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Job offer: Fully funded Senior or Postdoctoral researcher in Human Geography (f/m)

10 September 2020

Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research (Department of Geography) is recruiting a Fully funded Senior or Postdoctoral researcher in Human Geography (f/m)

Project description

The position forms part of the ongoing international project funded by Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO) and Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), titled “From Low Fares to No Fares: An Analysis of Economic, Operational, Socio-Spatial and Political Dynamics of Fare-Free Public Transport” (LiFT). Located at the nexus of critical urban studies and transport studies, LiFT explores the role of public transport fares in mobility transitions, challenging predominantly techno-managerial and economistic views on fares.
The core of the project focuses on fare abolition in public transport systems, otherwise known as fare-free public transport (FFPT). LiFT examines both transport-related (economic, operational) and urban (social, spatial and political) aspects of FFPT. LiFT employs qualitative and quantitative methods, embracing a global survey of all FFPT cases, and an in-depth study of at least two specific cases of FFPT, conducted via user surveys, stakeholder interviews and focus groups. Other central topics of the project include the geography and politics of fare control instruments,and related practices and urban movements of fare resistance and evasion.
Geographically, LiFT is set to embrace diverse cases of mobility transitions mediated by public transport fares. The central case is located in Luxembourg, which in February 2020 became the first country to have abolished fares in its entire public transport system. Further cases may include urban contexts across Western and Eastern Europe, North America and South America, and will be jointly selected by the research team in spring/summer 2021.
Further empirical cases and theoretical approaches that could be developed by LiFT researchers in relation to the project core include (but are not limited to):

  • Feminist perspectives on fare controls, resistance and disappearance; gendering fares;
  • Post-colonial lens on public transport fares; contesting techno-managerial, Northern and formalist hegemony in transport studies; studying fares through “ordinary cities”;
  • Post-capitalist experiences of de-commodifying public transport; exploring in diverse cases of fare abolition on the urban and national scale;
  • Post-Socialist experiences of (re-)commodifying public transport; studying shifts from low/zero fares to market-driven fare systems;
  • Developing fare transition scenarios for specific urban contexts;
  • Analysing the political economy of existence/disappearance of first class public transport services.


Research centre

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is an internationally oriented university in Brussels, the heart of Europe. Through tailor-made high quality research and education, VUB wants to contribute to a better society for tomorrow.
The Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research is a research centre within the Department of Geography of the VUB. It is dedicated to research and teaching in geography, spatial planning and urban design. Committed to pursuing both academic and practice relevant research, Cosmopolis actively engages policy makers, governments, citizen networks and other urban partners to transform knowledge into action.
While the advertised position is based at VUB/COSMOPOLIS, the project is conducted in collaboration with The Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER).

Our offer:

  • three-year position with flexible working arrangements that enable and encourage the compatibility of work and family life;
  • full time remuneration under FWO employment conditions and depending on highest degree obtained (seniority remuneration subject to project budget constraints);
  • dynamic and inspiring environment in a highly motivated research group focused on diverse facets of urban studies, urban geography and planning;
  • openness to developing and following own research ideas within the project framework;
  • additional funding for travel and conference expenses, literature, publications, training etc.;
  • possibility to obtain a doctoral degree.


Your profile and responsibilities:

  • an experienced, mature and independent researcher, preferably (but not necessarily) holding a doctoral degree;
  • contribution to overall theoretical framework of LiFT, in close cooperation with the research team;
  • development of an individual, transnational and comparative, empirical research agenda
  • engagement in frequent travels to case study sites, project meetings, academic conferences etc.
  • contribution to dissemination activities and project events (workshops, summer schools etc.)
  • presentation of research results through conference participation and publications, knowledge transfer and outreach activities;
  • occasional participation in teaching activities;
  • proactive, motivated, autonomous, innovative, and open-minded attitude;


Our requirements:

  • a master degree diploma in a related urban discipline (urban studies, geography, spatial planning, transport planning, sociology, anthropology)
  • a PhD, thematically connected to the research project OR substantial experience as a researcher holding a master degree and willing to pursue a doctoral degree;
  • familiarity with relevant literature on urban studies and transport studies
  • familiarity with relevant literature on urban development and mobility in geographical contexts relevant to personal research project;
  • international publication record;
  • a good balance of qualitative and quantitative skills
  • excellent knowledge of English AND at least one other language in which the fieldwork may be conducted; knowledge and/or willingness to develop Dutch or French language skills is an asset;
  • project management experience is an asset.


Your application:

Please send your application via e-mail, in a single PDF file, to Wojciech.Keblowski@vub.be and Kobe.Boussauw@vub.be. Please include the following documents, and in the following order:

  • a cover letter outlining your motivation to work within LiFT, addressing the responsibilities and requirements described above (800 words max.);
  • a proposal for (post)doctoral research project, related to the description of LiFT outlined above (max. 1500 words, including references);
  • an up-to-date full CV including a complete list of publications, conference attendance, teaching duties and experiences, third-party funding applications (max. 10 pages);
  • a copy of one key publication (journal article, thesis chapter);
  • master degree and (if relevant) doctoral degree diploma(s).


The deadline for applications is 31st October 2020.
Selected candidates will be invited for an online interview on 18th November 2020. The employment is set to begin on 1st February 2021.
By submitting the application, you consent to the processing of your personal data for the purpose of the application procedure.

VUB is an equal opportunity employer.

For further questions, please contact the project’s academic staff Wojciech Kębłowski (VUB) (Wojciech.Keblowski@vub.be), Kobe Boussauw (VUB) (Kobe.Boussauw@vub.be) and Veronique Van Acker (Veronique.VanAcker@liser.lu).