Closing date     15 August 2019
Level of education     Master's degree
Hours     38 hours per week
Salary indication     €2,325 to €2,972 gross per month

Are you interested in applied social science and medical anthropology research, in the field of maternal and perinatal health and care? Do you recognize the value of interdisciplinary research and team work? Is it your ambition to become a top-tier researcher?

The Department of Anthropology is one of the departments in the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. We are seeking a PhD candidate for the SPOT-IMPACT project, a four year interdisciplinary, mixed-methods study funded by the Dutch NWO. The project, to be carried out in Ghana, seeks to develop, implement and evaluate a decision-making tool meant to improve care for women with hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. We are looking for a PhD candidate to work on the qualitative, ethnographic arm of the project, led by Dr Bregje de Kok (Anthropology, University of Amsterdam) and Dr Trudie Gerrits. The PhD project will involve collaboration with other disciplines such as epidemiology, medicine, health economics and ethics. The PhD track is part of the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR) programme group Health Care and the Body.

Project description

Improving care for pregnant women with hypertensive disorders: An ethnographic study of the use of shared-decision making tools in health facilities in Ghana

Maternal and perinatal mortality rates remain high in low and middle-income settings, where quality of maternity care has emerged as a bottleneck that hampers further gains. (Human) resource shortages are a key barrier to achieve quality maternity care. Risk-based medicine might address the resource problem and improve outcomes, by facilitating patient triage and clinical decisions leading to provision of the right care, to the right person, at the right moment. Whilst we can use epidemiology and other clinical sciences to develop risk prediction models, we do not yet know how exactly to implement these models. According to current WHO maternal care standards, quality care is not only based on the provision of evidence-based care, but also on the experience of care, which ought to respect women’s needs and principles of shared decision making. For practitioners, how to use risk prediction models and adhere to principles of respectful maternity care and shared-decision making requires further guidance. This can be challenging, especially in low and middle income settings where resources (e.g. time) are scant and practitioners and clients alike may subscribe less to the shared-decision making ideology. Moreover, shared-decision making in the context of hypertensive disorders is complicated by potential tensions between the health interest of the woman and baby. Survival of a woman may require termination of a pregnancy and delivery of a premature infant. Risk of death of the foetus or baby is real, and may have major social and economic implications. This raises questions about whether and how husbands or relatives need to be involved in the decision-making regarding clinical management of hypertensive disorders.

In this four year interdisciplinary, mixed-method project involving medical and social science we will (1) develop a clinical decision-making tool to improve clinical and respectful care, and facilitate shared decision making (2) implement the SPOT tool in hospitals in the Greater Accra Region and Eastern Region in Ghana (3) evaluate the impact of the SPOT tool. The PhD candidate will conduct ethnographic research in all three phases of the project.

Formative research

We explore how practitioners currently care for women with hypertensive disorders, and examine interactions between providers and clients in which risks and treatment options are discussed. In addition to ethnographic observations, interviews and focus groups, we use conversation analysis for detailed analysis of clinical encounters. Qualitative and quantitative findings are combined to develop a decision-making tool.

Implementation phase

We implement the decision-making tool, and conduct a qualitative process evaluation to examine whether and how practitioners use this tool, using hospital ethnography and conversation analysis.

Impact evaluation

Using qualitative and ethnographic methods we assess how use of the tool changes provider-client interactions, quality of care, and providers’ and women’s care experiences.

What will you be doing?

  • You will be affiliated with the AISSR’s organized PhD training. The academic work is to result in a doctoral thesis that will be defended at the Faculty of Social Sciences with a view to obtaining the degree of PhD;
  • you will conduct up to one-year ethnographic fieldwork in Ghana;
  • for the remainder of the employment period, you are expected to live in Amsterdam and take active part in the research environment at the AISSR;
  • teaching (up to 10% of your time) and organizational support for the project leader will be part of your job responsibilities.

What do we require of you?

You have the following credentials.


  • a Master’s degree or equivalent with a relevant specialization within the social sciences or humanities e.g. medical anthropology. The degree must have been obtained by the time of application;
  • excellent oral and written communication skills in English;
  • prior training in ethnographic methods;
  • ethnographic fieldwork experience;
  • independent thinking and critical analytical skills;
  • the ability to work relatively independently;
  • the ability to collaborate in interdisciplinary teams.


  • expertise or familiarity with anthropology of reproduction and maternal health;
  • prior training in and experience of conversation analysis or related discursive method;
  • ability to collect data in Twi or other relevant Ghanaian language;
  • previous living or work experience in Ghana or other low or middle income setting.

What can we offer you?

An intellectually exciting 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.

Further information

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

Dr Bregje de Kok
T: +31 (0)6 25630975

Would you like to learn more about working at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)? Visit our website.


The position concerns a temporary appointment of 38 hours per week for a maximum term of four years. The initial appointment is for one year, preferably starting on 1 November 2019. 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.

Your salary will be €2,325 gross per month in the first year and will increase to €2,972 in the final year, based on full-time employment and in keeping with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities. We additionally offer an extensive package of secondary benefits, including 8% holiday allowance and a year-end bonus of 8.3%.

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.

Does this profile sound like you? If so, we are eager to receive:

  • an application letter describing the applicant’s qualifications and motivation for the position;
  • a Curriculum Vitae (with a list of education, positions, teaching experience, administrative experience and other qualifying activities, including a complete list of publications);
  • an official, certified transcript of your Bachelor’s and Master's degrees. Applicants with education from a foreign university must attach an explanation of their university's grading system;
  • contact information for two academic references (no letters of recommendation);
  • Master’s thesis and another academic paper. This can be a published paper or a paper submitted for an academic course. It should demonstrate the candidate’s scholarly capacity, be no longer than 20 pages, if possible in the intended field of specialization, and representative of your best work;
  • if non-native English speaking, a recent TOEFL or equivalent English comprehension test score (TOEFL: a minimum average of 6.5 for the total test and a minimum of 6.0 for each test component).

All documents must be in English and uploaded as a single pdf (not zipped). The deadline for applications is 15 August 2019. Shortlisted candidates will be contacted for an interview, which shall take place in the week of 9 September. In exceptional circumstances, interviews can be conducted by skype. You can apply online by clicking on the link below.

Application link: