RENPET Network Residency at KU Leuven

Óscar Fernández |


Between March and June 2023, I completed a RENPET-funded research stay at the KU Leuven Faculty of Social Sciences, within the Leuven International and European Studies department” (LINES). By embarking on this residency halfway through my PhD, I sought to get more acquainted with the top-tier research carried out at LINES and gain access to KU Leuven’s outstanding facilities all over Belgium, which include extensive bibliographic resources. 


During my stay, I took advantage of the institution’s proximity to Brussels: I conducted interviews with public officials from EU institutions and attended various international academic conferences and research seminars. My residency was very rewarding – and even surpassed my expectations. 


A Variety of Experiences


Additionally, I had the opportunity to experience KU Leuven’s dynamic academic life, including the Research Day of the Faculty of Social Sciences’ Doctoral Programme. I also delivered a guest lecture with bachelor students from American University, as part of a joint programme involving this institution and KU Leuven. My lecture addressed the evolution of global health governance and the EU’s interaction with it, paying particular attention to the effect of crises like COVID-19. This complemented the programme’s overall focus on the EU’s responses to external shocks.  


Closer to the end of my stay, I presented a draft of a book chapter – which will be one of the components of my PhD – at a “LINES session”, in which early-career scholars affiliated with the department discuss their work in progress in an informal setting. I also engaged with LINES researchers and other RENPET members at the 2nd RENPET annual conference, which took place at my home institution (IBEI) in late May-early June. This event allowed me to obtain additional feedback on my research.  


My RENPET residency at KU Leuven has been instrumental in propelling my PhD forward. During my stay, I finalized my first PhD article and submitted it to an academic journal, completed the first draft of a co-authored book chapter, and started working on the third component of my PhD – a journal article within a Special Issue to which other LINES and RENPET researchers will also contribute. In more formal terms, my three-month research stay in a prestigious university abroad will render me eligible for an International Mention, an honorary qualification awarded in the Spanish system that will add value to my PhD diploma. 


My gratitude goes to…


I am very grateful to Dr Kolja Raube (my host at the LINES department) and Dr Katja Biedenkopf (the coordinator of LINES) for warmly welcoming me and assisting me at every step, including in the months prior to my arrival. Special thanks also go out to Charlotte Debeuf (my wonderful office mate), Franziska Petri (my friendly office neighbour and fellow commuter from Brussels), and the rest of professors and colleagues from the LINES department. I would also like to extend my appreciation to Ingrid De Wachter, Greet Louw and Amin Mirabdollah for their kind and resourceful support in various capacities. Finally, I would like to thank UACES and RENPET for their generous sponsorship and for presenting early-career scholars with this valuable opportunity, among many others. 


More About the Author


Óscar Fernández is a PhD candidate in the program Political Science, Public Policy and International Relations at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, under the supervision of Dr. Robert Kissack. He obtained a predoctoral contract from the H2020 research project ENGAGE (Envisioning a New Governance Architecture for a Global Europe). His fields of interest are the European Union’s external action, global health governance, international security, and conflict management. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Pompeu Fabra University, a Master’s degree in Advanced European and International Studies from the Centre International de Formation Européenne, and a Master’s degree in Internationalization from the University of Barcelona. Prior to joining IBEI, he was senior researcher at the EsadeGeo Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics and junior researcher at the World Health Organization. 



The RENPET network invites applications from PhD students and Early-Career Researchers (within 5 years of their PhD) working in EU Foreign Policy, EU external relations or related fields to apply for bursaries to support an extended residency (2-3 months) at one of the network institutions. Find out more on the RENPET website. Apply for a residency via the UACES website.