Versluis, E (Esther)


European Union, regulatory governance, policy analysis, policy implementation, compliance, agencies, risk governance

Career History



  • PROFESSOR of European Regulatory Governance, since April 2015
    • Maastricht University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • HEAD OF DEPARTMENT of the Department of Political Science, since 2019
    • Maastricht University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Political Science
    • Cornell University, Faculty of Science and Technology Studies
    • Maastricht University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • LECTURER, 2001-2003
    • Maastricht University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (European Studies)
  • PHD CANDIDATE, 1998-2003
    • Utrecht University, Faculty of Social Science




  • Steep Face - Developing and Strenghtening Leadership (2014)
  • Basic Teaching Qualification (in Dutch: BKO certificaat): December 2010
  • PHD, July 2003
    • Utrecht University, Faculty of Social Sciences 
    • Supervisors Prof. Dr. Frans van Waarden & Dr. Jan Simonis
    • "Enforcement Matters. Enforcement and Compliance of European Directives in Four Member States"
    • Awarded with the 'Van Poelje' prize 2003; Dutch Association for Public Administration
  • MA (doctoraal) Culture & Sciences, September 1998 
    • Maastricht University, Faculty of Arts and Culture (Interdisciplinary program with an emphasis on 'Political Culture')
    • Thesis: "National EU Policies in the Netherlands and Belgium. From National to European Policy Styles?"
    • Fall 1996: Hull University (UK), Politics & European Studies
    • Fall 1998: Research Internship, European Institute for Public Administration (EIPA), Maastricht




    • Awarded by the Netherlands Institure of Government (Dutch research school for public administration and political science)
    • Visiting scholar at Cornell University
  • 2005. Van Poelje Prize
    • Awarded by the Dutch Association for Public Administration for the best PhD Dissertation of 2003




  • Netherlands Institute of Government
  • European Consortium of Political Research
  • European Union Studies Association
  • University Association for Contemporary European Studies




  • Chair, Van Poelje Prize for the best PhD in the field of public administration (since 2011)
  • Member of NWO Committees,  (2014-2019) (The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research): Rubicon, MaGW Onderzoekstalent, VIDI
  • Member of the Board of the Netherlands Institute of Government
  • Member and chair of NVAO and EAPAA accreditation committees, (re-)accrediting higher education programs: 14 Public Administration programs in the Netherlands (2014), MA Public Policy and Management at Corvinus University (2019), Erasmus Mundus Euroculture at Groningen University (2019), Erasmus Mundus Public Policy at Erasmus University, CEU, York and IBEI (2021)
  • Chair Central Election Office, Maastricht University (since 2018)
  • Academic referee for, amongst others, 'Journal of Common Market Studies', 'Journal of European Public Policy', 'Journal of European Integration', 'Regulation & Governance', 'Journal of Contemporary European Research', 'International Review of Administrative Sciences', 'European Journal of Political Research', and 'Bestuurskunde'.
  • Member of the editorial board of 'Bestuurskunde' (2006-2011)
  • Asia-link project "Development of a Core Curriculum on European Studies to be used in China for MA students with supplementary elements for PhD students" (project sponsored by the European Commission with the partners Maastricht University, Mannheim Centre for European Studies, Institute of European Studies of Macau and IES/CASS Beijing; 20-27 October 2004, Macau & 13-17 June 2005, Beijing).

Research Profile


Esther's doctoral research analyzed the practical implementation of European Union (EU) legislation at the member state level. Her PhD opened the black box of compliance, and demonstrated what really happens with EU legislation, after transposition, in the member states. The study explored the explanatory mechanisms at work; in particular issue salience, legal design, organizational structure of the enforcement agencies and characteristics of the street-level actors, and was awarded with the Van Poelje Prize for the best PhD dissertation in the field of public administration.

