch television news satire shows De Ideale Wereld (2013) and Zondag met Lubach (2014–2021), and Flemish stand-up comedian Michael Van Peel. 

Study 1 focuses on the enactment and negotiation of genre hybridity and its effect on the role conceptions of satirists. It reports on an analysis of semi-structured (11) and conversational (12) interviews with staff of the Flemish political satire show De Ideale Wereld, combined with a three-week observational period in the show’s “satirical newsroom.” 

Study 2 sets out to investigate the reception of political satire in the media landscape and the journalistic community over time. It reports on an analysis of the metajournalistic discourse surrounding 64 media appearances of staff and host of the Dutch political satire show Zondag met Lubach. 

Study 3 sets out to analyse the way political satire has engaged with scientific discourse during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we present a qualitative content analysis of 30 COVID-19-related segments of the Dutch political satire show Zondag met Lubach. 

Study 4 furthers the notion of a reimagined role for political satire in public debate through the case of Flemish stand-up comedian Michael Van Peel. It zooms in on the specific relationship between comedy, humour and the increasing societal awareness of issues of social injustice and free speech. A qualitative content analysis incorporates an in-depth interview with stand-up comedian Michael Van Peel; interviews in Flemish media, columns in Flemish upmarket newspaper De Standaard, and stand-up special Welcome to the Rebellion! 

This dissertation contributes to broader discussions on the role of popular culture as a platform for public debate and produces insights into the nature of comedic storytelling as a valid epistemic practice.

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Jonas Nicolaï 
  • Promotors: Prof. dr. Pieter Maeseele  
  • Date and start time: Friday 29 September 2023, 3 PM
  • Location:  Stadscampus, 't Brantijser, Room S.KS 203 (Kattenstraat 10, 2000 Antwerp) 

The defence is followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before 25/9/2023 at

PhD defence Michelle Symons 29/9/2023

On Friday 29 September 2023, Michelle Symons (Department of Communication Studies) cordially invites you to the public defence of her doctoral thesis 

Brisk Walking with a Smile:

Tailoring to the Internal Dynamic Determinant of Cognitice Fatigue by using Humorous Physical Activity Intervention Messages. 

Physical inactivity is a widespread global concern, demanding innovative interventions. Just-in-Time Adaptive Interventions (JITAIs) offer promise, yet their effectiveness in addressing internal dynamic determinants of behaviour change remains to be optimised. Cognitive fatigue, an often-overlooked determinant, presents a significant challenge to regular physical activity engagement.

This doctoral dissertation centres on enhancing physical activity interventions, with a focus on moderate-intensity brisk walking. It investigates how cognitive fatigue impacts physical activity through controlled experiments and real-life scenarios. Additionally, it explores humour as a Behaviour Change Technique (BCT) to tackle cognitive fatigue within JITAIs. 

Drawing from the findings of four empirical studies (a survey, two online experiments, and a field experiment), this dissertation aims to address four key questions: (1) How does cognitive fatigue affect moderate-intensity brisk walking in inactive individuals? (2) What is the moderation effect of cognitive fatigue on brisk walking behaviours in controlled versus real-world settings for inactive individuals? (3) Which BCTs are most effective for inactive individuals with cognitive fatigue? (4) Are humorous messages, such as cat memes, effective in enhancing moderate-brisk walking in cognitively fatigued individuals?

As such, this doctoral dissertation contributes valuable insights into the complex interplay of cognitive fatigue, behavioural change techniques, and physical activity promotion. While the direct impact of cognitive fatigue on brisk walking may not be as pronounced as previously assumed, its influence on other determinants, such as self-control and perceptions of (humorous) intervention messages, proves significant. The research suggests that humour, as a behavioural change technique, shows promise in alleviating the adverse effects of cognitive fatigue on brisk walking intentions. 

Nonetheless, further exploration is warranted to fully comprehend the potential of humour and to explore different forms of humorous messages. The evolving technological landscape presents opportunities for personalised and adaptive interventions that can harness the persuasive power of humour to motivate physical activity.

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Michelle Symons
  • Promotors: Prof. dr. Karolien Poels & prof. dr. Heidi Vandebosch
  • Date and start time: Friday 29 September 2023, 5:30 PM
  • Location:  Stadscampus,  Aula S.C.002 (Grote Kauwenberg 2, 2000 Antwerp - entrance through Agora) 
  • Language: the defence will be held in Dutch

The defence is followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before 25/9/2023 via the online registration form

PhD defence Stéphanie De Munter 29/9/2023

On Friday 29 September 2023, Stéphanie De Munter (Department of Communication Studies) cordially invites you to the public defence of her doctoral thesis 

Online Candidate Image:

Analyzing Online Images and Impression Management in Politics. 

In their attempt to attract voter’s attention, informality seems to be playing an increasing role in the branding strategies of politicians around the world. Within the context of an ongoing individualization, privatization and celebritization of politics, social media platforms such as Instagram encourage political candidates to share personal pictures, highlighting their human side. This entertaining, casual self-presentation strategy has been observed not only amongst international high-profile leaders, such as former US President Barack Obama and current Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, but is also often observed amongst Belgian politicians such as Conner Rousseau or very recently, the media performance politician Sami Mehdi as a drag queen in a Belgian television show. 

This phenomenon can be explained by citizens’ declining interest in political debates. Hence, voters are increasingly making electoral decisions based on impressions or cues at the expense of objective arguments and content - often received via media messages and images (De Landtsheer, 2004). The importance of these impressions cannot be underestimated and are strong predictors of voters’ perceptions and preferences (Marcus, Neuman, & MacKuen, 2000). Perception politics and impression management techniques can help to create a favourable impression or image and increase perceived political suitability amongst the voters (Diedkova, De Landtsheer, & De Vries, 2019). However, in contrast to the aforementioned observations, previous research on impression management postulates that a formal self-presentation style, such as conservative clothing, adds to the notion of political suitability (De Landtsheer, 1999, 2004; De Vries, 2007). 

