Ph.D. Migration (Belgium) Deadline: Sept. 25, 2019

Vrije Universiteit Brussels

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Starting on

December 1, 2019


Four Years



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Program Details

The Vrije Universiteit Brussels is offering a fulltime PhD-scholarship on the theoretical and data gaps in migration research.

Uncertainties related to the migration phenomenon are the main challenges with estimating and projecting migration. Identification of the (contextual, measurement and model) uncertainties and taking the necessary measures to cope with those challenges through better theoretical frameworks and better data will enable more accurate migration scenarios. It is therefore crucial to detect the limits of theoretical understanding of how social, economic, cultural and political factors affect the volume, direction and nature of migration. The diversity of motives behind migration flows, and the emergence of new, fluid types of migration that transcend the dichotomies of the past (such as the short-term versus long-term mobility) make it all the more difficult to conceptualize migration in the contemporary world. Moreover, for the policy makers, it is essential to work with appropriate data on migration during all phases of the policy cycle and it is crucial to strengthen international migration statistics to better inform the public debate and to address migration challenges effectively. In recent years there have been significant improvements in the availability and use of migration data, however, gaps remain. Data gaps in terms of availability, quality, accessibility, discoverability and harmonisation currently restrict releasing the full potential of the data and the effective
identification of areas where data is non-existent or incomplete. Main restrictions with the existing migration data hindering the accuracy of the predictive scenarios are timing problem, quality of data, insufficient methodological clarification on the definitions, disaggregation level of some variables in some datasets. In addition to that, the data fail to catch up with the contemporary migration dynamics, such as forced migration due to the conflicts and environmental threats. Consequently, in order to have more accurate predictive scenarios it is essential to have an accurate understanding of the data gaps and hence a more comprehensive approach is needed. This job call fits in the broader international research project ‘Enhanced migration measures from a multidimensional perspective”’ at the VUB.

Job content: Prepare a doctoral dissertation (under the supervision of Prof. Pieter-Paul Verhaeghe and Prof. Tuba Bircan) in the fields of Sociology, in which you

  • represent theoretical or conceptual gaps and signpost potential avenues for improvements in migration theorizing
  • reappraise the assumptions on the data quality by a thorough analysis ofdefinitions of migration and migrants, comparing the definitions at different levels such as legislation, data collecting institutes, countries (both sending and receiving), Europe and international.
  • detect the gaps in the migration data by determining and reviewing all possible sources of data on migration and migration flows and the definitions in use evaluate the compatibility of national and international records and provide some policy and methodology recommendations for improvement.

For your PhD you make use of mixed research methods. You are expected to support the teaching staff in their educational tasks (max. 10% of your time).

Eligibility/ Requirements

Master in Sociology, Demography, Political Science, Statistics or other social sciences
• High study grades are recommended
• Solid hands-on experience with statistical software (R, STATA, SPSS etc.) and advanced statistical modeling
• Data management and analysis capacities
• Demostrated ability to design and lead interview and focus group research (or willingness to master these skills)
• Excellent writing and analytical skills
• Proficiency in English is a must
• Knowledge of additional (non-European) languages is a plus
• Female candidates and members of ethnic minority or refugee groups are particularly encouraged to apply
• Prior experience in migration related research and/or relevant NGO works is preferred.

Application Process

The application must at least include the following attachments:

  • A brief curriculum vitae
  • A concise statement of the reason for applying
  • A copy of your master thesis
  • A copy of your detailed study results (and if already available a copy of your master diploma)

Your application should be written in English. Apply by sending an e-mail to both Prof. Pieter-Paul Verhaeghe and Prof. Tuba Bircan. For more information, please contact Prof. Tuba Bircan ( and/or Prof. Pieter-Paul Verhaeghe (

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