PhD position on informality at the Aleksanteri Institute (University of Helsinki)

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MSCA-ETN: MARKETS: Mapping Uncertainties, Challenges and Future Opportunities of Emerging Markets: Informal Barriers, Business Environments and Future Trends in Eastern Europe, The Caucasus and Central Asia

ESR5: Evolution and coherence of informal and formal rules and practices in the development of post-Soviet institutions

The University of Helsinki is the oldest and largest institution of academic education in Finland, an international scientific community of 40,000 students and researchers. In international university rankings, the University of Helsinki typically ranks among the top 100. The University of Helsinki seeks solutions for global challenges and creates new ways of thinking for the best of humanity. Through the power of science, the University has contributed to society, education and welfare since 1640.

The Aleksanteri Institute functions as a national centre of research, study and expertise pertaining to Russia, Eurasia and Eastern Europe, particularly in the social sciences and humanities. We offer our researchers an international and inspiring research environment in the centre of Helsinki, with excellent research infrastructure (including Integrum database, diverse electronic resources of the University of Helsinki and the world-famous Slavonic library). A visiting scholars’ programme and a wide network of scholars conducting research on Russia, Eurasia and Eastern Europe are also part of our dynamic research community. More information on the Aleksanteri Institute is available here,

The Aleksanteri Institute and the Faculty of Arts invite applications for the position of


for a fixed term of 3 years, starting preferably in March 2021. The appointment starts with a probationary period of six months. The deadline for applications is 30 November 2020.

The position is part of the project MSCA-ETN: MARKETS. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 861034.

The MARKETS projects explores factors, which impact diplomatic and economic relations between the EU and a number of post-USSR republics. Efforts to diversify domestic economies and to attract foreign investments have multiplied in the past years in the region, through initiates that include visa liberalization and economic and fiscal reforms aimed at reducing barriers to entry for foreign business seeking access to domestic markets. The response from the international business community to these efforts have been modest to date. While a number of corporate entities have tried to enter new markets, the attractiveness of such newly opened republics remain limited, in large part due to informal barriers to foreign investment. Such informal obstacles and hindrances remain largely under-reported and under-studied, contributing to a more general lack of understanding of local business environments that is exacerbated by a dearth of regional specialists who can understand and navigate the micro and macro socio-political economies of post-USSR markets.

MARKETS responds to novel opportunities emerging in post-Soviet spaces by conducting a study on the influence of both formal and informal factors impacting on access to markets in eight countries in the post-USSR, including two countries per sub-region (Baltics, Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia) to 1) construct a map of business environments in the region based; 2) create, develop and improve the sustainability of training programmes for future analysts to equip them with deep practical understandings of the region, embedded in the newest theoretical and methodological approaches.

The overall goal of the project is to compare countries that had fully opened to foreign investors by the early 2000s – Estonia, Latvia (now EU members), Georgia (considered by many as an example of best practice in reforms), and Kyrgyzstan (where markets are stable but no major economic leap is expected in the next immediate future) – with what have been identified as significant prospective post-USSR markets for the next ten years – Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan (all of which have shown a more concrete desire for economic dialogue in the past three years), Russia (its eastern region and, in particular, Siberia, which has remained largely unexplored by EU companies), and Azerbaijan, a country that has finally started interacting in more concrete terms with the EU.

The doctoral student will work in the project MARKETS part ESR5: ‘Evolution and coherence of informal and formal rules and practices in the development of post-Soviet institutions’. The doctoral candidate is expected to examine and compare processes and mechanisms of informality in government institutions of the post-Soviet regions through an exploration of the relationship between formal and informal norms and practices. The doctoral student will be working with Dr. Anna-Liisa Heusala within this project. Applicants should familiarize themselves with the objectives of the project and address these in their application letter.

The ideal applicant is a highly motivated student with a background in political science, sociology, law, or a closely related field, and a completed MA-degree (or equivalent) by the start of the position. Preference will be given to candidates wishing to work on dimensions of institutional change in the Eurasian space. An interest in multidisciplinary research and knowledge of Russian and/or other relevant language of the region is also an asset.


Applicants must hold a degree enabling them to enroll into doctoral studies by December 2020 (usually a MA or MSc). They cannot have more than 4 years full time research experience (or hold a doctorate already, even if they worked less than 4 years to complete it) at the time of recruitment. The doctoral student will be conducting full-time research and work towards the completion of a PhD-thesis within the field of the project.

The appointee must either have the right to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Helsinki by the start of the appointment, or apply for the right and obtain it within the six months probationary period. If the appointee for the position does not already have the right to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Helsinki, it must be applied for separately in spring 2021. Instructions on how to apply for the right here:…. For more information on the PhD programmes, see:…


Applicants can be of any nationality but cannot have been resident (or have had their main activity i.e. work or study) in Finland for more than 12 of the 36 months prior to recruitment. This means that if you spent less than 12 months in Finland (including if you have never been to Finland) you are eligible.

NB: This a very intensive programme. Each selected candidate will be enrolled into a PhD programme, and will be seconded to the target region for data collection and will subsequently be seconded to a non-academic partner to gain a hands-on work experience on how research skills can be used beyond academia for the benefit of the governmental, private or international development sector. There will also be workshops of 4 to 5 days duration approximately every 6 months at which attendance is essential. Therefore, a willingness and ability to undertake these international mobilities is a core requirement.


Financial conditions (including salary levels) and background documents are available at…

Your salary will be calculated according to MSCA rules and your personal and family situation. More information can be found at the financial section of the MSCA ITN guide for applicants that you can find in section 5 (Financial Aspects) of the document. If selected, you will be expected to familiarise yourself with these rules also to be aware of your formal rights and obligations towards the donor.

The University of Helsinki offers comprehensive services to its employees, including occupational health care and health insurance, sports facilities, and opportunities for professional development. More information on the University of Helsinki as an employer please see:


Applicants are requested to enclose with their applications the following English-language documents as one pdf file:

(1) Your CV (max. 3 pages);
(2) A letter of motivation addressing the project’s research questions (or field) (max. 2 pages);
(3) One or two representative pieces of your writing (if possible, including your MA-thesis);
(4) The name and contact details of at least one referee.

Please name the pdf file with your last name and the initials of your first name.

Please submit your application, together with the required attachments, through the University of Helsinki Recruitment System via the link ‘Apply for the position’.

Applicants who are currently employees of the University of Helsinki are requested to leave their application via the SAP HR portal.

The deadline for the application is November 30th, 2020.


Any queries regarding the project should be directed at Dr Anna-Liisa Heusala, anna-liisa.heusala(at)


Due date

30.11.2020 23:59 EET

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