Although visuals are omnipresent in digital media, little is known about how voters interact and engage with the presented content. The impact of image attributes on voter engagement is understudied, particularly within the political context. One of the possible explanations is the lack of a fast and effective methodology that allows the visual analysis of large datasets on social media platforms such as Instagram.This PhD aims to fill this gap by establishing which type of online self-presentation style garners the most voter support:  do voters still prefer a formal, conservative presentation style or has the image of political suitability shifted towards a more informal style? Additionally, it proposes a solution to the problem of fast and accurate data collection of visuals on Instagram by introducing a state-of-the-art, real-time object detection program called ‘You Only Look Once’ in the programming language Python. Therefore, the results in this thesis offer interesting observations and recommendations on effective digital self-presentation strategies in a politician’s visual rhetoric. 

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Stéphanie De Munter 
  • Promotors: Prof. dr. Philippe De Vries & prof. dr. Christ'l De Landtsheer 
  • Date and start time: Friday 29 September 2023, 4 PM
  • Location:  Stadscampus, Promotiezaal Grauwzusters (Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp) 

The defence is followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before 25/9/2023 at

PhD defence Maud Peeters - 4/10/2023

On Wednesday 4 October 2023, Maud Peeters (Department of Communication Studies) cordially invites you to the public defence of her doctoral thesis 

From fringe to forefront.

Unraveling alternative news media's role in advancing media pluralism. 

In today's digital media landscape, there is a growing presence of “alternative” news media that present themselves as an alternative to “mainstream” news. These outlets arise from dissatisfaction with the way legacy news organizations function and aim to provide alternative sources of news, information, and representation. However, the current state of Western media systems necessitates a reevaluation of the traditional binary division between “alternative” and “mainstream” media:  alarming levels of media concentration, the rise of populist politics, highly individualized patterns of news consumption, and the pervasive online presence of conflicting versions of truth.

By aligning empirical research and political theory with the contemporary socio-political context, this thesis offers grounded and critical insights into the role and performance of “alternative” news media. Utilizing a range of qualitative research methods, it aims to explore (i) the extent to which their news discourses and journalistic styles facilitate or impede democratic debate, (ii) their strategies for organizational sustainability, and (iii) their position within the news repertoires of their users.

This study addresses these inquiries through an examination of six media platforms in Flanders: Apache, Charlie Magazine, DeWereldMorgen, MO*, Doorbraak, and SCEPTR/PAL NWS. This selection encompasses a diverse spectrum of financial resources, journalistic styles, and ideological orientations, enabling a comparative assessment. Simultaneously, the presence of this diversity motivates this thesis to introduce innovative analytical frameworks capable of accommodating the multifaceted identities exhibited by these platforms.

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Maud Peeters
  • Promotors: Prof. dr. Pieter Maeseele
  • Date and start time: Wednesday 4 October 2023, 2 PM
  • Location:  Stadscampus, Hof van Liere, F. de Tassiszaal (Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp) 
  • Language: the defence will be held in Dutch

The defence is followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before 25/9/2023 at

PhD defence Dorien Luyckx

Never alone, always together Building a stakeholder-inclusive advertising strategy for digital news media

Promotor: Prof. Dr. Karolien Poels, Prof. Dr. Tim Smits, Prof. Dr. Steve Paulussen

Practical information

  • Date: ​Friday 15 September 2023 at 4pm
  • Location: ​Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen (Meerminne), Sint-Jacobstraat 2, 2000 Antwerpen, Aula S.M.004; Also possibility to follow the defence online
  • Language: English

The defence will be followed by a reception; Please confirm your in-person or online attendance before the 8th of September at


Companies are never isolated entities; they function within an intricate web of stakeholders exchanging value. This holds true for news media companies. In this context, key stakeholders are advertisers and news users. However, digitalization and social media have disrupted these relationships, necessitating fresh value approaches.

Marketing has evolved since the 1990s, shifting from product-centric to service-focused, a concept known as service-dominant logic, wherein value is co-created with users. Hillebrand et al. (2015) introduced stakeholder thinking, rooted in skills like systems, paradoxical, and democratic thinking, to maximize value within stakeholder networks.

This dissertation investigated if these frameworks can enhance news media companies' ties with advertisers and news users, focusing on native and podcast advertising. Outcomes revealed potential for discovering novel value propositions and avenues for innovation. One study explored news users' perceptions of valuable native ads, indicating a preference for closer integration with editorial content, challenging the current division between commercial and editorial departments.

The dissertation also showcased how stakeholder-inclusive design can reconcile conflicting needs. For instance, podcast listeners favor less intrusive host-voiced ads, which conflicts with journalistic independence. While host-voiced ads affected hosts' reputations negatively, emphasizing audience value compensated for this drawback in advertiser-voiced ads, preserving the host's reputation.

Engaging a complex stakeholder network poses challenges, especially when needs clash, intensifying product development. Nonetheless, this dissertation demonstrates the potential of balancing diverse stakeholder needs to forge sustainable revenue solutions for journalism.

PhD defence Filip Moons - 06/09/2023

Semi-automated assessment of handwritten mathematics tasks - Atomic, reusable feedback for assessing student tests by teachers and exams by a group of assessors

Promotor: Prof. dr. Ellen Vandervieren & Em. prof. dr. Jozef Colpaert 

Practical information

  • Date: ​Wednesday 6 September 2023, 5pm
  • Location: ​Promotiezaal – Grauwzustersklooster; Also possibility to follow the defence online
  • Language: English

The defence will be followed by a reception. Please confirm your in-person or online attendance via this form before the 1st of September (in-person attendance subject to availability).


