PhD candidate Stephan Meijers receives an NWO PhD grant

21 March 2024

PhD candidate Stephan Meijers receives an NWO PhD grant

Our PhD candidate (joint doctorate with the Theological University Utrecht) Stephan Meijers has received an NWO PhD grant for his research into the moral resilience of civil servants.

On February 1, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science announced that 24 teachers have received an NWO PhD grant this year. Every year, 9 million euros is available for PhD programs. These are aimed at the further development of teachers. They also contribute to strengthening the bond between universities and universities of applied sciences.

Robust realism

Stephan is a teacher in public law and ethics at Leiden University of Applied Sciences. He received a grant for his research “Robust Realism: A Reconstruction of Machiavelli’s Civil Service Ethics for Education in Moral Resilience”. The research focuses on the moral resilience of civil servants, inspired by Niccolò Machiavelli’s civil servant ethics.

Moral resilience is the necessary link between the integrity of the civil servant and the interests that could put pressure on the integrity of this civil servant. Niccolò Machiavelli’s civil servant ethics are the source of advice for education that trains civil servants. With Jonathan Bennett’s method of rational reconstruction, Machiavelli’s perspective gains significance for the present. Civil servant ethics are treated like a funnel. From fundamental views on human nature, law and government responsibility to practical civil service ethics and the education that trains civil servants.

Ethics and law

Over the next five years, Stephan will work on his PhD project. Stephan is supervised in a ‘joint doctorate’ program by Dr. Steven van den Heuvel (ETF Leuven) and Prof. Leon van den Broeke (TUU). They are experts in the field of ethics and law within the public domain.

Stephan is looking forward to dedicating more time to his research. He draws inspiration from Machiavelli’s vision. This states that honest civil servants may demonstrate how much “God loves justice and mercy” and that they are appointed to do justice. At the same time, Machiavelli points out the vulnerability of honest individuals. He offers insights for dealing with various forms of pressure that sometimes make this task difficult. This research into Machiavelli’s ‘toolkit’ leads to valuable advice for higher education for civil servants.

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