Fully funded PhD position (3 years) at the Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen

The University of Copenhagen hereby announces one fully funded PhD position (3 years) to start 1 September 2023.

The position is part of the research project CIRCLE the aim of which is to examine how and to what extent populist ideas of law and justice are circulated across European languages and communities and disseminated across media, political, and legal text genres. CIRCLE rests on the normative assumption that it is a legitimate scholarly aim to contribute to the defense of the liberal democratic order based on the rule of law and asks:

  • what are the characteristics of the rhetoric of populist ideas of law and justice;
  • what ensures its effectiveness across languages, communities, and genres;
  • how do national and international legal actors react to populist ideas;
  • and is it possible to create a non-populist popular language that could be a fruitful response to populist ideas?

To answer those questions, CIRCLE will apply an interdisciplinary research methodology, which draws on insights from Critical Discourse Analysis, corpus linguistics, rhetoric, and translation theory in order to inform socio-legal and political science research on the legitimacy of international law and courts and social science research on populism.

The overall research project and research questions
The overarching methodology of CIRCLE is empirical and combines both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Research will be conducted in four overlapping steps, each representing a work package. The PhD student is expected to contribute to Work package 1 and will be responsible for Work package 3:

Work package 1: The Rhetoric of Populist Ideas. In a first step, the PI and PhD - supported by a student assistant and supported by data specialists at iCourts - will collect and code Danish media and political texts on human rights. Denmark is selected as the country of primary investigation due to the widespread populist sentiment across the political spectrum.

Work package 2: The Circulation of Populist Ideas. In a second step, not part of the PhD thesis, the PI with international collaborators will compare populist phrases across languages and trace their circulation and dissemination. The selected countries represent nation states in which European law is criticized publicly to varying degrees reflecting their different geo-political situation (Poland, the UK, Italy, Spain, and Germany).

Work package 3: The Impact of Populist Ideas. In a third step, the PhD will turn to legislative and judicial discourse to ascertain whether and how legal texts of the human rights system at national and European levels have been affected by populist ideas. Does the human rights system react to the populist surge, and if so, what is the rhetoric of its reaction? Are populist ideas recontextualized from genres of politics and the media into legal genres – legislation and judgments? If so, how?

Work package 4: The Response to Populist Ideas. In a final conclusive step, the PI, in cooperation with international collaborators, will draft a grammar of a non-populist, plain and simple language of human rights that may be used in defense of the international legal order based on liberal democracy and the rule of law.

CIRCLE is embedded in iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts. In accordance with iCourts’ research agenda, CIRCLE focuses on international law and courts, and especially the European Court of Human Rights and the authority of its decisions in the domestic legal systems, https://jura.ku.dk/icourts/research/.

The PhD Programme
The PhD will be part of the wider PhD Programme offered by the Faculty of Law. The goal of the PhD Programme is threefold: to prepare candidates for a continuing career in teaching and research; to educate a new generation of scholars to produce high-quality independent research; and to equip them with the analytical and problem-solving skills required for a successful career in both the public and private sectors.   

The Faculty of Law offers supervision by highly qualified academics and provides an excellent opportunity to research contemporary legal issues in an intellectually stimulating environment. 

Successful PhD candidates are required to:  

  • Actively engage in the research environment at the University of Copenhagen; participate in international conferences, courses and meetings relevant to their research project; 
  • Comply with the formal requirements of the PhD programme;
  • Contribute to teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses in Danish or English offered by the Faculty of Law 
  • Conduct independent and high quality research under the supervision of a senior member of academic staff at the Faculty.