Feedback is the most powerful engine of any learning process. In mathematics education, the possibilities to assess automatedly are thoroughly explored. However, students face difficulties expressing themselves mathematically on a computer and learning systems can often only assess the outcome, not the solving method. Research indicates that automated tests focus too much on procedural fluency at the expense of higher-order thinking questions. It takes much effort to develop digital tests, and teachers are sceptical of using automated assessments, meaning that paper-and-pencil tests still dominate mathematics classrooms. One of the characteristics of mathematical assessment is that wrong answers tend to exhibit patterns among the student population. Consequently, teachers often repeat their feedback and grades, bringing us to the idea of semi-automated feedback and assessment: by correcting handwritten tasks digitally, feedback can be saved and reused. This could lead to more elaborate feedback, time savings, and enhanced inter-rater reliability. Specifically, two semi-automatic assessment approaches were developed and studied.

In the first study, teachers write feedback for a student, and the computer saves it so that it can be reused when subsequent students make the same or similar mistakes. The concept of atomic feedback has been introduced to train teachers on how to write reusable feedback. Atomic feedback consists of a set of format requirements for mathematical feedback items, which has been shown to increase the reusability of feedback. A remarkable result was discovered during a crossover experiment with 45 mathematics teachers: the semi-automated approach led teachers to give significantly more feedback instead of saving time. Moreover, the teachers’ feedback with the semi-automatic tool did not always have better properties than classic pen-and-paper feedback.

The second study was conducted in collaboration with the Flemish Exam Commission. Their traditional grading method of handwritten mathematics exams was transformed into a semi-automated one called ‘checkbox grading.’ Every assessor receives a list of checkboxes, and they must tick those that apply to the student’s solution. Dependencies between these checkboxes can be set to ensure all assessors take the same path down the grading scheme. The system automatically calculates the grade and results in atomic feedback giving a detailed insight into what went wrong and how the grade was obtained. The approach requires more time for assessors and did not enhance inter-rater reliability compared to the traditional method (did not make it worse either). However, the resulting transparency and students’ feedback were highly valued. Moreover, students could easily understand the resulting feedback, even the lower-performing ones.

PhD defence Tair Kasztan Flechner 24/08/2023

Uptake and effectiveness of ALMP training programmes in first and second generation migrants in Belgium

Promotor: Prof. dr. Karel Neels, Jonas Wood

Practical information

  • Date: 24 August 2023, 2:30pm
  • Location: online
  • Language: English

Please confirm your attendance before 22 August 2023 at​


Aiming to integrate individuals into the labour market, governments worldwide have progressively introduced Active Labour Market Policies (ALMPs). However, despite the expansion of ALMPs since the 1990s throughout Western Europe, the employment levels of first and later generations of migrant groups remain significantly lower than those of groups without a migration background. Accordingly, the main research question of this thesis is: Do untargeted training programmes improve the likelihood of individuals with a migrant background to enter into stable regular employment? Addressing this research question requires assessing two different components of ALMP effectiveness that affect the transition from unemployment to stable regular employment: i) explore patterns and determinants of uptake in different types of ALMP training programmes among various origin groups, and II) study the impact of participation in different types of ALMP training programmes on labour market outcomes in different groups with a migrant background. Accordingly, using hazard models and longitudinal microdata from the employment office and social security registers, we first explore whether training programmes are effectively reaching migrant background groups, and second we assess the impact of participation in various types of training programmes for different migrant background groups.

PhD defence Samira Azabar 16/05/2023

Promovendus: Samira Azabar

  • Promotor: prof. dr. Peter Thijssen
  • Co-promotor: prof. dr. Peter Van Aelst
  • Date: Tuesday the 16th of May, 2023, 4 PM
  • Location: Stadscampus UAntwerpen, De Meerminne, aula M.003 (St-Jacobsstraat 2, 2000 Antwerp)

The defence is followed by a reception. Please confirm your attendance before 9/5/2023 at

Halal resistance. Unraveling Muslims' political agency. 

Owing to a racialized environment where Islam is a “chronic object of discussion and debate”, this dissertation unpacks Muslims’ political participation from an agential perspective. The several empirical studies aim to answer the following question: How and why do Muslims participate in an environment that perceives Muslims as the dangerous Other?

To study how and why Muslims participate in politics in racialized environments in a comprehensive way, this dissertation focused on (1) Muslims’ electoral choices on the party and candidate level and explanations of these choices in a flexible proportional list system, (2) Muslims’ non-institutionalized participation and its drivers and (3) Muslims’ hidden, everyday resistance practices. Moreover, this dissertation paid attention to the intersecting power dynamics (i.e., gender, religiosity, ethnicity) affecting the political engagement of Muslims in Belgium.

All in all, this dissertation showed how Muslims exert their agency in the political realm through various forms of active engagement, despite facing multiple obstacles. Focusing on Muslims’ perspectives, this dissertation adds to the literature that does not center what policymakers and public opinion seem to deem important. The several empirical studies rebut widespread stereotypes and misconceptions of Muslims that could inform policies, and create awareness of the lack of social justice and equality in our society. 

PhD defence Bich Thi Tran 12/05/2023

Practical information

 Please confirm your attendance before 5/5/2023 at

  • Promovendus: Bich Thi Tran
  • Promotor: prof. dr. Elena Atanassova-Cornelis
  • Date: Friday the 12th of May, 2023, 3 PM (Brussels time)
  • Location: online


Vietnam's Grand Strategic Adjustment of Cooperation and Struggle

This doctoral thesis has answered the following questions: What is Vietnam's grand strategy? What can explain the country's strategic adjustment of cooperation and struggle that took place in 2003? How has Vietnam implemented its grand strategy before and after the change? How has the grand strategic adjustment helped the country further achieve its foreign policy goals? What are the remaining challenges?

Vietnam's grand strategy of "independence, self-reliance, openness, multilateralization, and diversification of foreign relations" reconciles the principles endorsed by the conservative and the progressive factions in the Vietnamese leadership. The components of the grand strategy are diplomatic activity, foreign trade policy, defence policy, and resource extraction. Vietnam’s grand strategy, however, has a conservative tilt, and the 2003 adjustment was a result of a shift in the conservatives' perception of systemic incentives and pressures.

