Slide background
Slide background
Slide background
Slide background

RUG logo 1 uu logo vulogo 1 radboud eur logo E

PhD Candidate Cross-Border Network Governance for Sustainable Training in Health Care

PhD Candidate: Cross-Border Network Governance

Department of Sociology, ICS, University of Groningen
Maximum salary: € 2.801 gross/month 
Start Date: 01.11.2017
Application deadline: 20.08.2017
To describe and explain under which conditions cross-border collaborative networks contribute to the creation of innovative and sustainable learning in the health care sector.
Theoretical Background
Many contemporary industrialized societies face labor market shortages in the health care sector due to - amongst others - increased demand caused by population aging. One way to address the rising demand for health care professionals is the recruitment of these professionals from other countries in order to create sustainable labor markets in the sector. However, cross-border recruitment is not a straightforward task due to the fact that each country has unique health care and education system characteristics. Along with different skill and competency requirements and diplomas tailored to the specifics of the national health care context, there are also differences in clients' expectations and institutional arrangements across countries. The success of cross-country recruitment of health care professionals thus depends on the establishment of a productive and effective collaboration regarding learning opportunities, employment policies, job profiles, and education programs by multiple stakeholders in both the health care and education sector, such as nursing schools, hospitals, recruiters and professional associations, on both sides of the border.
For several decades now, collaborative networks between public organizations have proven their value as a tool to improve the service provision in the health and education sectors within many European countries. An increasing number of such collaborative networks represent cross-border collaboration (CBC) initiatives (Perkmann, 2003). In fact, the regional and local authorities of all 70 European border regions engage in some form of CBC, and the European Union funds these initiatives with approximately 700ME per year. CBC networks involve public agencies in different countries, and they serve two explicit purposes: to solve practical problems in a specific administrative or societal domain, and to institutionalize cross-border collaboration that is sustainable over time (Perkmann, 2003).
But do such networks really work? Assessing their effectiveness is a challenge, because they need to be evaluated at three levels of analysis (Provan & Milward, 2001): community, network, and organization/participant levels. Though interrelated, each level has its own set of effectiveness criteria. Much current managerial scholarship builds on economic principal-agent reasoning to explain under which conditions such networks will yield the desired outcomes (Provan & Milward, 2001). These approaches emphasizes the importance of formal governance arrangements that rely on incentive alignment, monitoring and effective sanctioning as main guarantors of success. In contrast, more recent sociological scholarship emphasizes the importance of joint production motivation, reciprocity, and reputations as key ingredients for building sustainable collaborative networks. In order to derive (competing) hypotheses, the present project will put both explanations under closer scrutiny.
Research design
The present project aims at at investigating the role of bottom-up network governance in the creation of durable and effective health care training and the promotion of an integrated labor market. The project is part of a government funded large-scale regional initiative pioneered by ZON, a network organization specialized in bringing together both health care providers and health care educators to coordinate educational matters in their sector ( This project capitalizes on a unique opportunity to collect longitudinal data in a large cross-border collaborative network in the Northern part of the Netherlands and Germany.
Modeling the evolution of collaborative networks in a multilevel organizational field with more than 50 participating organizations and hundreds of health care students requires a mixed method research design, combining both quantitative and qualitative data collection. The first stage consists of mapping the stakeholders involved in a specific internship trajectory and the inter-organizational networks and their multilevel governance structure. In a second step, multilevel longitudinal sociometric and attribute data will be collected on (changes in) the overarching network structure and the tasks implemented in the network (i.e., internship provision and supervision, learning trajectories, recruitment efforts, and adjusting educational materials). Specific attention will also be devoted to identify the threats to sustainable cooperation and the related solutions in terms of network governance.
Provan, K. G., & Milward, H. B. (2001). Do Networks Really Work? A Framework for Evaluating Public-Sector Organizational Networks. Public Administration Review 61(4), 414-423.
Perkmann, M. (2003). Cross-border regions in Europe. Significance and Drivers of Regional Cross-Border Co-operation. European Urban and Regional Studies 10(2), 153-171.
Project initiators
Francesca Giardini (RUG), Liesbet Heyse (RUG), Rafael Wittek (RUG), Jelly Zuidersma (Netwerk ZON)
September 1, 2017

You can apply for this project on the Website of the University of Groningen.