Graduate Centre for Europe
- University of Birmingham
- Date first submitted:
- 30 Jul 2009
- Date last modified:
- 21 Oct 2010
- Relationship to RDF:
- Domain A: Knowledge and intellectual abilities
- Knowledge base
- Domain B: Personal effectiveness
- Personal Qualities
- Professional and career development
- Domain C: Research governance and organisation
- Domain D: Engagement, influence and impact
- Working with others
- Communication and dissemination
- Engagement and impact
- Researcher-led activities
- Personal effectiveness
- Research project skills
- Academic practice
- Knowledge exchange
- Career development
- Postgraduate researchers
- Doctoral researchers
- Research masters
Rationale, aims and outcomes
What is the rationale for doing this?
How does it fit with institutional strategy?
What are the main features of the provision?
What are the aims and expected outcomes?
Certain important research themes cut across traditional boundaries. The Graduate Centre for Europe (GCfE) was planned as one way to bring such researchers together in order to create a community of researchers with a common interest in Europe. It is run by a committee of doctoral researchers (DRs), with the support of an academic director. The programme consists of seminars by high profile external speakers, research skill training activities, an annual postgraduate conference and a e-journal . This fits into the Institutional Strategy by providing one effective model for supporting interdisciplinary academic activities from the grass roots.
- Research Seminars – Seminars given by high profile external speakers organised by the DR Committee and chaired by a member of the Committee. The speakers are generally politicians, embassy staff or academics and interacting with them offers the DRs diverse viewpoints on Europe, as well as important practice in managing VIPs. It also encourages a networking opportunity between staff, guests and students at the receptions held after the events.
- Research skills training activities –the DR Committee organise events covering communication and personal development skills in which DRs and staff give informative talks and workshops on skills training including conducting research abroad, organising conferences, writing journal articles etc. This was also an integral part of the postgraduate conference.
- Annual postgraduate conference – This interdisciplinary event involves papers by DRs, keynote speeches and skills sessions; sessions chaired by postgraduate researchers. It attracts an international audience.
- E-journal – the Birmingham Journal for Europe was created to publish the conference proceedings; organised and edited by DRs.
Are there any pre-requisites for engagement, e.g. levels of skill, years of experience, essential pre-activities?
How many participate in each 'activity'?
GCfE covers a range of activities which are open to a wide range of researchers. Seminars are open to all and attract from 25 to over 100 people for the most popular events. Being part of the DR Committee that runs GCfE is open to both Masters and doctoral researchers, but taking on a leadership role depends on experience as an ordinary committee member. Skills sessions are open to all DRs on a first come first served basis and were attended by 50 DRs during the 09/10 session. The conference normally involves 20 presentations by DRs and an audience of 40.
Evaluation: benefits, challenges and next steps
How do you monitor effectiveness?
Who do you seek feedback from?
Do you have benchmarks?
A major benefit is creating a critical mass of researchers which allows greater opportunities for DRs to develop networking skills, as well as the experience of presenting their work in an interdisciplinary context and learning from others who use different approaches to research on Europe. The opportunity to meet key people from outside the University and hear their views is important and has provided opportunities that will benefit the careers of a number of those involved. The production of the e-journal will be an important advert for the university but also an opportunity to develop skills in electronic publishing which can be of considerable value in many other contexts. The research skills training sessions also offer an important opportunity for DRs to both learn new skills and for those further on in their programmes of study to impart their knowledge to others.
In the first years of GCfE the major challenge was getting enough DRs directly involved in running it, so the responsibility lay too heavily on the shoulders of a small number of committed individuals. However, through appropriate recruitment and delegation a model has been developed that works well and ensures a spread of responsibility across the whole team. This allows more people to develop skills through the Centre but also to make each task more manageable. The challenge is to build on the recent success to ensure a steady growth in those who regularly participate in events and to get regular participation from a wider community of researchers.
Preparations are already underway for the coming year of GCfE events. A number of new members have joined the committee and two new Chairs have been elected. The 2010/11 session will see a full programme of guest speakers, bringing more high profile academics, politicians and ambassadors to Birmingham, and with a continuing emphasis on interdisciplinary interests. The provision of Skills Sessions led by doctoral e researchers will be open to a large number of DRs and another as part of the postgraduate conference. Plans for the conference are already going ahead, as is the online publication of this year’s issue of the Birmingham Journal for Europe.