Universiteit Leiden

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Graduate School


PhD candidates are encouraged to start thinking about job prospects well before the defence of their thesis. Many PhD graduates find employment in an academic or semi-academic environment.

Other FGGA Graduate School alumni successfully venture on a career in education, administration, heritage, journalism, or business. A considerable number of them manages to gain a temporary postdoctoral position. Here you will read the stories of some of those graduates.

Testimonials of FGGA Graduate School alumni

As a Dual PhD student at the Institute of Public Administration, Fabienne Corvers investigated how regional authorities matter for the design of ‘smart specialisation’ strategies in their region, something that the European Commission cares deeply about. In Europe, all kinds of regional government organisations – some with lots, others with little regional decision-making power – had started developing these strategies. In the literature, however, the dominant view was that designing an effective ‘context-specific’ regional innovation policy required the region to be endowed with adequate formal-state competences. ‘This discrepancy intrigued me,’ says Corvers, ‘as it implied that three quarters of all European regions would not be able to play any role of significance to strengthen their regional innovation capacity.’

Corvers combined her PhD research with a full-time job as Policy Officer at the European Commission, a demanding combination. ‘The Graduate School played a crucial role in giving me an academic ‘home’ away from work where I could discuss research matters with fellow researchers.’ Also more practical matters – such as access to the university library, participation in training courses and research seminars, the administrative side of a PhD project – were handled by the Graduate School. ‘This was a huge support,’ says Corvers.

Is it worth the effort doing a PhD if you already have a job? ‘Absolutely,’ says Corvers, ‘and independent of whether you already have a job. More than the subject of your research, it is the conceptual-analytical way in which you learn to think and observe that is yours forever. In my case,’ says Corvers, who works at the Secretariat-General and oversees the implementation of the Better Regulation agenda across the European Commission departments, ‘it is important to apply different analytical lenses to uncover the impact of EU policies in 27 very different Member States.’

As a Dual PhD student, Ries Kamphof conducted research into European sustainability policies; his findings are that the European Committee very rarely uses her authority. ‘The member states are very protective when it comes to taking action to protect the climate,’ says Kamphof.  

Kamphof combined his PhD research with his career as researcher/consultant and, later on, as a policy adviser, which might seem an unusual combination. ‘The best thing was that it enabled me to incorporate my insights from my workplace into my research. But it wasn’t always easy, trying to obtain a doctorate in your spare time. The guidance offered by the Dual PhD Centre was instrumental for me, it is where I met my peers.  I also really enjoyed teaching at Wijnhaven because of the international atmosphere. The campus is located literally in the decision-making heart of the city.’ 

After graduating in Political Sciences, Kamphof first started working for the ‘Eerste Kamer’ (the Dutch Upper Chamber), he then went on to work for a Dutch foundation for sustainability policy (NCDO), and the Clingendael Institute. While finalizing his PhD, he entered the employment of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy as a senior policy advisor. 

‘As long serving counterterrorism professional I realised that ethical issues are inherent to the practice of counterterrorism. I was fascinated by all achievements in the medical sector to address ethical issues, both in the academic literature and expressed by institutional arrangements to provide ethics support to the work force. Compared to the medical sector the growing profession of counterterrorism lagged far behind.’  

‘At FGGA, my PhD research explored the added value of ethics support to counterterrorism professionals. I was able to apply a specific tool of ethics support behind the closed doors of counterterrorism professionals in the Netherlands - and to publish about the findings. To my knowledge, nobody else did a comparable research before.’ 

‘Beyond my PhD thesis I managed to put the issue of ethics of counterterrorism on the agenda as well. I was able to deliver a special chapter to handbooks of counterterrorism in the Netherlands and Germany. Last but not least, I contributed with my research to a Harvard based international project on the evaluation of countering violent extremism and terrorism and became a member of the Harvard Global Safety Evaluation Network.’ 

‘I am very grateful to the FGGA Graduate School that facilitated my research and of course to my Ph.D. supervisors Edwin Bakker from the Institute of Global Affairs and Security (ISGA), Bert Molewijk from the Amsterdam UMC and Patrick Overeem from the Free University Amsterdam. I benefited a lot from the expertise of professionals inside and outside the Netherlands and of course from the colleagues at ISGA.’

Photo: Hanna Radstake

‘My dissertation is about the phenomenon of non-take-up of social support in the social domain, in other words: the problems that people experience when they need to ask for help or support. The Municipality of The Hague wanted to know what causes this reticence. I wrote a report about it and saw that there was very little fundamental knowledge on the subject. I decided to make it my PhD research, fortunately the Institute of Public Administration provided the position. That "room for choice" and my own interpretation always gave me an enormous motivation during the PhD process.’ 

‘The topic ties in very well with the research I am currently involved in. And it contributed to achieving the research position at the Hogeschool Leiden that I have now. My current research looks into hidden poverty and is a logical continuance of my thesis.’ 

‘The Graduate School was still under development during my PhD, but it offered courses and workshops, some of which I took. They also linked me to a confidential counsellor. The Graduate School played a very important role in the final phase of my PhD. They helped me with all the required administrative tasks that were needed to eventually be able to get my PhD. Fortunately, they were able to help me quickly and well.’  

‘I would like to give two tips to PhDs: Tip 1) Combine research with education and training. I always enjoyed sharing my knowledge with others during my PhD. Tip 2) Start well in advance with orienting on your life after your dissertation.’ 

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