Expertise in Supranational Politics: the European Parliament Research Service, Policy-Making, and the Democratic Deficit

  • Application end date: 19th July, 2017
  • Funding Availability: Funded PhD project (UK students only)
  • Department: School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies
  • PhD Supervisor: Professor Wolfram Kaiser, Dr Ed Stoddard, and Dr Nora Siklodi

Project in brief

The project will explore if and how parliaments can strengthen their policy-making capabilities by developing unbiased in-house scientific expertise to support individual parliamentarians. The project will be a single case study of the European Parliament which has recently reformed and expanded its EP Research Service. The candidate will develop a personal research programme using EPRS data sets and qualitative methods such as semi-structured interviews with e.g. MEPs, EP officials etc. It is planned that the project will be combined with a three months internship with the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies think-tank for data collection and gaining relevant work experience.

Project in detail

Contemporary parliamentary democracies have seen a significant shift in control over policy-making from parliaments to executives that have easy access to abundant expertise. In the EU, the loss of control by parliaments over executive policy-making has not been compensated fully by a corresponding strengthening of the EP. While the EP now has co-decision powers, it has weak support for its policy-making role. The recent reorganization and expansion of the EP Research Service (EPRS) has been designed to address this problem by giving individual MEPs access to in-house scientific expertise to strengthen their independence from other institutions like the Commission or interest groups. The EP hopes that these changes can contribute to bolstering the quality of parliamentary policy-making and help address the ‘democratic deficit’. This project will investigate which national templates (e.g. US, Germany) the reform drew on, how the in-house expertise is provided, how it is used, and how its quality and importance is assessed by various stakeholders. To answer its research questions, it will utilize quantitative (EPRS data sets on number and types of requests, nationality and political group affiliation of MEPs using the service, speed and type of response etc.) and qualitative (e.g. document analysis of EPRS papers; c. 30 semi-structured interviews with MEPs, MEP assistants, EPRS officials, scientific advisers etc.) research methods. Drawing on constructivist/sociological concepts of politics and policy-making, the project will focus on how those who produce, channel and use in-house scientific expertise perceive its quality, relevance and impact.

Specific research questions:

  • Can in-house scientific expertise enhance the quality of parliamentary policy-making, and how?
  • How does such expertise compare and relate to other input (e.g. Commission, interest groups) into policy-making in the particular case of the European Parliament (EP)?
  • Does strengthening the research resources of the EP significantly enhance MEPs’ independence and role in policy-making, and to what extent can this help address the ‘democratic deficit’?

Candidate specification

  • Essential: Background in a social science subject & knowledge of EU politics and policy-making.
  • Desirable: Basic knowledge of relevant quantitative and qualitative research methods, to be developed in the course of the SCDTP training.

For all funding, students must have qualifications of the standard of a good honours degree at first or upper second-class level, from a UK academic higher education institution. Degree qualifications gained from outside the UK, or a combination of qualifications and/or experience that is equivalent to a relevant UK degree, may be accepted.

How to Apply

Before you apply, please make sure you meet the candidate specification.

Candidates do not need to submit a project proposal, however are required to submit a 500 word personal statement to include:

  • Details of how your skills and interests match the project
  • Background and previous experience
  • Research interests

The first supervisor for this project (Professor Wolfram Kaiser) will need to support your SCDTP application. Therefore it is essential that you contact him before you apply:

There are two stages to the application process:

(1) The first application form you need to complete is for your chosen programme of study at the University of Portsmouth.

Apply to the University of Portsmouth through our standard online application form and follow the instructions given under the 'Research Degrees' heading on the following webpages before you submit your SCDTP application:

When applying to the University of Portsmouth, you will need to enter project code - HPSS3701018

The closing date for University of Portsmouth applications is 19 July 2017, 12.00 noon.

(2) The second application form which requires completion is the South Coast DTP Funding Application Form.  There are two versions of this form which can be downloaded. In accordance with the SCDTP guidance, please ensure you use the correct form (in this case the 'South Coast DTP Project Specific Application Form').

The 'South Coast DTP Project Specific Application Form', and more information on the South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership can be found at:

You will then need to submit your funding application to the SCDTP by 28 July 2017

Funding notes

As well as covering all tuition fees, the studentship also includes an annual maintenance grant, of £14,482 (2017/18).

Please note, students applying without a Master's qualification containing a substantial Social Sciences methods component may be required to complete such a Master's beforehand. The Master's will be fully funded by the SCDTP.


Star Overview

Back To Top

Light bulb Research Areas

Back To Top

Monitor Facilities & Features

Mortarboard Careers & Opportunities

Back To Top