Two 4-year PhD positions in Geography in the SNF project "Governing densification" (GoverDENSE)


University of Bern


Monday, December 9, 2019

Start Date

Monday, December 16, 2019

You will analyze the densification strategies of local authorities, investors and other main actors of urban development and investigate how they contribute to reduce urban sprawl. The project wants to understand how densification processes are governed and simultaneously questions the impacts of current attempts at increasing the performance of planning implementation in terms of sustainability. Under the guidance of the senior members of the project, you will conduct your main research in one of the two city-regions of Bern (Switzerland) or Utrecht (Netherlands). The overarching research question examines the conditions under which spatial planning can effectively lead to increased densification while retaining urban quality for all, including vulnerable socio-economic groups such as low-income tenants. The project posits that densification policies focus mainly on the economic and ecologic dimensions of sustainability, but that the social dimension has been neglected (e.g., tenants' right protection, social inclusion, residential stability, participation to formal decision-making etc.).

You will be part of the project GoverDENSE (Governing densification – The impact of performance-based planning on qualitative urban densification) funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. You will be affiliated with the research group "Political urbanism and sustainable spatial development" at the Institute of Geography of the University of Bern, and work closely together with partners at Wageningen University, University of Lausanne and the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER).

You will write an independent thesis in the project (PhD in Geography, University of Bern), participate in project publications, research workshops and other events, build network with practitioners, and contribute to the project's website. You will also be involved in teaching, including the supervision of bachelor and master theses.


We invite applications from candidates with the following credentials:

  • a very good (research) master degree in Human geography, spatial planning or related fields (e.g. urban studies, political science, sustainability, political ecology);
  • proven strong interest in urban development issues, land use planning and sustainability, and skills and commitment to work in an interdisciplinary field;
  • Fluency in English both spoken and written is a key requirement; fluency in German and/or Dutch is highly desirable.
  • excellent qualitative research skills, proven experience with qualitative research methods and conducting and analyzing in-depth interviews and field observations desirable; also familiarity with the handling and analysis of legal documents is desirable;
  • Strong interest in actual debates on sustainability in urban environments, including social sustainability.

Conditions of employment

We offer an exciting interdisciplinary project in an international research team. The appointment will initially be for one year and subject to renewal upon satisfactory evaluation of research progress. Remuneration is according to Swiss NSF standards (

The start date is as soon as possible.

The University of Bern as an equal opportunity employer promotes gender equality and diversity. Therefore, we encourage women and international candidates to apply. Equally, qualified candidates with disabilities or applicants with equivalent status receive preference in the application process.


Please submit the following documents as one single pdf file to

• a letter of motivation (not more than one page);

• a curriculum vitae (including copy of university transcript) and names and contact details of two academic referees;

• Details of publications if any and one sample writing (e.g. chapter from master thesis).

For full consideration, please submit your materials by Monday, December 9, 2019. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis after that deadline until the position is filled.

If you have further questions about the position, you are very welcome to contact Prof. Jean David Gerber (

Contact Name

Prof. Jean David Gerber

Contact Email