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3 PhD positions in the field of Sustainability implications of the Circular Economy (1.0 FTE)

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences is looking for 3 PhD positions in the field of Sustainability implications of the Circular Economy (1.0 FTE). Are you interested? Then please read the full profile and apply.

10 maanden geleden


Domplein, Utrecht, Utrecht
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
36 - 40 uur


  1. PhD position in the field of 'Circular economy: policy discourses on circular economy and its key challenges' (ESR 1.1, 1.0 FTE)
  2. PhD position in the field of 'Circular economy: effects, successes and limitations of existing governance arrangements for key waste streams' (ESR 1.2, 1.0 FTE)
  3. PhD position in the field of 'Circular economy: waste stream leakages to Less Developed Countries (LDCS) ' (ESR 1.3, 1.0 FTE)

Supervisor: Dr. Walter Vermeulen and project partners.

Location: Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development (Faculty of Geosciences) Utrecht University (NL).


Establishing a circular economy (CE) (such that the maximum value is extracted from materials and waste generation minimised) is a major policy area within the European Union and elsewhere. Explicitly seen as increasing economic competitiveness and laying a foundation for environmental employment, circular economy policies are designed to increase resource efficiency and decrease carbon dependency. Notably, the many different fields of activity comprising the CE (e.g., re-use, recovery, recycling, eco-design amongst others) operate with varying degrees of effectiveness in different places and for different materials. These fields of activity have not been critically analysed as an interrelated social, technical, environmental and, significantly, spatial phenomenon. This programme will advance the critical analysis of the concept and sustainability implications of the circular economy by the training of 15 early stage researchers (ESRs) analysing circular economy related activity and initiatives in a range of geographic and economic settings. CRESTING is divided between 5 work packages (WP) analysing: current discourse and policy contexts (WP1); corporate engagement with the CE (WP2); public sector engagement in the CE (WP3); the potential for local economic development and employment from the CE (WP4); and measuring life cycle impacts and developing sustainability indicators relevant to the CE (WP5). With multidisciplinary and international supervisory teams including non-academic partners within each WP, CRESTING will 1) analyse the sustainability implications of the CE; 2) analyse the spatial dimension of the CE and 3) translate these analyses into specific actions for managing the transformation to the CE.

Applicants are encouraged to look at the CRESTING website for outlines of all 15 posts for ESRs. You can apply for up to four, indicating your order of preference in your cover letter.

Aims of projects at Utrecht:

The three ESRs in Utrecht are all contributing to a CRESTING work package WP1 on assessing circular economy practices and discourses. It will analyse discourses across science, policy and market stakeholders, as well as strengths and weaknesses of existing CE practices across a range of sectors, places and aspects of circularity.

ESR 1.1 examines policy discourses on circular economy and its key challenges. The project starts with a discourse analysis of modes of conceptualizing CE in diverse academic disciplines and clarifying conflicting interpretations. It works towards an identification and typology of parallel theoretical streams. It will elaborate as synthesis the Utrecht University - 9Rs approach, including principles of cascading and short loop circularity. Based on this the project makes a cross comparison of the discourses in the academic, policy and business domains and identification of implications for action. 1st supervisor/promotor: Dr. W.J.V. Vermeulen (Utrecht University); 2nd supervisor: Prof. dr. R. Salomone (Universita Degli Studi Di Messina).

ESR 1.2 analyses effects, successes and limitations of existing governance arrangements for key waste streams. This project includes a systematic analysis of key mechanisms in current waste hierarchy-based waste management strategies in selected member states, identifying the existing diversity in governance modes and instruments, key actors, instruments and institutional conditions. It analyses existing evidence of effects, success and limitations of these strategies for key waste streams, using aggregate national level data (EU and focus countries) and selected case studies. Strengths and weaknesses of current markets for recycled materials are studied, all leading to identification of key strategies for accelerating the implementation of circularity. 1st supervisor/promotor: Dr. W.J.V. Vermeulen (Utrecht University); 2nd supervisor: Prof. dr. Dermine-Brullot, (Universite De Technologie De Troyes).

ESR 1.3 analyses waste stream leakages to Less Developed Countries (LDCS) and alternatives for managing this issue. It will analyse current trends in waste leakages from Europe to LDCs (exports of materials, waste and used/2nd hand products), with focus on China and West Africa and determine the key drivers and enablers of these trends. It will explain the level of success of policy approaches to control these exports and determine how innovative initiatives promoting ‘sustainable’ reuse in LDCs can reduce the negative impacts of such leakages. 1st supervisor/promotor: Dr. W.J.V. Vermeulen (Utrecht University); 2nd supervisor: Dr. P. Deutz (University of Hull).


