Interdisciplinary PhD projects Teaching Academy Groningen (3.0 FTE)


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University of Groningen

The University of Groningen is a comprehensive research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen. Quality has been our top priority for over four hundred years, and with success: the University is currently in or around the top 100 on several influential ranking lists.

The Teaching Academy Groningen (TAG) was launched in 2017 as an interdisciplinary Community of Practice for lecturers at the University of Groningen. The TAG’s mission is to integrate the entire landscape of teaching development, innovation, research and policy within the UG and provide a platform to share knowledge and work together. One of our aims is to support the development of interdisciplinary research initiatives in the field of higher education with the ultimate aim to help further improve education at the University of Groningen. To facilitate this, the TAG will have three PhD positions available to help foster interdisciplinary collaborations.

Job description

We are looking for talented PhD candidates who wish to do a PhD research project on an interdisciplinary topic and within the scope of the Teaching Academy Groningen Community of Research into Higher Education (please visit Three PhD positions are available within the scope of three projects themes and their qualifications which are listed below. As a PhD student, you will conduct independent and original scientific research, report results via peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, and ultimately a PhD thesis. Being part of a cutting-edge research programme, you will receive research training as well as a varied educational training program including transferable skills and future (academic or non-academic) career training for after the PhD trajectory, in the context of the Career Perspective Series.

Project 1. Professionalizing Online and Blended/Hybrid Education @ the University of Groningen

Supervisors: Prof. Jan-Willem Strijbos (Department of Educational Sciences - Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences), Prof. Hanke Korpershoek (Department of Educational Sciences - Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences), Dr Angeliki Mali (Institute for Science Education and Communication, Faculty of Science and Engineering), Dr Jolien Mouw (Department of Educational Sciences - Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences).

The coronavirus pandemic has clearly highlighted the importance of investing in online education or combinations of online and on-campus education, such as blended and hybrid education. During the pandemic, lecturers are making huge efforts to convert their courses and assessments into an online format. Although an important pedagogical challenge for lecturers is the attainment of learning outcomes set for a course (e.g., practical skills like clinical and laboratory skills, or critical reflection), so is securing the active participation of students taking the course—during the pandemic, student motivation declined in online courses due to the limited contact with fellow students and lecturers. To develop effective online and blended/hybrid teaching beyond mere use of video, chat or discussion forums in replacement of face-to-face teaching, we need a better insight into the mechanisms of online and blended/hybrid education.

In response to the pandemic the University of Groningen (UG) has strengthened existing support structures as well as implemented new forms of support (e.g., communities have been using the UG online platform to foster the sharing of approaches to online teaching and learning, course design, specific software tools and best practices). However, the design of courses in terms of digital learning materials—which we view broadly in terms of content, pedagogy and technology—as well as course delivery and course evaluation (and subsequently, course improvement), remain a core responsibility of the lecturer. Despite the ‘early adopters’ among lecturers, who implemented digital learning materials and online or blended approaches long before the pandemic, many lecturers remain hesitant. Therefore, a focus of this research project is on the ways lecturers collaborate on the design of online courses with other experts in communities. Likewise, the degree to which students experience each other as “real” classmates in the communication is important in online and blended/hybrid settings.

In sum, the project addresses the effectiveness of different forms of online and/or blended/hybrid teaching aiming at investigating which innovations are designed and implemented, and if they ‘work well’ at the UG, how they ‘work’, for whom they ‘work’ and under which conditions they ‘work’.

Project 2. Wellbeing and performance @ the University of Groningen

Supervisors: Prof. Joke Fleer (Department of Health Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen), Dr Ellen Jansen (Department of Teacher Education - Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences), Dr Marjon Fokkens (Department of Teacher Education - Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences).

There is an increasing body of literature showing that both university students (i.e. bachelor, master, and PhD-students) and academic staff (i.e. teachers, postdocs, -assistant/associate- professors) experience lower levels of wellbeing, due to high levels of perceived academic distress (Baik et al.,2017). Distress affects academic performance negatively (Stallman, 2010) whereas positive emotions enhance academic outcomes (Panger, Tryon, & Smith, 2014). At a student level, reports show that up to 80% experiences symptoms of stress, depression and/or anxiety, and many have mental health issues that warrant help. Several causes of high stress levels have been identified, such as individual difference variables (e.g. perfectionism), factors related to the developmental phase (e.g. leaving parental home, fears about the future, mounting social and academic pressure) and organizational factors (e.g. the system of student loans, and binding study recommendation). At a staff level, ample research shows high levels of stress and burnout among academic staff as well. Causes of stress can be found in experienced role conflicts (e.g. teacher and researcher), role ambiguity, difficulties maintaining a work-life balance, structurally working overtime and having fixed term employment contracts. Academic staff generally have numerous responsibilities, including teaching, research and administration.

The work environment/academic culture impacts the wellbeing of students and academic staff. For instance, our excellence policy seems to come with a prize. It is increasingly acknowledged that our current academic system elicits too much stress and affects mental wellbeing negatively. A recent publication by public knowledge institutions and research financiers (VSNU, NFU, KNAW, NOW and ZonMw, 2019), promotes a modernization of the academic system. Eventually, a culture stimulating cooperation within universities is beneficial for research and teaching quality as well as the wellbeing of students and staff. The report by VSNU et al (2019) described the need for a culture shift. But how to get there?

