Jurgen Goossens appointed full professor of Constitutional Law at Utrecht University

Jurgen Goossens
Jurgen Goossens

As of August 1, 2022, Jurgen Goossens will be full Professor of Constitutional Law at Utrecht University. A field that is strongly linked to citizens, politics and society. Goossens: "What I like about constitutional law is that major societal questions are central, in which the government acts in relation to citizens. What rules play a role there? And how can they be improved?" In the coming years, his chair will focus on constitutional resilience in view of digital transformations and legal protection against government action.

Until July 2022, Jurgen Goossens was associate professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law at Tilburg University. In the period 2016 to 2019, he combined an appointment as assistant professor of constitutional law at Erasmus University with a postdoctoral FWO research grant at Ghent University, where he conducted research into the role of citizens in constitutional amendment procedures. In May 2016, Goossens defended his comparative law dissertation 'The future of administrative justice: judicial review of administrative action in comparative perspective' at Ghent University. In addition, Goossens also holds an LL.M. obtained from Yale University.

About working in the Netherlands, he says: Over the past six years, I have thoroughly familiarized myself with Dutch constitutional and administrative law. In addition, in constitutional law, the basic principles are the same in the Netherlands and Belgium. However, there are also differences that I always immediately notice. As a result, I regularly do comparative law in a natural way, which provides interesting insights.

Societal Impact of Teaching and Research

Goossens attaches great importance to the societal relevance of his research and education: "What I like about my field is that major societal issues are central, in which the government acts in relation to citizens. What are the rules of the game? And how can they be improved? Challenges such as digitalisation, climate change, hyper-complexity, discrimination and poverty are subjects in which constitutional law must contribute to solutions." Goossens is also regularly involved in science communication and educational innovation. Last year the Executive Board of Tilburg University nominated him as Best Teacher of the Year.

Digitalisation, climate change, hyper-complexity, discrimination, poverty. These are all challenges that constitutional law is dealing with.

Jurgen Goossens
Jurgen Goossens
As of August 1, 2022 Professor of Constitutional Law, Utrecht University

View on constitutional law 

The new chair holder regards constitutional law and the principles of the democratic rule of law as fundamental rules of the game, both on a procedural and substantive level. Goossens also pays special attention to dynamic interactions within and between legal orders, power relations underlying the law, as well as relations between citizens, companies and institutions, always with special attention to the citizen perspective. According to Goossens, constitutional law cannot be detached from citizens, politics, economy and society. After all, constitutional law is interpreted and applied on a daily basis by various actors, who thus give meaning to constitutional principles and legal rules. Despite a focus on constitutional law, Goossens regularly seeks out the enriching connection with administrative law.

In practice, he will work closely with Janneke Gerards, Professor of Fundamental Rights Law at Utrecht University. She is looking forward to his arrival. "It is fantastic that Jurgen Goossens will be joining our Constitutional and Administrative Law Department and our Montaigne Center for the Rule of Law and Administration of Justice. His expertise fits in perfectly with the lines of research that we have been developing in recent years. The combination in his work between attention to constitutional values ​​and constitutional resilience, and technological developments is valuable. In this line of research lie major scientific and social challenges, which we can continue to do important work on in the coming years. Jurgen is also an excellent teacher with innovative and refreshing ideas. We are looking forward to the collaboration!"

The combination in his work between constitutional values, constitutional resilience and technological developments is very valuable.

Goossens says about his choice for Utrecht: There is a fantastic team present within the Department of Constitutional Law, Administrative Law and Legal Theory. I have a heart for education and I also find it very enriching to collaborate with other areas of law and other disciplines. Several colleagues told me that this would quickly make me feel at home in Utrecht.

Digital transformations and legal protection against government action

In the coming years, the chair will focus on: constitutional resilience in view of digital transformations and legal protection against government action. In the coming years, Goossens will develop the following interrelated research lines as chairholder in close collaboration with colleagues in Utrecht:

  1. safeguarding and operationalizing constitutional values ​​in the digital 'administrative state',
  2. shaping the role and responsibilities of public actors in digital networks,
  3. analyzing the dynamic relation between ‘the rule of law’ and ‘the rule of code’.,

With these lines of research, the chair holder aims to make a substantial contribution to the activities of the Montaigne Center for the Rule of Law and Administration of Justice. In addition, Goossens aims to actively contribute to the further development of the focus area Governing the Digital Society of the university's strategic theme Institutions for Open Societies.

CHAIN research

Since June 2020, Goossens has been leading the CHAIN ​​research team in the context of the NWO project 'Blockchain in the network society: 'transparency, trust and legitimacy by design'. Goossens will remain principal investigator of the CHAIN ​​project, which will run until November 2024. From August 1, 2022, the project will be continued at Utrecht University, in close collaboration with the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT). The project fits in nicely with the activities of the Montaigne Center and the focus area Governing the Digital Society.

The CHAIN ​​team conducts research into safeguarding the public, rule of law values of transparency and accountability when the government experiments with the use of distributed technology and algorithms in the complex network society. After all, the use of technology can lead to uncertainty about government responsibilities and the optimal design of legal rules. The CHAIN ​​project therefore examines how technology can be designed so that citizens can trust digitized government action.

The interdisciplinary project team combines philosophy of technology, law and data sciences. The project also conducts qualitative research through interviews and observations within two case studies. The project is financed within the NWO-MVI program 'Responsible Innovation. Designing for public values ​​in a digital world'. In addition, the project is funded through the active participation of an extensive consortium of public and private partners. The composition of this consortium offers unique opportunities for valorisation and impact of the research.

CHAIN partners in het onderzoek (onder meer: Berenschot, Gemeente Tilburg, VNG, Privacy First, verschillende ministeries