This vacancy is now closed.

EU’s external borders are constantly shifting through externalization, i.e. the transfer towards non-EU countries of migration management and international protection responsibilities. EU’s commitment to refugee protection has therefore developed in tandem with attempts to ensure that few asylum seekers would be able to reach the territory of EU Member States to claim asylum. EU’s ambivalent approach to providing protection jeopardises the fundamental rights of those seeking it and puts into question EU’s commitment to global responsibility sharing and solidarity.  At the same time, externalization also results in challenges for EU’s institutional framework and principles, especially competences and institutional balance.

More broadly, the EU continues to institutionalize externalization in its relations with third States, for example, through the introduction of negative conditionality between mobility/legal migration opportunities and control-oriented commitments, and through funding (e.g. EU Trust Fund for Africa). Migration management and protection obligations are often shifted to non-EU countries through soft law instruments in or outside the EU legal framework. This allows to eschew political accountability from the European Parliament, transparency and judicial oversight from the CJEU. Emblematic of this approach is the 2016 ‘EU-Turkey Statement’ in which the EU, the Member States and Turkey explicitly mentions commitments of the EU and its Member States towards Turkey as part of an externalisation cooperation ‘bargain’. With its hybrid legal content and diffused authorship, the instrument evades the EU procedural and institutional framework.

Against this backdrop, we invite doctoral project proposals that relate to the ‘mobility of persons’ cluster of LIMES and scrutinize the shifting of EU’s borders through externalisation and its implications. Envisaged areas of scrutiny include:

  1. the impact of key constitutional principles such as fundamental rights, the rule of law, and solidarity and fair sharing responsibility on EU’s externalisation project;
  2. the role of institutional actors such as the CJEU, the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament in shaping, operationalising and controlling EU’s externalisation project;
  3. how far the institutional framework of the EU and its structural principles (especially institutional balance, competences divide) guide the role between EU and Member States and frame the EU’s action in this field
  4. the legal implications of informalisation under EU and international law, i.e. the use of non-binding agreements and instruments to operationalise externalisation obligations
  5.  the use of funding to pursue EU’s migration management objectives concentrating on issues such as its steering and solidarity potential, permissible aims, and management.

The researcher will be based at the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University, The Netherlands, and undertake a 6 month secondment at the European Policy Centre (EPC) in Brussels, Belgium.

Candidates will be assessed based on the requirements outlined below. Candidates should make sure that their application letter demonstrates how they meet these requirements:

  • Master degree in European law, Migration Law; Human Rights Law;
  • Strong analytical skills;
  • Outstanding writing skills;
  • An obvious interest in academic research;
  • Capability of autonomously conducting original research as well as working in a team;
  • Fluency in English;
  • Willingness to relocate to Brussels for an external placement at the European Policy Centre (EPC) for six months.

Supervision team:
SupervisorProf. Mariolina Eliantonio, Professor of European and Comparative Administrative Law and Procedure & Coordinator of the Globalisation and Law Network research
Co-supervisor: Prof. Andrea Ott, Professor of EU External Relations Law & Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law
Co-supervisor: Assistant Prof. Lilian Tsourdi, specialised in EU Migration Law & current NWO VENI grantee
External supervisorDr. Marie De Somer, Head of European Migration and Diversity programme and Senior Policy Analyst

Any inquiries about the position or the project may be addressed to the supervisor.


You are invited to apply for a PhD position on Scrutinizing Externalization of Migration Management and International Protection Responsibilities. This PhD project will be carried out within the framework of the project “LIMES – the hardening and softening of borders”. The duration of the research project will be four academic years. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 847596, and brings together different faculties of Maastricht University. The PhD project is co-financed by the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University.

The PhD candidate will receive extensive training, including regular supervision, and training offered by both the LIMES consortium and the Graduate School of the Faculty of Law.