The aim of this research program is to gain further understanding of the sources of academic wellbeing and performance among students and staff, in order to derive adequate and efficient (preventive) intervention strategies to improve resilience at both student and staff level, and the much-needed culture shift at faculty and university level. The research program focuses on three levels in academia, i.e. (1) the students’ level (i.e. bachelor, master, and PhD-students), (2) the academic staff level (i.e. teachers, postdocs, -assistant/associate- professors) and (3) the organizational/systems level.

Project 3. Engaging with Academic Practice and Labour Market Entry: lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic

Supervisors: Dr Viktor Venhorst (Faculty of Spatial Sciences), Prof. Jouke van Dijk, (Faculty of Spatial Sciences).

The COVID-19 crisis has been disruptive in all university educational programs, but perhaps even more so in courses and programs that lean into such a practical component more heavily. Internships, excursions and fieldworks were cancelled, trimmed down, or needed to be done online. But the impact may have been wider: online education rather than face-to-face collaboration may have influenced the building of tacit knowledge and softer skills that come with finding your role and niche in your academic community as a student.

Even though the resilience that has been necessary to adapt and succeed under these circumstances may yet prove fruitful, the ability of the affected cohorts of students to effectively engage with the relevant academic practical skills may have come under pressure. This in turn may have “scarring” effects, not unlike those of prolonged unemployment, which may negatively affect their entry into the labour market. This comes at a time when more and more research universities are developing a notion of “academic employability”. Arguably this was traditionally the domain of the (higher) vocational institutions. However, as our understanding of what constitutes employability across individuals and sectors sharpens, so does the demand for a better identification of, and training in, what we could refer to as academic practical skills (Durazzi, 2019, Suleman, 2018).

Project objective: The university has had to adjust, as have the students. It is important to understand to what extent these adjustments have helped mitigate the effects of the pandemic. They hold important lessons for the future of education in academic practice. In this project, we aim to build on these adjustments to identify opportunities for students to build what we describe as their “academic practice” and their impact on their entry into the labour market after graduation.


We are looking for ambitious candidates who preferably meet the following requirements:

● strong conceptual thinking with the desire and capacity to connect theory to practical challenges and solutions
● you have a demonstrable interest in, and motivation and ambition for research;
● interdisciplinary affinity with social sciences and a keen interest in topics related to education research
● thorough knowledge of research designs and quantitative and/or qualitative research methods
● strong intrinsic motivation, organizational, planning and communication skills and a proactive and independent attitude in research in a practice setting, in close collaboration with other stakeholders
● excellent writing skills, experience with academic writing
● good oral and written command of the English language (IELTS-academic 6.5 or equivalent; e.g. at least 92 on TOEFL internet-based, CEFR B2 but preferably close to C1)
● a willingness to become an active member of the Community of Expertise for research into higher education at the Teaching Academy Groningen.

Specific qualifications for each project are outlined below:

Project 1:
● A (research) Master degree with a strong educational sciences orientation. For example, a (research) master degree or specialization in Educational Sciences, Education in Specific Disciplines, Learning Sciences, (Educational) Psychology, Educational Technology (obtained before 1 September 2021)
● Affinity with higher education and in particular with the themes of learning and instruction, design of learning environments (face-to-face, online, blended/hybrid), and/or educational technology (for example as part of the master thesis)
● Affinity with both lecturer and student views on and experiences with educational practices.

Project 2:
● A background in either the social sciences (preferable a Research Master) or epidemiology (clinical)
● You are highly interested in higher education, have affinity with and knowledge of the Dutch higher education system
● You have experience with (or a strong motivation to become proficient in) quantitative as well as qualitative methods for data collection and analysis;
● A good ability to communicate verbally and in writing in English; basic understanding of Dutch would be an advantage.

You will have the opportunity to participate in national and international networks and consortia including the opportunity to contribute scientific knowledge to initiatives at the interface between science and society nationally (e.g. Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health) and at international conferences.

Project 3:
● A (research) Master degree in (Economic) Geography, Demography, Economics, Pedagogy, Educational Sciences or a related social-science discipline (obtained before 1 September 2021)
● Affinity with higher education, and in particular with the theme employability and the link between education and the labour market.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

We offer you, following the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

● a salary of € 2,395 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,061 gross per month in the fourth and final year for a full-time working week
● a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income and an 8.3% year-end bonus
● a full-time position of 1.0 FTE for four years.

The successful candidates will first be offered a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for the other years. Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the next three years is to be expected. A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and the successful candidates will be enrolled in either the Graduate School of Behavioural and Social Sciences (, (project 1); the research schools of the GSMS ( and the ICO (, (project 2); the Graduate School of Spatial Sciences (, (project 3).

The intended starting date is 1 October 2021.

Deadline to apply: 30 June 2021

Job Application

Candidates must submit the following pdf documents:

1. a recent curriculum vitae
2. a letter of motivation mentioning which project you are applying for. Note that if you wish to apply for more projects, an indication of which project would be your first, second and/or third choice is required
3. a copy of your diplomas with a list of course grades
4. a copy of your master thesis (or equivalent)
5. contact details for two to three personal references.

We will only consider applications that include the 5 requirements listed above. Should you wish to apply for more projects, please indicate which project would be your first, second and/or third choice. While diplomas and master thesis may be written in national languages, we expect the application to be written in English.

Interviews for project 1 will be scheduled on 8 July, for project 2 on 13 July, and for project 3 on 9 July. Candidates may be asked to give a presentation. If there are several suitable candidates we might consider a second round.

For practical information please contact:

You can submit your application until 30 June 11:59pm / before 1 July 2021 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:

Prof. Jan Willem Strijbos - project 1

Prof. Joke Fleer - project 2

Dr Viktor Venhorst - project 3

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 221389-91

Digital application form