The adjustment of cooperation and struggle has helped Vietnam further its foreign policy goals of maintaining peace, constructing the nation, and defending the Fatherland. The new threat perception cleared the way for Vietnam to strengthen relations with the United States and more deeply integrate into the Western-dominated world economy. The change also led to an emphasis on naval and air forces in Vietnam's military modernization, as well as deeper defence cooperation with India, Japan, and the United States. Since 2003, Vietnam has accelerated its industrialization and modernization efforts to create a significantly larger economic base to extract resources for its grand strategy. However, challenges remain.

Vietnam's relations with China and the United States are two clear examples of how Hanoi has carried out the 2003 grand strategic adjustment. Hanoi cooperates with Beijing and Washington on certain political, economic, and security issues, while struggling against the two great powers on other issues. This has led Vietnam to a more balanced approach towards China and the United States.

This thesis furthers empirical understanding of Vietnam's grand strategy in general, as well as its relations with China and the United States in particular. Theoretically, it contributes to the advancement of neoclassical realist theories by developing a theoretical framework that can be used to explain a change in the threat perception of other authoritarian regimes.

PhD Defence Liesbeth Naessens 09/05/2023

Forensic social work: a Human Rights Perspective

Promotor: Prof. dr. Peter Raeymaeckers

Practical information

  • Date: Tuesday, the 9th of May 2023, 10:00 AM
  • Place: Promotiezaal Klooster van de Grauwzusters, Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerpen

The public defence will be followed by a reception. Please confirm your attendance at


In this doctoral thesis, I study how practices of forensic social work in Brussels and Flanders can apply a human rights perspective.  Formal human rights legislation both at the international, national as at a regional level emphasizes that people in prison must be seen as citizens, whose rights must be guaranteed. However, an abundance of studies shows that their rights are not realized. Social work is seen as indispensable in realizing human rights, particularly for people in vulnerable positions. A human rights-based approach is central to the broader debate on the identity of social work and its position in current society.

However, to date scientific knowledge is lacking on how social work practice may adopt a human rights perspective to forensic social work. Most studies that focus on the relationship between forensic social work and human rights primarily identify the difficulties, challenges and tensions forensic social work faces when adopting a human rights approach. In this dissertation I adopt an inductive understanding of human rights and construct a model for a human rights practice in forensic social work. The model is based on four qualitative studies. The studies are related to current developments in the field: (1) a network within forensic social work as a politicizing practice; (2) what a generalist approach means within forensic social work; (3) the extent to which the right to work meets the needs of those in prison and (4) how social workers within forensic social work support volunteers to provide qualitative services.

PhD Defence Mathias Reveraert 04/05/2023

Exploring Insider Threat Awareness and Mitigation: More than the Devil in Disguise

Promotor: Prof. dr. Tom Sauer

Practical information

  • Date: Thursday, the 4th of May 2023, 4 PM
  • Location: Promotiezaal Klooster van de Grauwzusters, Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerpen. There is also the option to attend the defence online.
  • Language: English

The public defence will be followed by a reception. Please confirm your attendance (and whether you will attend the defence on location or online) before Monday 24 April 2023 at

Abstract - Dutch

Medewerkers die stelen, frauderen, saboteren of spioneren: het is de nachtmerrie van elke organisatie. Hoewel elke publieke en private organisatie – groot of klein – gevoelig is aan de problematiek van zogenaamde interne dreigingen of ‘insider threats’, is deze problematiek nog te vaak onderbelicht omdat organisaties er vanuit gaan dat medewerkers te vertrouwen zijn. Medewerkers moeten namelijk het vertrouwen genieten om toegang te krijgen tot de waardevolle bezittingen van de organisatie, omdat zij anders niet in staat zijn hun job uit te oefenen. Vanwege deze vrijgeleide binnen de spreekwoordelijke veiligheidsperimeter zijn zogenaamde ‘insiders’ grotendeels vrijgesteld van de veiligheidshindernissen die externe vijanden wel moeten overwinnen. Ondanks dat insiders het dus relatief gemakkelijker hebben om hun slag te slaan, worden ze vaak over het hoofd gezien als een potentiële bedreiging. In België zijn enkele spraakmakende voorbeelden van ‘insider threat’ te vinden die de wereldpers haalden. De sabotage van Doel 4 in 2014, waarbij de kerncentrale doelbewust gesaboteerd werd door een medewerker, blijft het meest tot de verbeelding sprekende voorbeeld. Relatief recentere voorbeelden zijn de klopjacht naar Jürgen Conings en de onthullingen in het kader van Operatie Sky. Om enerzijds meer bewustzijn voor de problematiek te creëren en anderzijds concrete beleidsaanbevelingen te vinden zodat organisaties zich beter kunnen beschermen tegen interne dreigingen, werd met de steun van Brussels Airport Company, Bel-V, Elia, Engie-Electrabel, het Federaal Agentschap voor Nucleaire Controle en G4S, onderzoek gedaan naar de insider threat problematiek. De resultaten van het eerste deel van het onderzoek zorgen ervoor dat we een zicht kregen op de hiaten in de kennis en attitude van Belgische organisaties aangaande de karakteristieken van insider threat en de mogelijkheden om het probleem te mitigeren. De resultaten van het tweede deel van het onderzoek verschaffen nuttige inzichten aangaande waarschuwingssignalen waarop organisaties moeten letten om insider threat op te sporen, alsook aangaande mitigerende maatregelen die organisaties kunnen gebruiken om zich beter te beveiligen tegen bedreigingen van binnenuit.