  • Applicants must have obtained a degree that corresponds to the Danish Master of Laws degree which is a second cycle 120 ECTS degree (two years of full-time studies), that builds on a 180 ECTS bachelor’s degree (three years of full-time studies) or equivalent qualifications. Applicants with a non-Danish Master's degree will have their degree assessed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science in order to establish, if the Master's degree is equivalent to a Danish Master's degree.
  • Applicants must have obtained a minimum overall grade average of 8.2 or above at the Master’s level in accordance with the Danish grading scale (for Danish scale, see https://ufm.dk/en/education/the-danish-education-system/grading-system?set_language=en&cl=en).
  • Applicants may submit their application before they have completed their Master’s Degree. The Master’s degree must be obtained before the start date.
  • Applicants must document an aptitude for research through the meritorious assessment of their final thesis, publications or academic recommendations in order to show that they are capable of undertaking the demanding task of writing a PhD thesis.
  • Applicants must have excellent language skills in English and have excellent communications skills. Applicants must be able to teach at an academic level in Danish or English and to follow PhD courses in English.
  • Applicants with knowledge of Danish and an interdisciplinary background in Law and Language or Law and Rhetoric will be preferred.

Application procedure
Click ’Apply now’ below to be taken to the online application form.  

We advise you to have the following documents ready before you begin your online application:  

  • Research project proposal: This should include the following: (1) objective(s) of the research, (2) major research questions, (3) review of relevant literature, (4) methodology to be applied in the research, and (5) a timetable that plans for all course requirements to have been met within three years. The project description must elaborate on the value of the proposed research project in terms of its relevance to existing and future research in the field. It is recommended that the project proposal does not exceed 6 A4 pages (excluding bibliography). The document must be in Times New Roman, font size 12, spacing 1.5 with all margins (right, left, top and bottom) set to 2 cm
  • Curriculum vitae (maximum 2 pages).
  • Diplomas and transcripts: Certified copies of original diploma(s) and transcripts (both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree) in the original language and an authorized English translation if they are issued in other language than English or Danish.
  • Grading scale: A certified explanation of grading scale in the original language and an authorized English translation if it is available in another language than English or Danish.
  • Letter of motivation: Explain the choice of the Faculty of Law at the University of Copenhagen as a host institution for the proposed project and outline how the project fits within the research priorities at the Faculty (maximum 1 page).
  • Documentation of English level: Documentation of English level can for instance be documented by an excellent IELTS or TOEFL test.

Submit your application electronically in English.

University of Copenhagen wishes to reflect the surrounding society and therefore encourages all interested parties regardless of personal background to apply for the position.

Recruitment process
Following the application deadline, the Associate Dean of Research will pre-select PhD applications that will proceed to the assessment stage upon the recommendation of the Selection Committee. Applicants are pre-selected for further assessment in line with the Faculty’s recruitment needs as described in this job advertisement. This is carried out based on the overall assessment of the applicant’s educational qualifications, the quality of the submitted research proposal and its relevance to the Faculty’s research agenda, and other relevant qualifications (e.g. relevant professional experience, any previous academic publications etc.). All applicants are then notified by the HR Centre as to whether their application has proceeded to the assessment stage. The assessment is carried out by an expert assessment committee. Selected applicants will be notified of the composition of the assessment committee. When the committee has completed its assessment, each applicant has the opportunity to comment on the assessment. A number of qualified applicants will be invited for an interview.

Terms of employment
Successful candidates will be employed in accordance with the agreement between the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations and the Ministry of Finance concerning the salary of PhD students. If you are offered a PhD position, you will receive a regular monthly salary in accordance with Danish law and you will be entitled to an annual research budget. The Faculty does not provide accommodation.

Additional Information
For questions regarding the research project, please contact Anne Lise Kjær, PI of CIRCLE, email: alk@jur.ku.dk

Contact information
Information about the recruitment process is available from Dorthea Andersen, HR, e-mail: hrsc@hrsc.ku.dk, please refer to ID number: 211-1328/23-2I #1.

Closing date for applications
The closing date for applications 17 April 2023, 23:59 GMT+1.

Applications received after the deadline will not be considered. Likewise incomplete applications (i.e. without all required documents) will be rejected.


Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.


Application deadline: 17-04-2023
Employment start: 01-09-2023
Department/Location: Det Juridiske Fakultet
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