Application (eligibility criteria and application requirements)

The application must be submitted by email and in English, and consists of:

  • the application form containing: personal details (including language proficiencies), the LIMES project targeted, and a research proposal and a work plan which responds to the relevant project description (max. 1.000 words). The research proposal must elaborate on the project description as set forth below. (cf. template)
  • Annex I: A letter of motivation stating the candidate’s qualifications and reasons for interest in the position.
  • Annex II: Curriculum vitae, outlining relevant work experience and research output (where applicable). Applicants who have taken a break in their career should indicate this in their application (and in their CV), so it can be taken into account during the selection process.
  • Annex III: Ethics self-assessment, based on the standard ethical research principles and the ethical principles of H2020 (cf. template)
  • Annex IV: Copy of Bachelor (BA) and (Research) Master (MA) degree and transcript (including GPA)
  • Annex V: Proof of proficiency in English (for applicants who are neither native speakers of English nor have followed an English-taught BA or MA); see below for the expected level
  • Annex VI: One academic paper (course paper; thesis; academic publication)
  • Annex VII: contact information of two references (including e-mail; phone number; mailing address; and relationship to the applicant)

Following receipt of an application, the Programme Office (PO) carries out an eligibility check. In addition to the completeness of the application file, the PO also checks compliance with the Marie Skłodowska Curie Action (MSCA) requirements (1), minimum standards of academic performance (2), and language skills (3).

(1) Early-Stage Researchers (ESR) must on 10 March 2021 be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and not yet have been awarded a doctoral degree.

Full-Time Equivalent Research Experience is measured from the date when a researcher obtained the degree entitling him or her to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited, even if a doctorate was never started or envisaged.

Mobility Rule: Researchers may not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the three years immediately before 10 March 2021.

Time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention[1], compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.

(2) LIMES requires that applicants have reached an overall average Grade Point Average (GPA) of the completed Bachelor of at least 3.4 and completed their Master study with a GPA of at least 3.5 (MA).[2]

(3) For applicants who are neither native speakers of English nor have followed an English-taught BA or MA, the PO accepts certificates from:

  • IELTS test: minimum score overall 7.0 and minimum writing score 6.5
  • TOEFL test: overall, internet-based minimum score 100 and minimum writing score 25
  • TOEFL test: overall, paper-based minimum score 600
  • TOEFL test: overall, computer-based minimum score 250
  • A Cambridge certificate: C or higher for the CAE (Certificate in Advanced English).

In case of ineligibility, the PO notifies the applicant by e-mail within ten working days after the receipt of the application.

Maastricht University is committed to nurturing an inclusive culture and a welcoming atmosphere. This inclusiveness strategy has resulted in a very diverse representation of nationalities and cultures. We strongly believe that diversity (including, but not limited to ethnicity, gender, age and (dis)ability) is to our advantage. Creating an inclusive working climate in which students and staff feel a valued member of the UM community is therefore a top strategic priority. UM values diversity within its community and encourages you to apply if you are qualified for this position.

In case of equally qualified applicants for the same position, we favour candidates from underrepresented groups in case of comparable qualification. There will be a check of the final selection results for gender and diversity balance and a possible redress.

The deadline for submitting your application is 10 March 2021.

Please send your application electronically to

Selection process

All applicants will be notified by 17 March 2021 at the latest as to whether they have been selected for an interview with the LIMES Cluster Committees. The interviews are expected to take place in the week of 22 March 2021. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, interviews will be held digitally. Please see the application procedure on the website for more information.

What we offer

We offer a dynamic and challenging job in an internationally-oriented organisation where people receive an advanced education and scholars conduct exciting research. You will be part of an international network of top universities and renowned scholars within the field.

We offer a 4-year full-time appointment as PhD candidate in one of the research projects under the umbrella of LIMES.

The first year will be a probation period, after a positive assessment the position will be extended with another 3 years.

Remuneration will be according to standard salary levels (CAO VSNU) for PhD students starting with a salary of € 2.395,- with a yearly growth to € 3.061,- gross a month in year 4 (based on a full-time appointment.)

Each year the standard salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%.

You have to be willing to move to (the vicinity of) Maastricht. You will be eligible for an allowance for moving costs. You may also be eligible for an allowance for alternative housing. Other secondary conditions include e.g. a pension scheme and partially paid parental leave.

You will be provided with shared office space and a PC.

Maastricht University’s Terms of Employment are laid down in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local university provisions apply as well. For more information please see the website:

Estimated starting date: May 2021

Further information is available on the website:

  • Selection process, application form and instructions
  • Host institution, partners involved, employment conditions
  • Set-up of the Programme, staff and contact points
  • Training and secondment programme
  • Information on the ethical and legal standards
  • FAQs

[1] 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol.

[2] GPAs are represented on a 1-4 scale, with 4 being the maximum score. The minimum thresholds are in line with the requirements of the major Dutch PhD funding schemes in the SSH sector (Research Talent / PhD in the Humanities). NUFFIC is referred to for any translations of grades between countries.

back to overview