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Fulltime PhD-scholarship (100%) - Higher Educational Aspirations of Refugees and Newcomers in Belgium

1 - Working at the VUB


Freedom, equality, and solidarity have been central to the Vrije Universiteit Brussel for more than 50 years. These values are also very much alive on our campuses, among students and staff alike. Here you will find a colourful mix of personalities who all have one thing in common: they are innovators pur sang who are 100% their authentic selves. With some 4.000 employees spread over 4 campuses, we are the largest Dutch-speaking employer in Brussels, the vibrating international capital of the European Union.


The VUB is a humanist university. Teaching and research at the VUB are grounded in the principles of free inquiry with an eye to humanistic values. We consider each person to be free, equal, and connected. Free to form an opinion based on free research, without regard to arguments based purely on authority. Equal in the sense that no one is more or less than another, regardless of social or ethnic origin. And connected because we all live together, face the same challenges, and want to be treated with respect. 


The VUB is autonomous and managed democratically. As such, we guarantee fundamental freedoms within our university, as well as the right of the university community to be involved in making and checking university policy.


2 - Position description


The Faculty Social Sciences & Solvay Business School, Department Sociologie, is looking for a PhD-student with a doctoral grant. 


More concretely your work package, for the preparation of a doctorate, contains: 


  • This PhD research is in the framework of a 4-year research project (From Camp to Campus) on social investment in higher education for refugees and newcomers, in collaboration with other Belgian research teams. The research examines the perspective of (potential) users/students from the refugees and newcomers target group. Hence the study will investigate issues relating to access to higher education, refugees’ and newcomers’ aspirations, anticipated careers, and needs related to their experiences in and within the Belgian higher education system. This multidisciplinary PhD project PhD will provide a unique opportunity for the student to engage with research in higher education, integration, and migration studies.

  • You are expected to prepare a doctoral dissertation under the supervision of Prof. Tuba Bircan in the field of Sociology, in which you

    • work on the development, implementation, and analysis of a comprehensive multilingual survey to map the potential demand for higher education services among refugees and newcomers,

    • assess new sampling approaches such as social media advertising,

    • conduct qualitative, participatory research on obstacles in higher education and their remedies, and analyse the qualitative data,

    • publish your research in internationally peer-reviewed outlets.

  • You are expected to support the project-related work such as preparing policy reports and actively disseminate the research results.

For this function, our Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering Campus (Elsene) will serve as your home base. 

3 – Profile

  • Master’s degree in statistics, data science, economics, mathematics, computational social science, psychology, or social sciences with a strong quantitative focus with excellent study results, whereby you have acquired demonstrable expertise in (advanced) quantitative analysis.

  • Familiarity with survey design and sampling.

  • Solid hands-on experience with programming (R, Phyton, etc.) and/or statistical software (i.e., STATA, SPSS, etc.).

  • Knowledge of, or a willingness to familiarise yourself with current research into new and innovative data science techniques.

  • Interest in research on equal opportunities and migration and integration studies is a plus.

  • Excellent oral and written English skills are a must. Proficiency in one or more of the following languages: Arabic, Dari/Persian, Russian, Ukranian, and Turkish is strongly preferred. Knowledge of Dutch is an asset but not a requirement.

  • Excellent social and communication skills are required to work in a team and establish relations with NGOs and governmental services in Belgium.

  • Female candidates and members of ethnic minority or refugee groups are particularly encouraged to apply.


4 - Offer

Are you going to be our new colleague?


You’ll be offered a full-time PhD-scholarship, for 12 months (extendable up to max. 48 months, on condition of the positive evaluation of the PhD activities), with a planned starting date of 01/11/2023. 


You’ll receive a grant linked to one of the scales set by the government.


IMPORTANT: The effective result of the doctorate scholarship is subject to the condition precedent of your enrolment as a doctorate student at the university.


At the VUB, you’re guaranteed an open, involved, and diverse workplace where you are offered opportunities to (further) build on your career.


As well as this, you’ll enjoy various benefits:

  • Full reimbursement for your home-work commute with public transport according to VUB policy, or compensation if you come by bike;

  • Cost-free hospitalisation insurance;

  • The space to form your job content and continuously learn via VUB LRN;

  • Excellent facilities for sport and exercise;

  • Ecocheques;

  • Delicious meals at attractive prices in our campus restaurants;

  • An open, family-friendly work environment where attention is paid to work-life balance, and exceptional holiday arrangements with 35 days of leave (based on a fulltime contract). 


5 - Interested?

Is this the job you’ve been dreaming of?


Send us ONLINE and at the latest on 21/08/2023 your CV, letter of motivation, a copy of your master's thesis (in English), and the highest degree you’ve attained (not applicable for VUB alumni).

Do you have questions about the job content? Contact prof. dr. Tuba Bircan at or on 0032 (0) 2 614 81 34.


Would you like to know what it’s like to work at the VUB? Go to and find all there is to know about our campuses, benefits, strategic goals, and your future colleagues.

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