PhD Positions in Degrowth, Circular Economy and the Metabolism of City Regions

University of Amsterdam Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Two PhD Positions: Degrowth, Circular Economy and the Metabolism of City Regions

Faculty/Services:  Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Educational level:  Master
Function type:  PhD position
Closing date:  15 December 2022
Vacancy number:  10625

We are looking for two PhD candidates that will work on a project on circular economy and degrowth in city regions, titled DECYCLE and led by the PI, Dr. Federico Savini. The project studies the regulatory frameworks that establish how waste materials are reused and reduced in cities. Three sectors are investigated: the built environment and construction waste, food waste and industrial food chains, and residual heat networks from incineration. As part of the PhD trajectory, the candidates will carry out empirical research and conceptual analysis of initiatives that both aim to reuse and reduce waste streams. These initiatives will be selected together with the supervisor but will take place in city-regions of four specific countries: Spain, Italy (PhD1) Germany and Austria (PhD2). One candidate will focus on Italy and Spain. The other on Germany and Austria (please see language requirements).

The project DECYCLE is funded by the ERC starting grant. The PhD candidates will work with the Principal Investigator (PI) Dr. Federico Savini, and will be embedded in the Department of Geography, Planning and International Development Studies of the University of Amsterdam. The PhD track is part of the AISSR’s PhD programme, and the candidate will become a member of the Urban Planning research group.

What are you going to do

The PhD candidates will be integral part of the DECYLE project. In their research they will advance knowledge on how the degrowth framework can inform circular economy practices in city regions.

A transition towards a degrowth economy is necessary to tackle the related challenges of resource scarcity and waste accumulation. Degrowth pursues socio-economic wealth while reducing material flows and reusing waste in socially responsible and ecologically regenerative ways. As a concrete approach to realizing these ends, the concept of the circular economy has gathered political momentum. However, this model will have no impact on city-regions’ ecological footprint unless it challenges the regulations that dismiss certain materials as waste in the first place. DECYCLE interrogates the legal, spatial, and economic regulations that define waste streams’ political responsibilities, geographies, and financial architecture. Its method aims to map actors engaged in defending and contesting regulations, through several methods for engaged research and fieldwork. Theoretically, the project addresses the relationship between regulations and the urban metabolism in contemporary eco-capitalism. Its aim is to set a pathway to free urbanization from its dependency on raw materials and its increasing production of waste.

Within this project, you will:

  • Carry out empirical research in two city-regions (PhD1: Spain and Italy, PhD2: Germany, Austria). This involves visiting these cities and build up the fieldwork there;
  • Investigate empirically how different sets of regulations are being used, contested, defended by the actors involved. This will involve an extensive qualitative analysis of (among others) reports, policy statements, written materials, newspaper articles, financial reports;
  • Develop conceptual analysis on the institutional challenges of degrowth, building on the empirical evidence collected. This involves engaging with critical scholarship on degrowth, urbanization and the urban metabolism;
  • Contribute to debates on degrowth and circular economy internationally. This involves attending international events and achieve publications in high-ranked journals;
  • Join the teamwork in the DECYCLE project, composed of 2 PhDs, one post-doc and one research assistant;
  • Help to organize scientific activities together with the PI (eg. seminars and workshops);
  • Join the work of the Urban Planning Research Group at Department of Geography, Planning and International Development studies at the University of Amsterdam. This will allow you to help in the organization of activities in the group;
  • Assist the mentoring of master’s students.

What do you have to offer

Candidates should hold a Master’s (or comparable) degree in urban geography, spatial planning, environmental geography, urban sociology, environmental studies or planning law. In case of other disciplines, it is important to show a very clear socio-spatial dimension in previous work.

Successful candidates are those who:

  • Have good knowledge of Italian, Spanish and English language (PhD1) or German and English (PhD2) to carry out research in the selected countries. Dutch language skills are advised to work in The Netherlands but not required;
  • Have very good writing skills and areo be able to develop critical and complex arguments;
  • Show clear investigative abilities in case study settings to gather qualitative data;
  • Show the ability to deal with (secondary) quantitative data on material stocks and waste, particularly in the built environment;
  • Show strong team-work abilities.

Desirable skills:

Next to these criteria, we will reward applicants that show socio-political engagement, and/or that have experience with concrete practices of social mobilization and/or collaboration with policy practice.

What can we offer you

The two positions concern a temporary employment contract of 38 hours per week for a maximum term of 4 years. The initial employment contract is for one year. Following a positive assessment and barring altered circumstances, this term will be extended for another three years. After a total of 4 years the PhD candidates should achieve a doctorate.

As PhD researcher at our university, you will be able to enjoy a diverse curriculum of courses. These courses are offered by the University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research (AISSR). They will allow you to improve writing, analytical and methodological. As part of the cooperative culture at our department, you will also be invited to join our diverse set of reading groups, working groups, activities of research priority areas (ie. the Center for Urban Studies) and other convivial initiatives. All PhD candidates are also free to join the collective activities of the PhDs of the AISSR. Finally, at our department, you will be invited to do some teaching and develop your teaching skills.

For this position the University Job Classification profile ‘Promovendus’ applies.

Your salary will be €2541 gross per month in the first year and will increase to €3247 in the final year, based on full-time employment and in keeping with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities. We additionally offer an extensive package of secondary benefits, including 8% holiday allowance and a year-end bonus of 8.3%.

What else do we offer

Overall, the supervisors will care for developing a personalized path for your future career steps and they will particularly focus on the international reach of your research. We will support you in your fieldworks and ensure that you collaborate with top researchers in other countries. Working together with the PI and the other members of the DECYCLE team will allow you to be integrated in the lively debate on circular economy and degrowth in The Netherlands and the city of Amsterdam. The Urban Planning Research group at our university is strongly embedded with policy and grassroots practices in the city.

About us

The University of Amsterdam is the largest university in the Netherlands, with the broadest spectrum of degree programmes. It is an intellectual hub with 39,000 students, 6,000 employees and 3,000 doctoral students who are all committed to a culture of inquiring minds.

About the faculty

A challenging work environment with a variety of duties and ample scope for individual initiative and development within an inspiring organization. The social and behavioral sciences play a leading role in addressing the major societal challenges faced by the world, the Netherlands and Amsterdam, now and in the future.

Want to know more about our organisation? Read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.


Do you have any questions or do you require additional information? Please contact:

  • Dr. Federico Savini, Assistant Professor in Environmental Planning, Institutions and Politics.

Job application

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by 15 December 2022. You may apply online by using the link below.

Applications in .pdf should include:

  • a curriculum vitae;
  • a letter where you motivate your choice of doing PhD research on degrowth and circular economy (max 700 words);
  • a written text where you share your research vision and intentions, building on the description of the DECYCLE project (max 1000 words);
  • One writing sample in English (eg. chapter of thesis, paper etc.).

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritize diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

If you encounter Error GBB451/ GBC451, reach out to our HR Department directly. They will gladly help you continue your application.

No agencies please.