Els Witte PhD Prize

It is our pleasure to introduce the winner of the Els Witte annual prize for outstanding PhD thesis in Political Science for 2020.

This occasion also gives me an opportunity to honour Els Witte, a Belgian social scientist (historian), after whom the prize is named, especially for those of us who come from abroad. Els Witte was professor at the Free University Brussels and honorary rector of the university. In fact, Els Witte was the first female rector of a Belgian university and has stood out with her active engagement in social and political life.

The members of the Els Witte prize selection committee for 2020 were:

Marcel Boogers, University of Twente

Karen Celis, Free University Brussels

Paul Pennings, Free University Amsterdam

Aneta Spendzharova, Maastricht University

Ruud Wouters, University of Antwerp

The three shortlisted candidates whose PhD theses impressed the selection committee were:

David Bokhorst, University of Amsterdam

Governing imbalances in the economic and monetary union:

A political economy analysis of the macroeconomic imbalance procedure

Robin Devroe, Ghent University

Understanding women’s political underrepresentation:

The prevalence of political gender stereotypes in Flanders (Belgium)

Tijs Laenen, KU Leuven

Welfare deservingness and welfare policy:

New perspectives on popular deservingness opinions and their interaction with welfare state policies

One of the PhD theses read by the selection committee stood out with the methodological rigour, academic and societal relevance, and passion for doing research.

We are very pleased to announce the winner of the Els Witte PhD thesis prize: this is David Bokhorst.

The revised Economic and Monetary Union governance framework is both arcane (David, the number of acronyms in your thesis got us, so to speak) and consequential for the domestic political economy of the EU member states.

  • David Bokhorst’s thesis stood out with the very convincing integration of five in-depth case studies and cross-case analysis concerning the new Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure (for short MIP).
  • The thesis shows very solid causal analysis through qualitative methods of the key determinants of the MIP’s capacity to influence domestic policy-making of the EU member states.
  • David conducted 76 interviews covering both the EU and member states, a thorough document analysis, and his case analysis demonstrates very convincing causal process tracing.
  • This combination of research strategies enables the researcher to simultaneously analyse the (interaction between) the economic context, the domestic political context and the role of actors, in particular how the MIP is used by actors in practice.
  • Overall, the thesis presents a thorough and convincing analysis of a very complex governing process.
  • In addition to the very strong theoretical and empirical work, the selection committee also applauds David for his engaging and convincing writing style. From the very first to the very last page of the thesis, the reader feels the author’s passion for the selected topic and for doing research in general.

Once again, congratulations, David!