Abstract - English

Employees that steal, commit fraud, sabotage or leak confidential information: it is every employer’s nightmare. Even though every public or private organisation – big or small – is vulnerable to so-called ‘insider threats’, this problem is too often overlooked because organisations assume that their employees can be trusted. Indeed, employees need to be trusted with access to the organizational assets because they need it in order to do their job. Still, this access implies that insiders are largely exempted from the security obstacles that external enemies have to overcome. Despite the fact that insiders can relatively easier threaten the organization’s assets, they are often overlooked as potential threat. Belgium already encountered multiple insider threat incidents. The most striking example is the nuclear reactor Doel 4 that was deliberately sabotaged by an insider. More recent examples in Belgium are Jürgen Conings and Operation Sky. To on the one hand raise awareness on the insider threat problem, and on the other hand provide organizations with mitigation measures to better secure themselves against insider threats, research was done with the support from Brussels Airport Company, Bel-V, Elia, Engie-Electrabel, the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control and G4S on the insider threat problem. The results of the first part of the research provide us with insights on the awareness gaps of Belgian organizations concerning the characteristics of the insider threat as well as the ways to mitigate it. The results of the second part of the research give useful insights on what can be considered ‘red flags’ of insider threats that organizations should be vigilant of, as well as with mitigation measures that organizations can use to better secure themselves against insider threats.

PhD Defence Begoña Cabeza Martinez 02/05/2023

  • Name: Begoña Cabeza Martínez
  • Promotor: Koen Decancq
  • Title of the dissertation: Essays on Preferences for Redistribution
  • Date: 2nd May 2023
  • Start time: 9 am
  • Place: Hof Van Liere
  • Reception: Yes
  • Contact:
  • Confirm before: 17th April 2023


Rising inequality is a central issue of public debate that features heavily across political agendas. Studies show that citizens are aware and concerned that the gap between the poor and the rich is growing deeper. Still, the political feasibility of redistributive policies crucially depends on popular support. It therefore becomes essential to understand the motivations behind the demand for inequality reduction and why redistributive preferences differ among citizens. This dissertation consists of four chapters that study the stability of social preferences and beliefs about inequality and redistribution, along with their determinants. The first part assesses the impact that economic and health shocks have on beliefs and preferences, as reported in opinion surveys. The first chapter provides evidence that higher unemployment rates, in the context of the Great Recession in Spain, boost the belief that luck is the main determinant of one’s life outcomes. The second chapter shows that citizens increase their support for higher taxes after exposure to the West African Ebola outbreak. The second part of the dissertation relies on primary data collected by means of an online survey experiment. In this survey, a novel non-parametric elicitation methodology is introduced that enables the straightforward identification of social preferences, with inequality aversion standing out as the most frequent experimental behaviour. In addition, an information provision about effort and luck permits the measurement of treatment effects on the elicited preferences (chapter 3). Lastly, in the fourth chapter, more altruistic experimental behaviour is found to be positively correlated with stated attitudes towards redistribution. 

PhD Defence Julie Janssens 21/4/2023

Promovendus: Julie Janssens (onderzoeker aan het CSB, FSW)
Promotors: Tim Goedemé en Koen Decancq
Titel: Gaps in Belgium’s final safety net. Towards a better measurement and understanding of non-take-up of social benefits in Belgium.
Wanneer? Vrijdag 21 april 2023, 16u30 in S.C.002

Abstract – English

Social benefits targeted at the poor are an important part of modern welfare states. These benefits serve as a final safety net for those for whom traditional protection arrangements fall short. Unfortunately, many of those in a very vulnerable situation do not take up the social benefits they are entitled to and slip through the cracks in the net. The non-take-up of social benefits is problematic as it undermines the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of social policies. Yet, our theoretical and empirical understanding of this phenomenon is still rather limited. This is unfortunate because in order to close the gaps in the net there is an urgency for better knowledge on the size and drivers of non-take-up in Belgium. This dissertation is aimed at advancing efforts to measure and understand non-take-up of social benefits in Belgium. It bundles eights articles that are concerned with the size, characteristics, determinants and solutions of non-take-up of two means-tested benefits targeted at the low-income population in Belgium: social assistance for people at active age and the increased reimbursement of healthcare. In this dissertation, I study the non-take-up of social benefits by building on the latest theoretical insights, collecting and analysing new and existing administrative and survey data, and making use of both microsimulation techniques and a large-scale field experiment.

Abstract – Dutch

Sociale uitkeringen voor de armen zijn een belangrijk onderdeel van moderne welvaartsstaten. Deze uitkeringen fungeren als laatste vangnet voor diegenen voor wie de traditionele beschermingsregelingen tekortschieten. Helaas maken veel mensen in een zeer kwetsbare situatie geen gebruik van de sociale uitkeringen waarop zij recht hebben en glippen zij zo door de mazen van het net. Het niet-gebruik van sociale uitkeringen is problematisch omdat het de effectiviteit, efficiëntie en rechtvaardigheid van het sociaal beleid ondermijnt. Toch is het theoretisch en empirisch begrip van dit fenomeen momenteel nog vrij beperkt. Dit is jammer aangezien er dringend behoefte is aan betere kennis over de omvang en oorzaken van het niet-gebruik in België als we de gaten in het laatste vangnet willen dichten. Dit proefschrift beoogt het niet-gebruik van sociale uitkeringen in België beter te meten en begrijpen. Het bundelt acht hoofdstukken die betrekking hebben op de omvang, kenmerken, determinanten en oplossingen van het niet-gebruik van twee inkomen getoetste uitkeringen voor mensen met een laag inkomen in België: het leefloon en de verhoogde tegemoetkoming voor gezondheidszorgen. Om het niet-gebruik van sociale uitkeringen te bestuderen, bouw ik in dit proefschrift verder op de nieuwste theoretische inzichten, verzamel en analyseer ik nieuwe en bestaande administratieve en enquêtegegevens, en maak ik gebruik van zowel microsimulatietechnieken als een grootschalig veldexperiment.