Since then, Esther’s research concentrates on problems and complexities related to European regulatory governance and can be summarized around two core themes:

1)   How can we explain and contribute to a better understanding of problems related to the implementation of, and compliance with, international (i.e. EU) policy? Moving beyond the key question of how EU policy is applied in practice (e.g. Versluis, 2003; Versluis, 2007), Esther’s research currently centers around questions related to the role of EU agencies and networks, and guidance, in improving implementation of policy at the member state level (e.g. Polak & Versluis, 2022; Versluis & Polak, 2019; Kaeding & Versluis, 2014; Versluis & Tarr, 2013; Versluis, 2012; Groenleer et al., 2010) and related to the importance of issue salience as an explanatory factor in understanding implementation failure or success (e.g. Spenzharova & Versluis, 2013; Versluis, 2004).


2)   How to govern in times of crisis? How to decide when uncertainty prevails? The second strand of Esther's research focuses on how risks and uncertainties are regulated in the European Union. Focusing on key policy sectors such as chemical safety, food safety, GMOs, banking, and disease prevention, Esther explores how risks are being regulated at the European level (e.g. Dijkstra et al, 2018; Spendzharova and Versluis, 2015; Hommels et al., 2014; Fox et al., 2011; Versluis et al., 2010), and she further explores the role EU agencies and comitology play in the regulation of (uncertain) risks (e.g. Versluis et al., 2019l Kim et al., 2013; Klika et al., 2013). Together with Ellen Vos and Marjolein van Asselt she edited the volume Balancing between Trade and Risk. Integrating legal and social science perspectives (Routledge, 2013) which collects chapters analyzing the trade-off between risk regulation and international trade policy. Taking the swine flu pandemic as an illustration, this LSE blog post tries to capture what this previous pandemic teaches us about how the EU handled the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic: 


In addition, together with Paul Stephenson and Mendeltje van Keulen, Esther published the textbook Analyzing the European Union Policy Process (2011) in the Palgrave European Union Series.


In her inaugural lecture - The European regulatory state at risk? The EU as a regulator of complex policy problems - Esther further developed the question of how the EU actually regulates risks. Following different disciplinary perspectives, using the concepts of wicked problems, risks and crises, the lecture outlines and analyzes what the EU should or should not do when confronted with complex policy problems such as the financial crisis or the refugee problem. The lecture can be seen here.  


PhD supervision


  • Sandra Boessen, The Politics of European Union Health Policy-Making. An actor-centred institutionalist analysis (14-11-2008) (together with Prof. Hans Maarse)
  • Josine Polak, What works to make EU law work? An analysis of the usefulness of national, transnational, and supranational compliance instruments (16-10-2015) (together with Prof. Chris Backes)
  • Jinhee Kim, The influence of EU agencies. Real but guided influence in the policy-making process (11-12-2018) (together with Prof. Tannelie Blom)
  • Hannah Brodersen, Longer than life. How the ICTY strengthened the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia (08-10-2020) (together with Prof. Andre Klip)

Current PhD students

  • Kian Navid - Consistency of EU investment management regulation (together with Dr. Aneta Spendzharova)
  • Laura von Allworden - The Legitimation practices after Contestation of International Organizations in the global climate regime (together with Dr. Hylke Dijkstra)







  • DIRECTOR OF STUDIES Bachelor European Studies - Maastricht University, 2014-2018
  • DIRECTOR OF STUDIES Master European Public Affairs - Maastricht University, 2007-2014
  • BKO Coordinator - Maastricht University, 2012-2014
    • Responsible for coordinating and assessing the Basic Teaching Qualification portfolios of colleagues.
  • Chair Program Committee Arts and Culture - Maastricht University, 2012-2014
  • Chair of the Faculty Council, Maastricht University, 2005-2007
  • Member of the Faculty Council, Maastricht University, 2003-2005




Master European Public Affairs - Maastricht University

    • Lecturer


Research Master European Studies - Maastricht University

  • WORKSHOP research project


Bachelor European Studies - Maastricht University

  • POLICY DOMAINS (8-weeks 2nd year module)                        
    • Lecturer

Additional roles & tasks

Professor of European Regulatory Governance

Head of Department - Politics Department