Interdisciplinary PhD Scholarship on Cryptocurrencies and Sanctions Regimes


Faculty of Arts


University of Groningen

Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has enjoyed an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative center of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Balanced study and career paths in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 36,000 students and researchers to develop their own individual talents. Belonging to the best research universities in Europe and joining forces with prestigious partner universities and networks, the University of Groningen is truly an international place of knowledge.

Job description

The Faculty of Arts and Campus Fryslân (both at the University of Groningen, NL) offer a four year scholarship to complete a PhD within a joint interdisciplinary project led by Dr Francesco Giumelli ( and Dr Oskar Gstrein ( The proposed PhD research plan will be embedded in the department of International Relations and International Organization at the Faculty of Arts and the department of Governance and Innovation at Campus Fryslân.

There are approximately 15.000 cryptocurrencies available to the 300 million users worldwide in a market that is estimated to be around USD 2 trillion. As an organizational and governance principle, such technologies traditionally emphasize transparency and individual autonomy. They can also facilitate pseudo-/anonymity and the opportunity to operate outside of the mainstream financial system.

The proliferation of cryptocurrencies might pose a serious threat to international sanctions. Especially in the last twenty years, sanctions increasingly target financial assets and financial transactions involving certain individuals and firms. Thus, it became crucial to hide the ultimate beneficiaries or owners of assets and financial resources in order to continue operating on the financial markets. De-facto, decentralized financial systems create vulnerabilities to security regimes as they might facilitate sanctions evasion. Yet, surprisingly little research has been done on this theme.

We invite PhD proposals to investigate the impact that distributed ledger technologies (e.g. Bitcoin, Ethereum) have on the international financial system in the context of targeted sanctions.

There are a number of governance challenges that become evident from looking at cryptocurrencies and sanctions. For instance, while the rights and responsibilities of physical individuals and legal entities (firms) are laid down in domestic and international laws, the responsibility in blockchain appears to be diffused. Moreover, the regulation requirements often clash with limits posed by fundamental rights, such as the rights to privacy and data protection. Therefore, this research project also allows us to contribute to the classic debate of individual rights (privacy) versus collective needs (security). In general, this research topic speaks to the broader theme of how (new) technologies affect global governance.

From a disciplinary perspective, this PhD project is located at the crossroads of international relations, EU law, as well as public and international law.


The PhD student is expected:

● to have a thorough training in research skills relating to the fields of international relations, EU law and/or public international law
● to have a completed MA degree related to one of the areas mentioned above with an excellent academic record (MA thesis grade: min. 8/10)
● to have a special interest in interdisciplinarity and willingness to bridge between international relations and relevant legal aspects
● to be fluent in English (both oral and written)
● to be able and willing to work in an interdisciplinary environment
● to be able to finish the PhD thesis in four years
● to enjoy planning, taking initiative, and academic writing
● to have a desire to publish
● knowledge of both Ukrainian and/or Russian is an asset, since the current situation in these countries might be of particular relevance to carry out the project.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

The successful candidate will receive a scholarship € 2,249 gross per month. You will be required to be resident in Groningen.

General information about the University of Groningen’s PhD scholarship programme can be found here:

The starting date is 1 November 2022 at the latest

Job Application

Your application (uploaded in one pdf) should include:

• a brief letter of motivation
• a CV, including contact details of two academic referees
• a research proposal of up to 2,000 words, covering (a) state of the art, (b) main research question, key objectives, and relevance, (c) the proposed (methodological) approach, and (d) the proposed timetable for the writing of your thesis. This proposal should correspond to the project description above
• a writing sample of no more than 5,000 words, such as an essay or part of a Master’s thesis
• certified official transcripts of your academic degrees.

Official documents must be in the English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or Dutch language. Any translation of originals not in these languages must be authenticated.

We recommend you to contact either Francesco Giumelli or Oskar Gstrein before applying for the scholarship.

You may apply for this position until 17 July 23:59 pm / before 18 July 2022 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

Note that the procedure will include interviews. Selected candidates will be invited for an online interview. Interviews are scheduled to take place in the week of 25 July.

The University of Groningen strives to be a university in which students and staff are respected and feel at home, regardless of differences in background, experiences, perspectives, and identities. We believe that working on our core values of inclusion and equality are a joint responsibility and we are constructively working on creating a socially safe environment. Diversity among students and staff members enriches academic debate and contributes to the quality of our teaching and research. We therefore invite applicants from underrepresented groups in particular to apply. For more information, see also our diversity policy webpage:[…]/

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:

Francesco Giumelli

Oskar Gstrein

Nadja Zadorina (for questions regarding the submission procedure)

In your application, please always include the job opening ID B037222

Digital application form