PhD defence - Raden Murwantara - 20/03/2023

Government Support for Enhancing Public Private Partnerships: Comparing, Explaining and Studying the Effects of variations Across European Countries

Promotor: Prof. dr. Koen Verhoest

Co-Promotor: prof. dr. Steven Van Garsse

Practical information

  • Date: Monday, the 20th of March 2023, 6:00 PM
  • Place: Promotiezaal Klooster van de Grauwzusters, Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerpen

The public defence will be followed by a reception. Please confirm your attendance at 

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have gained a momentum as an important alternative solution for financing public infrastructures. Governments are said to mainly develop their support for PPPs along three dimensions: by designing policies and expressing political commitment, by articulating the legal and regulative framework and by creating supporting arrangements, called ‘PPP governmental support (PPP-GS)’. This dissertation focuses on the complex and comprehensive comparison of PPP-GS, explains variations across European countries and studies the effect thereof using fsQCA.
The different PPP-GS do not necessarily come in a package or no countries have high scores for all dimensions (e.g. The UK, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium-Flanders). The highest variation between countries is on the policy and PPP-supporting arrangements, but there much less variation on the regulatory dimension, because of the coercive harmonising influence of the EU-procurement regulation. The twenty countries are grouped into four clusters regarding PPP-GS with the highest levels being Cluster 1: the UK, Netherlands, Germany and Belgium-Flanders, and the lowest levels refer to Cluster 4; Austria, Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Serbia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Hungary. The different combinations of the level of GDP per-capita, government debt, uncertainty avoidance and the administrative reform trajectory, and to a lesser extent the state structure, explains the presence of a high PPP-GS, except the UK. The typology of countries can basically be classified into six groups representing the combination of macro-institutional variables.
The study of the effect of variation of PPP-GS on project outcomes focuses on contract stability (non-renegotiation) and project success. Contract stability was found in projects in which a high level of country competitiveness, joined up with a secure remuneration scheme and a young project age, combined with either a well-developed governmental PPP support or an appropriate risk allocation. The projects being on-cost can be explained by the combination of high levels of country competitiveness and PPP-GS and a more optimal financing scheme. The combination of high levels of country competitiveness, a more optimal financing scheme and a more appropriate risk allocation are sufficient conditions for achieving the on-time outcome. This dissertation gives more insight in how government can foster the development and outcomes of PPP projects by providing well-developed government support, which fits their country context.

PhD defence Dries Dingenen - De 'meervoudige natuur van actieonderzoek': Opportuniteiten en spanningsvelden van burgerparticipatie in sociaalwetenschappelijk onderzoek - 6/6/2022

Op dinsdag 6 juni 2023 nodigt Dries Dingenen (Departement Sociologie) je van harte uit voor de openbare verdediging van zijn doctoraal proefschrift

De 'meervoudige natuur van actieonderzoek': Opportuniteiten en spanningsvelden van burgerparticipatie in sociaalwetenschappelijk onderzoek

Actieonderzoek heeft net zoals vele andere vormen van participatief onderzoek een duidelijke emancipatorische connotatie en in de wetenschappelijke literatuur over deze onderzoeksbenaderingen vormt democratisering een rode draad. Het verwezenlijken van de onderliggende emancipatorische aspiraties van actieonderzoek is echter allesbehalve evident en in de praktijk ervaren onderzoekers heel wat uitdagingen en moeilijkheden. Met deze doctoraatsverhandeling over de ‘meervoudige natuur van actieonderzoek’ worden de spanningsvelden die actieonderzoekers ervaren uitvoerig bestudeerd en wordt inzicht verworven in de complexe relatie tussen macht en participatie. Een beter begrip van de spanningsvelden waarmee actieonderzoekers, net zoals participatief onderzoekers, te maken krijgen in hun onderzoekspraktijk is van essentieel belang. Met de opmars van burgerparticipatie in sociaalwetenschappelijk onderzoek worden actieonderzoekers in groeiende mate geconfronteerd met de vraag hoe zij hun rol als onderzoeker willen, kunnen en moeten invullen.

Praktische informatie 

  • Promovendus: Dries Dingenen 
  • Promotoren: prof. dr. Anne Bergmans & prof. dr. Peter Raeymaeckers
  • Datum, startuur en plaats: Dinsdag 6 juni 2023, 14u, M.004 (St-Jacobsstraat 2, 2000 Antwerpen)
  • Taal: Nederlands

Aansluitend volgt een receptie in het Agora Caffee; graag je aanwezigheid voor 30 mei bevestigen per mail aan

PhD defence Emmanuel Dockx - Connecting the Dots Together: Advancing Public Sector Collaboration with a Dissertation on Antecedents, Dynamics and Outcomes - 7/6/2022

On Wednesday 7 June 2023, Emmanuel Dockx (Department of Political Science) cordially invites you to the public defence of his doctoral thesis 

Connecting the Dots Together:

Advancing Public Sector Collaboration With a Dissertation on Antecedents, Dynamics and Outcomes 

Collaboration between different stakeholders, including public actors, private companies, research institutions, non-profits, civil society, and citizens, has become increasingly important for governments to address societal issues and provide better public services. However, public sector collaboration is challenging and continuously changing due to various factors such as technological advances, shifting political landscapes, and societal attitudes. In this dissertation, the focus is on examining the practice and implementation of collaboration in the public sector to promote innovation and learning. Through various methodologies, including statistical regression and fsQCA, and analyses of multiple data sources, this dissertation identifies factors that contribute to successful collaboration and provides insights for public sector managers and policymakers to engage in effective collaboration for innovation and learning.

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Emmanuel Dockx
  • Promotor: Prof. dr. Koen Verhoest
  • Date: Wednesday 7 June 2023, 4 PM
  • Location: Hof van Liere, F. de Tassiszaal (Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp)

The defence is followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before 31/05/2023 by mail at

PhD defence Loubna Ou-Salah - "Soon water will be worth gold!" - 8/6/2023

On Thursday 8 June 2023, Loubna Ou-Salah (Department of Sociology) cordially invites you to the public defence of her doctoral thesis 

"Soon water will be worth gold!"

