PhD position Adaptive Program Management in Spatial and Infrastructure Planning


Faculty of Spatial Sciences


University of Groningen

Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has established an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative university offering high-quality teaching and research. Its 31,000 students are encouraged to develop their own individual talents through challenging study and career paths. Students are provided with a well-balanced, high quality curriculum across a multitude of disciplines. The University of Groningen is an international centre of knowledge: it belongs to the best research universities in Europe and is allied with prestigious partner universities and networks worldwide.

We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate within the Faculty of Spatial Sciences (FSS), department of Spatial Planning & Environment. The FSS is the only independent faculty of Spatial Sciences in The Netherlands. The Faculty consists of approximately 100 members of staff, 100 PhD students and around 1000 undergraduate students. We focus on high quality teaching and research in the fields of social and economic geography, demography, and spatial planning. With a single collective research theme of 'towards Wellbeing, Innovation and Spatial Transformation' (tWIST), it is our mission to produce research, which is world leading, distinctive, and policy-relevant. With two bachelor and eight master programs, we provide a wide range of courses within the fields of geography and spatial sciences.

Job description

The domain of research is the field of transport infrastructure planning. Transport infrastructure systems facilitate and organize transport flows within and between cities and regions. Nowadays, these systems (both regarding their physical and organizational dimension) are becoming increasingly complex. New rapid, often uncertain, sometimes desirable and sometimes responsive developments, such as sustainable and smart mobility, the energy transition, the circular economy, climate development and IT development require the possibility of (relatively fast) adaptation. Most of these developments are area-specific and require integrated infrastructure and spatial planning solutions.

The increasing complexity also results in a greater degree of unpredictability and consequently uncertainty regarding policy formulation, decision-making and policy implementation. Current approaches offer only limited opportunities to respond to this complexity. Both in transport infrastructure and spatial planning the concepts as adaptivity, adaptive planning, adaptive programming, adaptive decision-making and adaptive management are frequently used to indicate the degree of adaptability of policies, programs and projects to changing circumstances. Adaptivity therefore appears to be a key concept in learning to deal better with uncertainty.

There is ample literature on adaptivity. However, what appears to be missing is an analysis of coordinated adaptive decision-making, programming and implementation, given a policy with its dynamics and the specific institutional setting of transport infrastructure planning. The objective of the research is therefore to gain insight into the adaptive capacity of transport infrastructure planning, to provide recommendations on how to increase this, and particularly role of programmes and programme management in increasing the adaptive capacity. Based on this research objective, the following main research question is formulated: Which institutional factors influence coordinated adaptive decision-making, programming and implementation of projects in dynamic regional transport infrastructure systems?

Since programs can function as a bridge between policy and implementation, the research focuses in particular on the adaptive capacity of programs. Programs can function on the one hand as a means for targeted policy implementation, on the other hand as a "buffer" for environmental impact and as a means for adaptation for projects. Until now, studies on this subject have been theoretically driven and abstract in nature. Therefore, it will be interesting to increase insights on to the concept of adaptivity for programs and to position programs better in the chain from policy formulation to policy implementation.

The research is conceived as case study research, in which data is collected through document research, interviews, embedded or action research, workshops and focus groups. An important factor here is a "grounded approach" aimed at the intensive involvement of the practice right from the start of problem definition. Because of the focus on transport infrastructure planning in relation to spatial development, the research will focus on the current (Dutch) regional area-oriented accessibility programs. The research is sponsored by Rijkswaterstaat and conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations in The Netherlands.


We are looking for a social, enthusiastic and ambitious candidate with a master’s degree (preferably a research master) in (spatial) planning, public administration, organizational studies or policy sciences. The ideal candidate is experienced in working with qualitative research methods (case study, institutional analysis, action research), with conducting research in (planning) practice, and has a deep interest in and knowledge of infrastructure planning and/or spatial planning. Candidates should be motivated to connect science to practice, should be excellent in academic writing, should have excellent communication skills, and should be able to cooperate in a multidisciplinary team. Experience in, or knowledge of, planning practice with regard to the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Rijkswaterstaat and regional and local authorities in the Netherlands is a plus. Dutch proficiency, or the ability and willingness to achieve this within one year, is an absolute plus.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 12 months.

We offer in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:
• a salary starting from € 2,325 which increases yearly to a maximum of € 2,972
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income in May
• an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance in December
• a full-time temporary appointment for a period of in principle four years, under the condition of a positive assessment at the end of the first year.

Intended starting date: 1 September 2019

An assessment may be part of the procedure, consisting of psychological tests and an interview.

How to apply
Do you meet our qualification criteria? If yes, your application should include:
1. A motivation letter (1A4 max) (letter of motivation attachment)
2. Your CV (CV attachment)
3. A scan of your diploma including transcripts (extra attachment)
4. Proof of English proficiency (extra attachment 2)
5. Other relevant documents (extra attachment 3).

You can submit your application until 15 August 11.59pm / before 16 August 2019 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

The documents 1-4 are compulsory and please note that incomplete application packages will not be taken into consideration.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our University. We are committed to building a diverse faculty so you are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP), and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers,

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Prof. Wim Leendertse

Dr Ward Rauws

Dr Tim Busscher

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 219375

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