PhD Student

Last application date
Oct 05, 2022 00:00
RE22 - Department of European, Public and International Law
Limited duration
Master of Laws and/or Criminology (Final-year students are encouraged to apply as well)
Occupancy rate
Vacancy type
Research staff

Job description

Institutional embedding


Ghent University is a top 100 university. It is one of the major universities in Belgium and one of the largest universities in the Dutch language area. Over the course of its 200 year history Ghent University has built up a strong scientific reputation. Our 11 faculties and more than 80 departments offer a broad spectrum of high-quality research-based educational programs and conduct in-depth research within a wide range of scientific domains. Several of our research groups, centres and institutes are renowned worldwide and you will find many eminent scientists among our alumni, including multiple Noble prize winners. Employing more than 8,000 people we are a socially committed and pluralistic University that is open to all students, regardless of their ideological, political, cultural or social background. Our credo is ‘Dare to Think’, challenging everyone to question conventional views and to dare to take a nuanced point of view.


The Faculty of Law and Criminology provides academic teaching and services based on innovative scientific research. The education within these programs is supported by the innovative scientific research performed within the 3 faculty departments encompassing all possible disciplines within the fields of law and criminological sciences. The Faculty is housed in the historic centre of Ghent.


Human Rights in Context is embedded within the Faculty of Law and Criminology and the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University. The Programme was founded at the initiative of Prof Dr Yves Haeck and Prof Dr Clara Burbano-Herrera.

Our research vision is to conduct studies on the promotion, advancement, and respect of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. We reflect on how international human rights bodies function, and how to inspire better interaction between domestic and international law within its wider social and political context. Main features of the research include a comprehensive approach to public law and the high value placed on comparative law. The research is grounded in theory, and is often based on extensive fieldwork.

Our research goals reflect the Ghent University slogan 'Dare to Think', and we approach the research with a drive for lifelong learning. The research programme aspires to provide a critical space in academia for creating and sharing knowledge based on rigorous scientific research. In that sense, we see ourselves as scholars working in three spheres: research, research-led teaching, and service within and beyond Ghent University. For more information on the project and the research team, see

Assessing the Impact of Urgent Measures in Protecting At-Risk Detainees in Latin-America (IMPACTUM) is a large-scale research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) (GAP-101044852) and hosted at Ghent University (Belgium). The project is directed by Prof Dr Clara Burbano Herrera (PI) and aims to examine from an interdisciplinary perspective the impacts of urgent measures adopted by international human rights bodies to protect persons deprived of liberty in six Latin-American countries. This project combines research methods including desk research with (qualitative) empirical research methods.


Within the ERC-funded project (IMPACTUM) 2 full-time doctoral scholarships are offered for a period of 1 year each but can be extended to max 4 years based on a positive evaluation.

You will be a member of an interdisciplinary team consisting of legal scholars, criminologists and political scientists. Your task will be (1) to conduct research leading to a Ph.D on the impact of urgent measures and (2) to work together with the PI and the team on the implementation of the project.
We are particularly looking for 2 team members, namely one with a background in criminology (PhD1) and one with a background in law (PhD2) with interest in Latin-American studies, prisons and/or human rights, experience in analytical tasks, trained in qualitative research; and with a passion for communication.

The following tasks will be expected:

  • To write and successfully defend your PhD thesis within the funding period;
  • To focus your research on urgent measures within the Inter-American human rights system and the UN treaty body system, looking at the following Latin-American countries;
    • PhD1: Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru
    • PhD2: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua
  • To do field work using interviews and other qualitative methods, as well as desk research;
  • To contribute to the IMPACTUM research design, data collection, data analysis, and reporting of research findings;
  • To be an enthusiastic researcher interested in promoting the research outcome through participation in conferences and academic events;
  • To assist the PI with communication, dissemination activities on social media and the website, and with administrative tasks;
  • To contribute to the strong research tradition of the Faculty of Law and Criminology and Ghent University by pursuing excellence in their research and by publishing together with the team their findings in journals and with publishers that are internationally accepted as being of the highest quality;
  • To contribute to the scholarly activities of the research group by co-organising academic events such as expert workshops, public lectures, and international conferences;
  • To work together with members of the Programme for Studies on Human Rights in Context and contribute to a pleasant and stimulating atmosphere.