A qualitative study on how environmental factors are considered during migration decision-making in the Moroccan and Belgian context 

This dissertation explores the impact of gradual environmental changes on migration decisions from Morocco to Belgium. Starting from the viewpoints of Moroccan and Congolese migrants residing in Belgium, the dissertation first reconstructs their migration paths. It then centers on the perceptions of people living in rural areas in the Souss-Massa region in Morocco who face slow-onset environmental changes in their daily life, and explores how this impacts migration decision-making. Findings of this dissertation highlight the importance of structural conditions and societal structures, the life course, existing cultures of migration and belief systems in gaining knowledge about environmental change and migration opportunities. This is essential since societal structures, such as gender dynamics, cultural beliefs, and migration histories, influence individuals’ migration experiences and decision-making processes. 

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Loubna Ou-Salah
  • Promotors: prof. dr. Gert Verschraegen & prof. dr. Lore Van Praag
  • When? Thursday 8 June 2023, 10 AM
  • Where? Promotiezaal Klooster van de Grauwzusters (Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp)

The defence will be followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before the 26th of May at 

PhD Defence Eva Theunissen - Queering the View. A multi-sited study on bodies, digital/visual technologies and ethnographic invisibilities. - 17/6/2023

On Friday 16 June 2023, Eva Theunissen (Department of Communication Studies) cordially invites you to the public defence of her doctoral thesis 

Queering the View.

A multi-sited study on bodies, digital/visual technologies and ethnographic invisibilities. 

In response to significant developments in technology and society, as well as various social movements in the 1980s and 1990s, many social scientists have started taking seriously the body as an object of research. Criticizing modernist approaches to the body as an abstract, unitary and discursive domain, contemporary feminist and materialist approaches foreground bodies’ vitality and multiplicity, their capacity to affect and be affected. Indeed, today our physical bodies are increasingly entangled with digital and visual technologies. Carrying many markers of our identities and biographies such as gender, race, sexuality, age and dis/ability, human bodies are also closely associated with issues of in/visibility, surveillance and power.My dissertation looks at the intersection of three main strands of research: the body, digital/visual technologies and issues of methodological invisibility. Despite an increased recognition of the body in social science scholarship, I argue that the attention most often goes out to the bodies of “others”, our research participants. In my dissertation, “queering the view” involves shifting focus to the role my own body has played during ethnographic fieldwork. Contributing to the growing body of MeToo Anthro literature, the first part of my dissertation urges for more attention to the embodied power dynamics of fieldwork. The second part looks at the role of digital images and technologies for queer bodies and visibility. This section builds on a multi-sited online and offline study of queer bodies and their relationships with digital screens, cameras and image-making practices. The third and final part of my dissertation looks at the use of digital/visual tools and technologies in qualitative social science research. Applying various non-dualistic lenses to research methods and questions of epistemology, this section explores the various roles technologies play in ethnographic fieldwork and knowledge production.

Practical information

  • Promovendus: Eva Theunissen
  • Promotors: prof. dr. Paolo S.H. Favero & prof. dr. Luc Pauwels
  • When? Friday 16 June 2023, 3 PM
  • Where? Hof van Liere - A. Dürerzaal (Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp)

The defence is followed by a reception, please confirm your attendance before 6 June 2023 at 

PhD defence Rikkert Horemans - Reconceptualizing Iran's Regional Influence: The Case for Authority - 21/06/2023

On Wednesday 21 June 2023, Rikkert Horemans (Department of Political Science) cordially invites you to the public defence of his doctoral thesis

Reconceptualizing Iran's Regional Influence: The Case for Authority

This dissertation provides a new theoretical and methodological approach for understanding the nature of Iran's influence over its regional allies. It argues that the existing literature lacks comprehensiveness, empirical accuracy, and theoretical solidity, leading to flawed conclusions about the scope, domain, and limits of Iran's power over these actors. It instead proposes to conceptualize Iran’s influence relationships as relations of international authority, and argues that an authority-based approach avoids the limitations of overly idealist or rationalist analyses of Iranian regional influence.
In an original theoretical contribution, the dissertation posits that authority-relationships develop through a process of discursive claim-making and recognition that occurs at the dyadic level. It contends that recognition is never flawless and varies based on the discursive backgrounds of the receiving audiences, leading to differences in the type of authority relationship that emerges between the claimant and its various subordinates. The dissertation presents a method through which the process of recognition can be systematically documented for each individual authority relationship, based on a comparison between the narrative through which authority is claimed and its resonance in the discourse of the recognizing audience. This method, which can be applied to all cases of international authority regardless of the social and historical context in which they appear, allows for a detailed understanding of the scope and limits of authority at the dyadic level.

To illustrate the purchase of the theoretical and methodological innovations, the framework is applied to the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah. The dissertation finds that Hezbollah acknowledges Iran's authority to a significant extent but adjusts some of the fundamental principles of the Iranian claim to fit its Lebanese and Arab nationalist discursive environment. As a result, the degree of power that Iran can legitimately wield over Hezbollah is more limited than intended in the Iranian claim.

Practical Information
Promovendus: Rikkert Horemans
Promotor: prof. dr. Jorg Kustermans
Date: Wednesday 21 June 2023, 4 PM
Location: Promotiezaal Klooster van de Grauwzusters (Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp)
The defence will be followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before 16 June 2023 by e-mail at

PhD defence Yves Fassin - Alternatives to the H-index and categorizations of publication output with practical applications in managment research - 23/06/2023

On Friday 23 June 2023, Yves Fassin (Department of Sociology) cordially invites you to the public defence of his doctoral thesis

Alternatives to the H-index and categorizations of publication output with practical applications in management research.

