The Political Science Department gathers a wide range of researchers that are leaders in various subfields of the discipline. Their research activity focuses on themes of major importance in real world politics and in political science. They can be clustered in the following research themes:

Migration and Diversity, Political Representation , Political Socialization, Democratic Innovations, Federalism, Nations and Nationalism, European Integration and Europeanisation, Political Parties and Elections, Climate and Energy Policy, Gender, Ethnicity and Religion, Brussels Politics and Policy, International Relations

The Department's researchers are engaged in a wide range of research projects, many of which are funded through competitive grants, awards and fellowships. Its members hold leadership roles in professional organizations, serve as editors or editorial board members of key journals and book series in the discipline, and actively participate in public scholarship and media appearances. In all its academic and societal activities, the Department holds itself to the highest standard.

To learn more about our Department’s activity by research topic, please see the description of the research themes. To learn more about the research conducted by each member of the department, please visit their personal profiles. For an overall presentation of our department’s publications, please see this page.

1. International relations

We have different fellows working on international politics. Research focuses on areas such as international security, including issues like Europe's foreign and security policy and great power politics, international relations in Asia, with particular attention going to the rise of China, geoeconomics, and just war theory. We have published bestselling books as well as papers in prestigious academic journals, but also engaged at high level in policy related work for the EU, NATO, the UN, and different European member states.


Bruno Coppieters, Alexander Mattelaer and Jonathan Holslag

2. Political Parties and Elections

We analyze how political parties organize and behave. Together with Cevipol at ULB we constantly monitor the organizational developments of political parties in Belgium by keeping track of core characteristics like statutes, leadership selection, candidate selection, party finance, local sections and membership numbers. We are building a database with these organizational variables, as well as election results at all levels, party manifestoes and party congress resolutions. We do this as part of the Political Party Database Project and of the VUB-ULB Joint Research Group on Democratic Governance.


Kris Deschouwer, Dave Sinardet, Silvia Erzeel and Tom Verthé

3. Political Representation

Forms and practices of political representation are today being debated.  Key questions are the extent to which existing forms and procedures – mainly electoral and partisan – can truly grasp and reflect the variety of interests and identities in the complex modern society, and which are the criteria used by political actors – representatives and those represented - for defining good and legitimate representation. We focus in particular on young people, ethnic minorities, gender and LGBT and on the intersection of these groups.


Karen Celis, Eline Severs, Silvia Erzeel, Serena D'Agostino, Ilke Adam and Mihnea Tanasescu

4. Migration

Issues of migration and cultural diversity are high on European political agendas. Surveys and political events bear witness to the concerns of citizens all over Europe on these topics. Research also informs us on the alarming inequalities between immigrants and natives. We seek to understand the dynamics and consequences of migration and cultural diversity. It focuses on the politics and policies relating to migration, immigrant integration, ethnic and racial equality, and justice and home affairs.


Richard Lewis, Ilke Adam, Florian Trauner, Serena D'Agostino and Laura Westerveen

5. Democratic Innovations

We have extensive expertise in democracy and democratic innovations. Throughout many of our projects, we study the development of new governance structures and new policy instruments, and devise innovative solutions to persistent social problems.  Wen particular focus on strengthening accountability and citizenship through democratic deliberation, public participation, collaborative governance and government transparency.


Didier Caluwaerts, Dimo Kavadias, Jamal Shahin, Ferran Davesa, Joke Matthieu and Mihnea Tanasescu

6. Federalism, Nations and Nationalism

Our research on nations, nationalism and borders focuses on the European Union, particularly Belgium, but also deals with ethnic conflicts in EU's neighborhood. Building on diverse epistemologies (comparative, constructivist, post-structuralist, among others) further topics include the impact of ethnic conflicts on state reform, comparative federalism and ethics of secession.


Dave Sinardet, Bruno Coppieters, Vjosa Musliu, Dong Tu, Amelia Paduraiu and Michel Huysseune

7. Climate and Energy Policy

Our research on climate change and energy governance includes work on international climate negotiations, EU climate and energy policies, the governance of the transition to a sustainable society, and the impacts on democratic governance of such complex, long-term challenges such as climate change. This research theme engages with policy studies, EU studies, international relations, international organization, democratic theory, and theories of societal change. Researchers engage with the theme in a multi-disciplinary fashion.


Sebastian Oberthuer, Harri Kalimo and Mihnea Tanasescu

8. Gender, Ethnicity and Religious Diversity

The increasing diversity of society challenges democracy. We investigate how categories such as gender, ethnicity, and religion (and the intersections thereof) play out in politics and policy. This approach includes the investigation of a wide variety of political and policy related actors and institutions (e.g. political parties, parliaments, public services and civil society organizations), and processes (e.g. candidate recruitment and selection, gender mainstreaming, and representation). We investigate the democratic quality of politics and policies through the single category and intersectional lens. We conduct theoretical, empirical research and methodological investigations. 


Iman Lechkar, Karen Celis, Eline Severs, Silvia Erzeel, Serena D'Agostino, Ilke Adam, Emanuela Garboni and Gily Coene

The members of the Political Science Department at Vrije Universiteit Brussel closely collaborate with the following research centers:

The Institute for European Studies (IES) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an academic Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and a policy think tank that focuses on the European Union in an international setting. The Institute advances academic education in various disciplines and conducts research on themes such as: EU foreign and security policy; environment and sustainable development; migration, diversity and justice; European economic governance; educational development. The IES provides services to policy-makers, scholars, stakeholders and the general public.

RHEA, the Centre of Expertise Gender, Diversity and Intersectionality at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is a multidisciplinary and inter-faculty research group that aims to contribute to knowledge generation on gender, diversity and intersectionality, through scientific and interdisciplinary research and education. RHEA is headed by Gily Coene (director) and Karen Celis (co-director). RHEA offers a platform for researchers from across the university. It plays an important role in advising policy makers at the university and in the political world, offering expertise on equal opportunity and diversity policy.

BRIO is a Centre for Information, Documentation and Research on Brussels. Its main objective is to increase knowledge about Brussels and its surrounding municipalities. This objective is achieved through scientific, interdisciplinary and policy supporting research. BRIO initiates, develops and distributes scientific research and promotes research cooperation and information exchange. BRIO offers to the public scientific research, policy details, publications and statistics regarding Brussels and its surrounding municipalities.



We have a record of numerous books and book chapters published by the key academic publishers, and hundreds of articles in major political science journals.

For a thematic inroad to our publications see: Research Themes. To learn more about our department's publications by researcher, please go to the research output section on the researchers' personal webpages. For a complete presentation of our department's research activity, please see our list of publications here.

Before contacting a possible supervisor, please prepare a research proposal (max. 10 pages), including these elements:

  • State of the art
  • Objectives of the research
  • Methodology
  • Work plan
  • Bibliographical references that are relevant for your research proposal
  • List of your publications (if appropriate)

Additionally, you should also provide your Bachelor's and Master's transcripts of records.

For further information about doing a PhD at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, please see the following page.

Political Science Department




Teaching and Research Staff

Teaching and Research Staff

Visiting Staff

Visiting Staff