Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of Accounting, Economics and Finance

Start dates

October 2023

Application deadline

6 April 2023

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in October 2023. 

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Business and Law, and will be supervised by Dr Ali Sina Önder, Professor Karen Johnston and Professor Sascha Schweitzer. 

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£17,668 for 2022/23). Bursary recipients will also receive a contribution of £2,000 towards fieldwork. In addition, the Faculty supports conference costs with a contribution of £550 and training costs with a contribution of £450.

The work on this project could involve:

  • Analysing causal relations between institutional structures and the gender gap differences across sectors and countries
  • Analysing institutional differences between West and East European countries before and after 1990
  • Collecting micro-level data from archives or registers and merging large datasets  
  • Delivery of policy recommendations to improve women participation in innovative sectors and public leadership

This project aims to investigate how social and economic institutions affect the gender gap in Europe. Socialist countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) had a far better track record on women’s participation in economic and political activities compared to Western countries due to ideologies of equalitarianism. Some of the socialist era institutions survived the heavy re-structuring of the early 1990s, and they still affect the social and economic outcomes today. Earlier studies found significant positive correlation between the institutional heritage of the socialist era and women’s labour participation in CEE countries. Nevertheless, there is surprisingly little research about the causal links that underlie this correlation. This project aims to fill this significant void in the literature by investigating causal relationships between the institutional structures and gender gap outcomes in the labour market, entrepreneurship and public leadership.

The central question is: “What are the institutional factors that contribute or did contribute to the labour market gender gaps in East and West European countries?”. Specific research questions for individual thesis chapters could be (but are not restricted to)

  1. Why is women’s labour participation higher today in the former socialist regions compared to other regions?
  2. How do differences in regional institutional structures affect the productivity and the gender gap in innovative sectors?
  3. What institutional structures explain the gender gap in entrepreneurship in Europe?
  4. What institutional structures support successful public leadership and contribute to the gender gap in public life?

A comparative analysis between former socialist European countries and Western Europe offers a natural experiment where causal effects can be isolated. German re-unification is one such natural experiment which this project is intended to focus on, but the supervisory team welcomes any expertise and knowledge regarding other CEE context that the applicant wishes to bring on board.


Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Experience in working with large datasets and using Stata or R is desirable. Having taken lectures in econometrics, especially microeconometrics or panel data methods (either undergraduate or postgraduate) is an advantage.


How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Ali Sina Önder ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code AE&F8080423 when applying and submit all required documentation.