PhD position Boundary Spanners in Integrated Infrastructure Renewal (1.0 FTE)


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 the single collective research theme “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 programmes, we provide a wide range of courses within the fields of geography and the spatial sciences.

Job description

We are looking for a PhD candidate on the topic “Boundary Spanning in Integrated Infrastructure Renewal” within the research programme “Sustainable Networks”. This research programme is supported by and implemented in collaboration with Rijkswaterstaat, part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. Rijkswaterstaat is responsible for the development and provision of the main infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands. The research programme focuses on issues of spatial and institutional design, cross-sector collaboration, and network integration in the planning and realization of road and water infrastructure development.

The research project focuses on the interplay between institutional rules and structures (meso-level) – such as multi-year investment programmes, public-public collaborations, and public-private partnerships – and boundary spanning behaviour (micro-level) in integrated infrastructure renewal projects. The focus of planning and public administration is often on the design of organizational structures and rules involved in infrastructure planning and collaboration. However, in practice an often-heard explanation for successes and failures in infrastructure development and provision in general, and for the renewal of integrated infrastructures in particular, is that “success is largely dependent on the people involved”. This research project addresses this particular issue, using a framework focusing on boundary spanning and boundary spanning behaviour. Boundary spanners are individuals who are proficient in working in cross-sectoral, collaborative environments. They coordinate, facilitate, and service the processes of collaboration between diverse sets of interests and agencies.

Research questions include:
1. What are the opportunities for investments in the integrated renewal of infrastructure
2. What opportunities do the institutional structures and rules provide for these investments and to what extent are they seized in practice
3. How can boundary spanners effectively facilitate and coordinate the seizing of existing opportunities and the creation of new ones?

The research project adopts a practice-oriented approach, integrating scientific and practical knowledge on infrastructure planning and renewal, institutional design, and boundary spanning. Possible data collection includes project databases from Rijkswaterstaat, participatory observations and action research, and interviews. Data are analyzed for multiple cases applying methods including GIS, institutional analysis, and network analysis. Data collection and analysis will be conducted in close cooperation with Rijkswaterstaat.


We are looking for a social, enthusiastic, and ambitious you with an MSc degree (preferably a research master) in (Spatial) Planning or a related discipline such as Public Administration, Organizational Studies, Organizational Sociology, or Policy Sciences. You are experienced in working in interdisciplinary settings, working with qualitative data and research methods (e.g., GIS, case study research, institutional analysis, and network analysis), conducting research in (planning) practice, and you have knowledge on and a strong interest in infrastructure planning and renewal. You should be motivated to connect science to practice, have excellent academic writing skills, have excellent communication skills, and you should be able to participate in a multidisciplinary team. Given the Dutch research context, Dutch proficiency, or the ability and willingness to achieve this within one year, is an absolute plus.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

We offer in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement for Dutch Universities:
• a salary starting from € 2,325 which increases yearly to a maximum of € 2,972 gross per month
• 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.

The intended starting date is 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. Motivation letter (1 A4 max.) (letter of motivation attachment)
2. Your CV (CV attachment)
3. Scan of your diploma including transcripts (extra attachment)
4. Proof of English proficiency (extra attachment 2)
5. Other relevant documents (extra attachment 3).

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

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).

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:

Dr Tim Busscher

Dr Stefan Verweij

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 219377

Digital application form