Vacancy: PhD researcher in International security in an era of great power competition

Project description

For the present call, we are looking for PhD projects relating to the theme of international security in an era of great power competition. The international system is undergoing profound changes. The return of great power competition and the shift in the fulcrum of global politics towards the Indo-Pacific region are challenging many of the assumptions, norms and structures that have defined international politics since the end of the Cold War. Moreover, the ongoing crisis in and around Ukraine underscores the fragility of Europe’s security and geopolitical architecture. These changes are having a pervasive impact on statecraft, the conduct of diplomacy and international security – and upon Europe’s place in world politics. Within this framework, PhD project proposals are invited to explore any of the following sub-themes:

  • Europe’s place in Sino-American competition. The intensifying great power competition between the United States and China has arguably become the structuring vector in international politics. How will this affect Europe? And to what extent will the European Union (EU) be able to autonomously make decisions regarding its relations with the United States and China? Projects may examine Europe’s ability to preserve an autonomous space in relation to the United States and China in different policy areas (e.g. foreign and security policy, technology, trade).
  • Deterrence and alliances. The deterrence guarantees extended by the United States to its European and East Asian allies have provided the foundation for the postwar international order. Yet the grammar of deterrence is being challenged by technological evolutions – witness the rise of competition in the informational and digital domains – just as political questions of defence burden-sharing and the relative autonomy of decision-making have featured prominently in discussions about the future of transatlantic and transpacific relations. Innovative projects could explore the contemporary function of deterrence and alliances in security and diplomacy, paying particular attention to the regional security architecture in East Asia and Europe, and the impact of technological change thereupon.
  • Geopolitical competition in and around Europe. The crisis in Ukraine, conflicts in Syria and Iraq and instability in North Africa and the Sahel have confronted Europeans with zero-sum struggles for geopolitical influence in and around Europe. Projects may explore the evolving balance of power in all its manifestations in the broader European neighbourhood and/or specific parts thereof (Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the Sahel, the Arctic, etc.).
  • Japan’s security role in East Asia and the Indo-Pacific. Japan has regional and global security interests. China’s economic and geostrategic rise as well as North Korea’s missile and nuclear program have led to important transformations in East Asia’s security situation. Such transformations have compelled Tokyo to rethink its foreign and security policies and adopt a more pro-active role in the region. Projects may explore the drivers and obstacles to Japan’s newfound security role in East Asia, Japan’s evolving attitude towards Sino-American competition, or the future of the US- Japan alliance.
  • Geopolitical competition in the maritime domain. Maritime disputes have become one of the world’s most important geopolitical issues in the last decade. This trend is most prominent in Asia, where China became more powerful and asserted its maritime claims. Other regions such as Europe, however, have also seen increased tensions, for example, in the Black Sea. We particularly encourage proposals that examine the role of maritime disputes in international relations, not necessarily confined to any particular region.
  • The technological dimension of geopolitics. Technologies from Artificial Intelligence to quantum computing have the potential to alter the global balance of power, as well as raise the prospect of new and intense security threats. Focusing on the geopolitics of technology raises questions about the industrial policies of states, a state’s innovation capacities and the growing relationship between defence and civilian actors. The introduction of emerging and disruptive technologies also has implications for global norms and regulations and this raises questions about whether existing arms control and non-proliferation agreements and measures are fit for purpose. We encourage proposals that seek to examine how global technological developments are affecting geopolitics and, in particular, how the strategies of the United States, China, Russia and European countries are evolving to meet the technology challenge.


The successful applicant must:

  • hold a Master’s degree in international relations, social sciences or law with excellent study results
  • be fully fluent in English (proficiency in Dutch and/or other official languages of the EU will be considered an asset)
  • have a thorough knowledge of international affairs, public policy or European studies


We offer employment as a full-time doctoral researcher.

Contract: full-time research grant for one year, renewable on an annual basis for a maximum of four years. Extension of the contract is subject to the agreement of the doctoral committee and the Board of the Brussels School of Governance. Remuneration is at the level of a full-time research assistant at a Flemish university (i.c. approximately 2.000 euros net income / month) and includes contributions for social security. Secondary employment is not allowed.

At least one (co)promotor of the project must be from the Centre for Security, Diplomacy and Strategy (CSDS). Co-supervision from other Belgian or foreign universities is encouraged. Successful candidates are expected to base themselves in Brussels to work at VUB premises. Office space and equipment will be provided along with a budget for travelling and other research-related expenses.

The PhD researcher will be expected to devote most of her/his time to research; additional tasks will include occasional teaching activities, event organisation and contributions to the overall development of CSDS (including the support of major research projects). The researcher will prepare papers, attend conferences and produce research publications as (s)he carries out the PhD. The BSoG is committed to creating and supporting a diverse work

environment and is an equal opportunity employer.


How to apply

The PhD candidate will be selected on the basis of the quality of the project proposal, her/his expertise, motivation, work experience and qualifications. The following application documents are to be consolidated into a single PDF file sent per email to (subject heading: “CSDS PhD Call 2022 ADDYOURSURNAME”)

  • Completed application form (download it here)
  • One-page motivation letter explaining the candidate’s interest in pursuing a PhD on the chosen topic
  • Curriculum vitae listing academic qualifications, relevant research experience and previous publications.
  • Project proposal featuring a literature review, a research question and proposed hypotheses, a methodological outline and indicative planning, condensed into no more than 2,500 words.
  • Copy of the highest obtained diploma and transcript of academic grades
  • Contact details (email and telephone) of two referees who are able to comment on the candidate’s academic merit and character.

The deadline for applications is 15 May 2022.

Short-listed candidates will be informed in the second half of May and interviews with top-listed candidates are expected to take place in June/early July. The successful candidate can start as of 1 October 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter.


Further information

For further inquiries, please visit the page of the CSDS Research Centre and contact CSDS Director Prof. Dr. Luis Simon ( and BSoG Vice Dean for Research Alexander Mattelaer ( if necessary.