For many years, bibliometrics have made their entrance into research evaluation and monitoring of research. The h-index launched in 2005 is one of the most widely used but also most criticized indicators. While its simplicity, ease of calculation and synthetic character stand at the origin of its success, serious questions have been raised around the comparison between disciplines and around the possibility to capture a researcher’s oeuvre into one single indicator.

This study leads to several propositions for alternative h-related indexes and to a categorization of articles in the function of their position on the citation distribution curve. The various proposed variants have been tested on specific applications, principally in the field of management and bibliometrics.

I extend the notion of probably approximately correct (PAC) to bibliometric indicators and the whole field of bibliometrics, and I conclude that the use of bibliometrics implies ethical issues. Bibliometrics can offer valuable assistance in research assessment when applied fairly and responsibly. Researchers deserve to be evaluated on their scientific merit, the contents of their publications, and their impact on society.

Practical information
Promovendus: Yves Fassin
Promotors: Prof. Dr. Tim Engels & Dr. Raf Guns
When? Friday 23 June 2023, 3:45 PM
Where? Campus Middelheim, Middelheimlaan 1, 2020 Antwerpen, Gebouw G, room G0.04

The defence will be followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before the 16th of June at

PhD Defence Aaron Hyzen - Propaganda in the 21st Century: Ideology, Truth and Power - 26/06/2023

On Monday 26 June 2023, Aaron Hyzen (Department of Communication Studies) cordially invites you to the public defence of his doctoral thesis

Propaganda in the 21st Century: Ideology, Truth and Power

This Ph.D. dissertation outlines a contemporary theoretical framework for propaganda, combining current scholarship with classic literature, and applies it across several “typical” and “innovative” instances of propaganda to assess the frameworks’ veracity and utility. The dissertation subsequently elaborates on the foundational characteristics of propaganda to build a broad framework for analysis that captures diverse cases of propaganda, from “typical” state propaganda regarding the Russia-Ukraine war to the immersive roleplay experience of QAnon. Though it remains to be seen how the current technological advances reconfigure propaganda and our politics: there is great potential for both progress and regress regarding open, accurate and reliable information. Governments and corporations take it seriously, funding for propaganda reaches well into the billions and often boasts magnificent results, making it a stimulating and foreboding area of academic research.

Practical information
Promovendus: Aaron Hyzen
Promotors: prof. dr. Hilde Van den Bulck & prof. dr. Steve Paulussen
Date: Monday 26 June 2023, 3 PM
Location: Promotiezaal Klooster van de Grauwzusters (Lange St-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp) or online via Zoom
The defence will be followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before 20 June at

PhD defence Josefine Vanhille - Climate change & social inequality - 27/06/2023

On Tuesday 27 June 2023, Josefine Vanhille (Department of Sociology) cordially invites you to the public defence of her doctoral thesis

Climate change and social inequality.
Essays on the distributional dimension of environmental policy in the Belgian welfare state.

From an inequality perspective, climate change and broader environmental problems can be characterised as fundamentally distributive issues. Social inequalities are situated both in responsibility for these problems, in vulnerability to their consequences, and in the agency to address them. Applied to Belgium/Flanders and from a household consumption perspective, the dissertation examines (1) how ecological footprints are distributed across the Belgian or Flemish population (2) what this implies for the size and distribution of environmental policy effects on household income, and (3) under what conditions policies can be designed to reconcile climate and environmental objectives with desirable social outcomes. For energy renovations and water tariffs, the research addresses how climate change and climate policy link with essential human needs, and that observed social inequalities require conscious and proactive attention in the design of policy measures.

Practical information
Promovendus: Josefine Vanhille
Promotors: prof. dr. Gerlinde Verbist, prof. dr. Tim Goedemé & prof. dr. Bea Cantillon
When? Tuesday 27 June 2023, 3 PM
Where? Stadscampus, Aula C.001 (Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp)

PhD defence Evelyn Goffin - From sensemaking to school improvement? Exploring educational professionals' use of school performance feedback - 3/7/2023

On Monday 3 July 2023, Evelyn Goffin (Department of Training and Education Sciences) cordially invites you to the public defence of her doctoral thesis

From sensemaking to school improvement?
Exploring educational professionals' use of school performance feedback.

In this dissertation, we examine how teachers and school leaders make sense and make use of school performance feedback (SPF) from external standardized assessments, and we explore factors that promote or hinder these processes. The conceptual framework is rooted in research on data-based decision making in education, SPF systems, and score reporting. We also incorporated perspectives from social and cognitive psychology, such as attribution theory, the theory of planned behavior, and, particularly, sensemaking. Theoretical insights are presented, as well as findings from original empirical research that was conducted within the context of the Flemish national assessments and parallel tests.

The different studies highlight that making sense and making use of educational data in general, and SPF in particular, is not a rational, linear, predictable endeavor. Findings confirm that the mere availability of data such as SPF does not necessarily drive data-driven or data-based decision making in schools, and illustrate that SPF use is no one-size-fits-all phenomenon. Implications for policy and practice include that more emphasis should be placed on data cultures and collective sensemaking, on (the balance between) ownership and clear expectations regarding data use, and on the provision of sufficient cues in SPF to aid sensemaking. By involving users and taking into account actual user interpretations to a greater extent, (the delivery of) SPF can be improved. Such measures are necessary to ensure that SPF lives up to its potential: to effectively inform educational decisions and truly contribute to school improvement.

By examining how teachers and school leaders engage with SPF from external standardized assessments, this dissertation is at the nexus of educational effectiveness and school improvement research.

Practical information
Promovendus: Evelyn Goffin
Promotors: prof. dr. Jan Vanhoof (UAntwerpen) & prof. dr. Rianne Janssen (KU Leuven)
When? Monday 3 July 2023, 10 AM
Where? Stadscampus, Hof van Liere, F. de Tassiszaal (Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp)
The defence will be followed by a reception; please confirm your attendance before Friday 23 June via the online registration form or via email to ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​