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PhD position ‘Sustainable Energy Transitions in African Cities’ (1.0 FTE, 4 years)

The faculty of Geosciences of Utrecht University has a PhD position ‘Sustainable Energy Transitions in African Cities’ vacant. Are you interested? Then please read the full profile and apply.

12 maanden geleden


Domplein, Utrecht, Utrecht
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur
€ 2222 - € 2840 per maand


The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research’s Science for Global Development program (NWO-WOTRO) recently granted a four-year research project: ‘Coping with Urban and Infrastructural Heterogeneity: Sustainable Energy Transitions in Tanzania and Mozambique’. We invite applications for a PhD position within this project. You will be studying diverse energy constellations in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Maputo (Mozambique), assess their sustainability and governance conditions.

Project description

Like in many cities in the global South, urban dwellers in Dar es Salaam and Maputo experience severe sustainability challenges in their electricity systems. Despite governmental ambitions to universalise access to electricity networks, energy users and (co-)providers have developed a diversity of collective and individual solutions beyond conventional electricity networks. Applying concepts of postcolonial debates to urban sustainability studies, this project assumes that the heterogeneous demand and supply options represent an understudied form of urban energy transitions. The key objective is to identify pragmatic pathways to sustainable energy systems in African cities by exploring how to better coordinate different use and service provision channels. More specifically, the objectives are:
  1. to develop a typology of the heterogeneous technological solutions and practices in the (co-)provision, use and governance of energy services in both cities;
  2. to understand the co-existence, interplay and hybridity of these constellations;
  3. to co-create a participatory tool for their sustainability assessment, and
  4. to co-design urban governance guidelines that systematically address the heterogeneity of energy supply and use.
The project is part of a transdisciplinary partnership between researchers in the Netherlands, Tanzania and Mozambique and a broad range of local, national and international stakeholders. The project is a part of the NWO-WOTRO’s Tackling Global Challenges scheme that aims at ultimately using the research outcomes to advance the Sustainable Development Goals agenda.

As a PhD candidate, you will be conducting a literature study, data collection and analyses in both cities, writing academic papers, presenting results at workshops and conferences, and writing your thesis. Next, you will be contributing to the valorisation of the study findings by, for example, translating the findings into sustainability assessment tools and governance guidelines for the participating urban and international stakeholders.

The PhD project will be part of the Urban Futures research program of the Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning at Utrecht University in close collaboration with Ardhi University in Dar es Salaam and Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Royal Haskoning DHV. You will be collaborating and communicating regularly with two postdoctoral researchers who are based in Dar es Salaam and Maputo, as well as policy makers and utility companies in these cities.


You are an enthusiastic and motivated PhD candidate who has:

  • a master degree in a relevant social science discipline such as spatial planning, development studies, urban geography, sociology, political sciences, or comparable
  • experience in qualitative research methodologies and in international field research
  • an interest in urban and infrastructure issues and, in particular, in urban and energy governance and sustainability transitions
  • a pro-active attitude and excellent communication and collaborative skills
  • the ability to work both independently and as part of an international team
  • excellent proficiency in English reading, writing, and speaking and ideally also knowledge of, or a strong willingness to learn Swahili and/or Portuguese.


The candidate is offered a full-time position for one year. After a positive evaluation of the initial appointment the extension of the contract should lead to a doctorate thesis (maximum of four years in total).

Employment conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of the Dutch Universities. Based on the experience and qualifications of the candidate, the gross monthly salary is between € 2,222 and € 2,840 (PhD salary scale) on a full-time basis (38 hours per week). The salary is supplemented by a holiday allowance of 8% per year and a year-end bonus of 8.3%. We offer a pension scheme, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions. International candidates moving to the Netherlands might be eligible for a tax-free allowance equivalent to 30% of the gross salary. You'll find more information about Working at Utrecht University here.

Additionele informatie

For additional information, please contact Jochen Monstadt: email j.monstadt@uu.nl or +31 (0)30 253 35 38, Professor in Governance of Urban Transitions or Dr Kei Otsuki: email k.otsuki@uu.nl or +31 (0)30 253 23 11, Assistant Professor in International Development Studies.


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 and the university is committed to a strategic orientation on four overarching themes including ‘Pathways to Sustainability’ and ‘Institutions for Open Societies’. Within the Pathways to Sustainability theme a transdisciplinary research hub on cities of the future is currently being developed focusing on urban infrastructure transitions from an international perspective.

Utrecht University has been ranked first nationally in the 2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities, and 47th globally. The city of Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, with a charming old 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 livable cities in the Netherlands.

The Faculty of Geosciences of Utrecht University offers a unique environment as it combines knowledge on energy efficiency, economics, energy policy, behavioural sciences, innovation systems, as well as knowledge on (sustainable) urban development and planning. The faculty is organized in four departments: Earth Sciences, Physical Geography, Innovation, Environmental & Energy Sciences and Human Geography and Spatial Planning.

The Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning has developed the ambitious research programme ‘Urban Futures: Transitions towards Economic and Social Sustainable Cities’. In this programme faculty members from different subdisciplines of human geography and spatial planning work closely together on two main research themes: ‘Economic Urban Transitions’ and ‘Social Urban Transitions’. The spatial planning group contributes to both of these themes through research on networks and flows in and between urban regions, GIS/PSS in planning, governance of urban transitions, urban socio-technical change, urban resilience, smart cities, land/water governance.
The PhD candidate will be positioned within the research program Urban Futures of the department Human Geography and Spatial Planning.