We are looking for a candidate with a proven background in environmental sciences or studies, supported by strong knowledge in the field of sustainable production and consumption and corporate sustainability and/or environmental governance. The candidate will collaborate with other members of the project team as well as with other researchers in the Copernicus Institute and in the CRESTING consortium. Also, a small contribution to the teaching effort of the Environmental Governance group, e.g. by supervising MSc students in course and for their MSc thesis, will be required for about 5-10% of the time.

The following qualifications are expected:

  1. the candidate holds a MSc degree in the areas of Environmental Sciences or studies, supported by strong knowledge in the field of sustainable production and consumption and corporate sustainability and/or environmental governance or a related field;
  2. previous knowledge in policy analysis, circular economy, including qualitative and qualitative research would be valuable;
  3. excellent English skills (written and oral) are required.
  4. The candidate should have a proven record that he/she can work both independently and as part of a team.

The position is for four years, covering the full PhD position. The candidate is expected to start in the mid/fall of 2018.


The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early Stage Researcher receives a salary plus allowances in accordance with Marie Skłodowska-Curie regulations established by the European Commission. The salary figure is before employer’s and employee’s deductions for national insurance/social security and taxes. Note that these deductions vary between countries. Successful candidates will be employed by their host university. The post will be a fixed term post for 36 months and is expected to commence in June 2018. The salary for the individual posts will vary from country to country to allow for the variation in the cost of living. In the Netherlands € 38,925.

The three ESR’s that will be employed at Utrecht University will be offered a full-time PhD student position for at first one year, with the intention to extend the contract to four years, if the performance is satisfactory (an extra year next to the fixed term post for 36 months included). The salary and other terms of employment are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities. The salary is supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. In addition we offer: a pension scheme, a partially paid parental leave, flexible employment conditions. You'll find more information about Working at Utrecht University here.

Additionele informatie

Details on requirements, recruitment and selection are given on the CRESTING website, as well as an recruitment brochure with all details Download Recruitment-brochure.pdf.


A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

Utrecht University has been ranked first nationally in the 2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities, and 47th globally. The University is committed to a strategies orientation on four overarching themes, which include ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Institutions’. The city of Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, with a charming old city centre and an internationally oriented culture that is strongly influenced by its century-old university. Utrecht city has been consistently ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the Netherlands.

Utrecht University’s Faculty of Geosciences offers education and research concerning the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and anthroposphere. With a population of 2,500 students (BSc and MSc) and 700 staff, the faculty is a strong and challenging organization.

The faculty is organized in four departments: Earth Sciences; Physical Geography; Innovation, Environmental & Energy Sciences (IEES), and Human Geography & Urban & Regional Planning. Environmental Governance is part of the Department of Innovation, Environmental & Energy Sciences, offers an enthusiastic, dynamic working environment and the research is of scientific high quality. The research is relevant for governments, industrial stakeholders and civil society in the national and international arena.

You will work in the Environmental Governance (EG) group. This is a vibrant international team of about 50 researchers at Utrecht University. The group forms one of the four departments of the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, one of the world’s leading research institutes in sustainability science.

Our research programme contributes to both sustainability science and policy development by offering novel and policy-relevant insights into the functioning of governance arrangements at local, regional, national and global levels. The programme revolves around a matrix structure that links three analytical themes with six focus areas. The three analytical themes cut across the six focus areas, covering (a) institutional design and effectiveness, (b) normative evaluation, and (c) transformative change. The six focus areas form the core of our empirical research, and are an integral part of our policy engagement and education activities. In all our activities, we seek to combine theoretical advancement and empirical-analytical research designs with normative critique and prescriptive, policy design-oriented recommendations. One of these focus areas is ‘governance of sustainable economies’. During the last decades, progress towards eco-efficiency, renewable energy deployment, circular economy, and radical technological transitions has proven to be both feasible and economically viable. Yet society-wide implementation of such strategies in various world regions is still lacking. Our research studies effectiveness of corporate sustainability strategies for businesses, and analyses what forms of (self-)governance are applied, what impacts they have, and what the optimal roles are for industry, civil society and government.