2 PhD positions on Accountability in ERC funded project “Reputation Matters in the Regulatory State” (EU_RICA)

University of Leiden – The Institute of Public Administration, Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs

Project description

We are looking for two PhD candidates to join our international research team. The two positions are part of the 5-year research programme, funded by the European Research Council (ERC), entitled “Reputation Matters in the Regulatory State: Re-thinking the Fundamentals of Regulatory Independence, Credibility and Accountability” (EU_RICA), led by Dr. Madalina Busuioc (principal investigator).

Accountability is a fundamental principle of public administration and a key concern of modern governance. The rise of regulatory public bodies, exercising increasingly salient tasks while operating at arm’s length from traditional controls, is said to give rise to fundamental systemic challenges in this respect. The two PhD projects are focused on unpacking key aspects of public sector accountability and understanding the role of organisational reputational considerations in this respect. Adopting a reputational lens allows us to move beyond formal-contractual accounts of control, which have dominated the literature, to one in which greater recognition is accorded to both wider organisational considerations and the multiplicity of organisational goals, as well as to the relevance of broader constituencies and the presence of constraints on (regulatory) power, beyond formal structures and hierarchical relations. Such a theoretical perspective allows for the generation – and testing – of new predictions, re-conceptualising our understanding of public sector accountability.

Our aim is to make both an important empirical contribution to public accountability literature — studying crucial, yet thus far neglected and understudied aspects — as well as to build on and fundamentally develop existing theory.

Both projects center on studying accountability and organisational reputation in a regulation context. The two projects are comparative, cross-national, with a specific focus on a selected sample of (EU-level and national) jurisdictions. Each of the two projects focuses on one of the key parties in any accountability relationship and tackles unexplained aspects of their behaviour: 

  • Project 1 focuses on the account-holders — the institutional actors that hold regulatory actors/regulatory agencies to account (e.g. executive actors, EU/national parliaments, audit bodies, ombudsmen, courts, etc.). Despite their central role in accountability, the behaviour and motivations of such actors are severely under-studied and under-theorised. Empirical insights indicate that the “appetite” for accountability can vary significantly among account-holders, and neglect of accountability roles is reported for a host of such bodies. The project aims to gain an in-depth understanding of account-holders’ incentives and motivations, explain variations in account-holders’ interest and intensity of oversight, and develop more accurate theoretical predictions with respect to account-holders’ behaviour in accountability. The project further aims to reflect and theorise on the implications of these findings for public sector accountability more broadly.
    Project outline: Understanding Institutions of Accountability: What Drives Account-holders’ Focus and Interest in Accountability?
  • Project 2 is centered on the account-givers (those held to account) with a specific focus on regulatory actors — bodies such as pharmaceutical or food safety authorities, financial regulators, aviation safety bodies, etc. The focus of this project is on understanding the drivers behind growing — and counter-intuitive — patterns of accountability-seeking among such actors, and implications thereof for public sector accountability more broadly.
    Project outline: Voluntary Accountability: Pro-Active Accountability Practices.

You will have the opportunity to develop as an academic, to hone your research and methods skills, as part of an enthusiastic, multi-disciplinary team carrying out an ambitious and innovative EU-funded project, within a thriving public administration department.

Selection criteria

  • We are looking for motivated candidates who can make their respective sub-project his/her own intellectual product, while executing the project in synergy with the other projects in the programme and in line with the demands and deliverables of the overall ERC programme;
  • A completed (or will have completed prior to start date) Master’s degree in public administration/political science, or another relevant field of social sciences;
  • Knowledge of and strong interest in the research topic;
  • Possess solid training in research methods (both quantitative and qualitative skills are a plus) and willingness and interest to develop these skills further during the PhD;
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills in English and the ability to effectively communicate with external audiences; Working knowledge of another EU Member State language is a plus;
  • An outstanding, demonstrable track-record of academic performance;
  • Interest and enthusiasm for comparative public administration and regulation research.

Our Institute

The project is embedded at the Institute of Public Administration of Leiden University. The Institute is one of the largest and oldest institutes of academic research and teaching in the field of public administration in the Netherlands. The Institute combines a solid international academic reputation with a central positioning among the international, national, regional and local governance institutions of The Hague. The Institute of Public Administration has consistently received high ratings in peer reviews of both its teaching and research programmes. The Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs offers academic education in the field of Public Administration, Safety and Security, and International Relations, as well as in-depth post-academic programmes for professionals. The Institute of Public Administration is located in the Wijnhaven building, on the university’s campus in The Hague. We are a mere five minutes’ walk from The Hague Central Station and a 20-minute bike/tram ride to the beach. For more information, see http://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/governance-and-global-affairs.

Terms and Conditions

The successful candidate will be part of an ambitious and dynamic research team. We offer a fixed-term post for a period of one year with an extension of additional three years after positive evaluation of capabilities and compatibility. Ultimately the appointment must lead to the completion of a PhD thesis.
Start date: preferably June 2018 but no later than 1st September 2018.

Salary ranges from €2,222 gross per month in the first year to €2,840 gross per month in year four, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. More at https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/working-at/job-application-procedure-and-employment-conditions.

All our PhD candidates are embedded in the graduate school of the Netherlands Institute of Government www.utwente.nl/nig/training/. The graduate school offers a combination of courses and tutorials, which aim at increasing disciplinary knowledge and methodology.


Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.


If you have any enquiries about the position or the application procedure, please contact the project lead, Dr. Madalina Busuioc, via email e.m.busuioc@fgga.leidenuniv.nl.


Your application should include the following: 

  • CV;
  • A cover letter containing your motivation for the position (candidates should indicate a preference for one of the two PhD project topics in their application);
  • A sample of written work or (draft) Master thesis; this submission may be a published or unpublished sample and may be an extract from a longer work;
  • A copy of your highest completed degree (Master’s or undergraduate) and full academic transcripts of your marks (both undergraduate and Master’s);
  • The names and addresses of three academic referees.

Applications must be received no later than 30 March 2018 and can be sent be email to our Personnel Department at PenOvacatures@fgga.leidenuniv.nl . Shortlisted candidates will be notified mid-April and invited for a subsequent interview in person. For the interview stage of the selection process, the shortlisted candidates will be invited to produce a 2-page research proposal on the project topic. The interview stage will take place in May 2018. You are kindly requested to be available in this period.

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