LIMES is a doctoral programme for 13 talented PhD candidates in the domain of the humanities and social sciences, centred on the theme of ‘The Hardening and Softening of Borders: Europe in a Globalising World’. Conducting research within this framework means working on the frontline of societal and scientific innovation, and is therefore particularly attractive for a new generation of interdisciplinary researchers. Moreover, Maastricht – located in the heart of the transnational Meuse-Rhine Euroregion – offers excellent opportunities to function as springboard for the mobility of Early Stage Researchers (ESRs). A rich training programme and tailor-made secondments at one of the external partners are geared towards extending the employability of LIMES graduates far beyond traditional options. 

The overall topic of LIMES – the hardening and softening of borders – is directly related to current societal challenges in Europe and the world. Borders – as reality and metaphor – exist not only on the edge of the territory of the nation-state or the European Union, but also in numerous areas within and beyond these geographical units, not least in the minds of people. Borders are intrinsically moveable and permeable, and it is precisely this malleability that LIMES researchers focus on. LIMES will be a springboard for young researchers who would like to deeply engage with this theme.

The keystone of the LIMES project is mobility. The programme offers two LIMES research clusters which offer a unique combination of scientific excellence and triple-i components (interdisciplinary research options, intersectoral exchange and international networking). One cluster is related to the mobility of persons and the other to the mobility of information and commodities. In working on these issues, the two clusters connect two or more domains in the social sciences and humanities. Within these two clusters, applicants can choose between a number of innovative projects which leave room for personal interests and specializations. The projects selected in each cluster are closely linked to the expertise of the professors involved, engage with the topic of hardening and softening of borders, strive for scientific innovation, and include a secondment at a partner organisation.

All PhD candidates selected to the programme will follow an intensive training programme covering courses and activities on a range of issues, such as project management, research ethics, qualitative and quantitative methods, career development etc. Moreover, they are assigned to a six-month secondment organized at one of the partner organisations of the programme. The built-in secondments are an integral part of each PhD trajectory: they provide the opportunity not only to conduct on-site research, make use of equipment and software, collect information, and interview stakeholders, but also to follow an on-the-job training programme. The partner organisations have been carefully selected on the basis of existing cooperation agreements, proven capacity to co-supervise researchers, and their importance for the study of the issues in question. Many partner organisations are located in the Euroregion Meuse-Rhine, but some are elsewhere in Europe and North America.

The PhD candidates’ supervision modalities and training needs are defined and included in a Training and Supervision Plan and a Personal Development Plan.