Job profile


Background and experience

  • You hold a master degree in criminology (PhD1) and/or in law (PhD2); final-year students are encouraged to apply as well;
  • You have proven experience in conducting research, preferably in the fields of human rights, vulnerable groups, and/or persons deprived of liberty;
  • Experience in organising academic events, planning meetings, writing and filing academic texts or reports may provide a surplus value;

Scientific knowledge and skills

  • Ability to perform in-depth and critical data analysis;
  • You have experience in publishing your research;
    Note: any publishing experience is valued, although experience with publishing in academic journals with peer review is preferred;
  • You have good knowledge of Nvivo, Wix, Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Access) or equivalent programmes and/or softwares.

Personal knowledge and skills

  • You have strong communication and presentation skills;
  • You should be able to work independently but also as part of a team;
  • You have a strong and proven passion for human rights, Latin-American studies, and/or prisons;
  • You have excellent academic English-language skills (oral and written);
  • You have passion for communication;
  • Fluency in Spanish and Dutch is recommended;

You are ready to relocate to Belgium as the main place of residence for the time of the contract, and to spend period(s) of time abroad for fieldwork as appropriate.


  • A full-time, fixed-term appointment for initially 1 year, renewable after positive evaluations up to 4 years;
  • You get the chance to further develop your research skills, while also benefiting from working with a large team on a prestigious European project. This also entails being involved in other activities that interest you at Ghent University;
  • You will be able to take the necessary courses on research methods offered by the UGent Doctoral School, and will receive full support from the UGent Human Rights Centre and the Programme for Studies on Human Rights in Context;
  • You will work in a dynamic, stimulating, and professional work environment in Ghent, as part of the research team of Human Rights in Context.
  • Your start date will ideally be 2 January 2023, although this can be negotiated;
  • Your remuneration will be determined by salary WM1-WM4 (if you hold a Master’s degree). Several elements are factored into the calculation of the exact salary, including other relevant prior experience and family situation. Click here for more information about our salary scales
  • All Ghent University staff members enjoy a number of benefits, such as a wide range of training and education opportunities, 36 days of holiday leave (on an annual basis for a full-time job) supplemented by annual fixed bridge days, and bicycle allowance. Click here for a complete overview of all the staff benefits (in Dutch)

How to apply


To apply, please send the following documents no later than 5 October 2022, at 23:59 (Central European Time - CET). We do not accept late applications!
Your application must include the following documents:

  • CV: your CV containing an overview of your study, work, career, fieldwork experience (if available) and publications.
  • Cover letter: your application letter (maximum 500 words). Please explain why you would want to join the project, what specific expertise you can bring to the project; and what you expect from this PhD programme.
  • Diploma and grades: a transcript of your degree(s) and grades
    o The required degree (if already in your possession);
    o If you have a foreign diploma in a language other than Belgium’s national languages (Dutch, French or German) or English, please add a translation in one of the mentioned languages;
    o A ‘Certificate of equivalence’ is required for diplomas awarded outside the European Union (This can be requested via
  • Other documents
    o A reference letter, preferably from a former employer or supervisor
    o A copy of one publication that demonstrates your theoretical skills and acquaintance with Latin-American studies, human rights, and/or prisons (can be your master thesis or a scholarly paper (no more than 50 pages in total).
    o A short (max. 50 words) motivation why you chose this piece (can be co-authored, a link to this article in your cover letter is also fine).

Note that the maximum file size for each field is 10 MB.

Applicants are asked to submit these documents as one pdf labelled

  • If you hold a master degree in law: “Application_FirstnameLastname_PhDLAW2022” :
  • If you hold a master degree in criminology: “Application_FirstnameLastname_PhDCRIMINOLOGY2022”

Via e-mail to with the email subject line

Selection timeline

  • Applications should be submitted on or before 5 October 2022 at 23.59h (Central European Time - CET).
  • A pre-selection will be made on the basis of the submitted applications. The candidates will be notified by end October whether they proceed to interview.
  • hortlisted applicants will be invited for an in-person or video conference interview organised by the middle November.
  • We aim to notify final candidates of the outcome of the selection process by end November.

Prior to the interview, shortlisted applicants will be asked to prepare a presentation. The interview will consist of the presentation followed-up by a Q&A.
During the selection interview, the quality and relevance for this position of the academic and practical experience of the candidates will be assessed.

As Ghent University maintains equal opportunities, equal treatment and equal access and diversity policy, everyone is encouraged to apply for this position. We ensure an objective and non-biased assessment procedure. Origin, ethnicity, gender, age, employment disability, sexual orientation and other identity factors will not be a factor in assessing the competences. Candidates who self-identify as belonging to vulnerable or minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply.
Any candidate who may require special facilities should indicate this in their application, and we will try to accommodate their request.


Please contact the principal investigator (PI) of the project, Prof Dr Clara Burbano Herrera, if you have further questions about this position and the vacancy: