PhD candidate in Sociology/Educational sciences working on educational inequalities

Updated: 20 days ago
Deadline: 17 Jul 2020

The Department of Sociology  at the University of Amsterdam invites applications for a PhD candidate on the project ' Inequality of educational opportunity across the transition from primary to secondary education in the Netherlands' . This position is funded by the Amsterdam Centre for Inequality Studies (AMCIS).

We are looking for a PhD candidate with strong methodological skills who can further our understanding of the transition from primary to secondary education and its role in the prevalence of educational inequalities in the Netherlands

Project and job description

In the Netherlands, students are regularly administered standardized tests throughout primary education, including a national final achievement test. Student scores on these tests are used to make a formal recommendation for a student’s track placement in the first year of secondary education. As such, the transition from primary to secondary school appears highly standardized in the Netherlands. As standardized tests allow for a more objective assessment of students’ learning potential than teachers’ judgements, they are traditionally seen as egalitarian. Yet, in the past decade, the standardized test received more criticism, as teachers felt they were better able to judge a student’s potential than the test. As of the academic year 2014/2015, teachers’ track recommendations have become the leading indicator for students’ track placement in secondary education. The standardized test is now taken after teachers’ track recommendations are formulated. In case a student’s test performance is higher than the teacher recommendation, teachers can decide to give a higher track recommendation. This opportunity for a reconsideration of a student’s track recommendation based on a higher test score, seems particularly important for students who are at risk for underestimation of their learning potential.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, primary schools had to close down, and the national final achievement test was cancelled. Therefore, track recommendations could not be reconsidered based on test scores. Schools differed in their response to this situation, resulting in a variety of track recommendation processes. The ‘external shock’ of Covid-19 to the process of track recommendation and placement enables us to study the relevance of the standardized test and school recommendation policies on inequalities of opportunity across the transition from primary education to the tracked system of Dutch secondary education. The broad research question of this PhD project is how more and less standardized procedures relate to inequality of opportunity by socioeconomic and migration background, gender and school composition across the transition from primary to secondary education.

We are interested to explore how primary schools designed their track recommendation process when the final test was canceled, and to explore the consequences of these processes for students from various backgrounds. Data of the PRIMS-project can be used, together with accompanying teacher surveys and data from the standardized Student Monitoring System (Leerlingvolgsysteem) that all schools use. Additional data will be collected by replicating the (cancelled) final school test in the first year of the secondary school.

During the four-year PhD project, the selected candidate will be able to develop his/her own four-year research agenda on the abovementioned theme. This research is conducted both independently and in collaboration with other members of the departments of Sociology and Educational Sciences. The supervisors are Dr Sara Geven, Dr Louise Elffers, and Prof Dr Herman van de Werfhorst. The PhD candidate can be tasked with a limited amount of teaching of bachelor students (up to 10% of the working time). The PhD candidate will also be embedded in the ICS graduate school , and participate in its PhD programme.


You have:

  • a Master’s degree in Sociology, Educational Sciences or any other relevant social science, preferably a degree from a research master;
  • an excellent command of quantitative research designs and statistical methods;
  • a strong interest in the themes of the project.

You are:

  • enthusiastic about doing social science research;
  • interested in doing research that crosses disciplinary boundaries
  • preferably sufficiently fluent in Dutch to enable interaction with the local educational field.

Our offer 

The intended starting date of the PhD position is 1 September 2020, or soon thereafter. The position concerns a temporary appointment of 38 hours per week for a maximum term of 4 years. The initial appointment is for one year. Following a positive assessment and barring altered circumstances, this term will be extended by a maximum of 36 months, which should result in the conferral of a doctorate. We will put together a curriculum which will also include the opportunity to attend training courses and both national and international events. You will also be tasked with teaching Bachelor's students.

The salary will be €2,395 gross per month in the first year and will increase to €3,061 in the fourth year, based on a full-time employment contract and in keeping with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities . We additionally offer an extensive package of secondary employee benefits, including a generous holiday scheme and year-end bonus. Because we value your continued personal development and professionalisation, we also offer excellent opportunities for study and development.

What else can we offer you?

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

To work at the University of Amsterdam is to work in a discerning, independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterised by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society.

The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences is an active participant in a diverse, international community. Our goal is for you to feel at home here, regardless of your background, race, orientation and/or beliefs.


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

Would you like to learn more about working at the University of Amsterdam? Visit our website .

Job application

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise 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.

You may apply online by usig the link below.

Applications should comprise:

  • a letter of motivation;
  • a full CV and
  • copy of the BA and MA courses completed and the grades obtained.

These should be sent electronically in one document, preferably in a pdf-file.

The deadline for applications is Friday 17 July 2020. Interviews are intended to take place on 19 August 2020.

No agencies please

View or Apply

Similar Positions