UACES Student Forum Seminars: Teaching European Studies

Ideas on Europe |

SF Seminars 2016

Over 40 PhD researchers from all over the UK and Europe came to discuss the challenges around teaching European Studies.

The aim of the seminar was to better comprehend the different teaching methods available for PhD students, early career researchers and postgraduate higher education teachers. The 2016 event picked up some of the discussions on the challenges of teaching European Studies discussed during the 2014 Student Forum Seminar. This year, however, more attention was given to the effect of the current crises on teaching approaches. The participants showed great eagerness to share their experiences as postgraduate teachers and to learn from good practice presented in the roundtables.

The first morning panel started off with a debate about the variety, which exists in teaching environments across Europe. With speakers coming from Rome, Glasgow and Budapest, the audience was struck by the notable differences between them. Those with experience teaching at multiple universities testified to some remarkable discrepancies with regard to the freedom to develop your own seminars and introduce original approaches to teaching the EU. From the roundtable it appeared that the department and course convenor have a large influence on the options and approaches available to a teacher. One of the questions which arose was whether more could be done to bring training methods up to a similar level. Alternatively, should we embrace the variety which comes with various teaching traditions in all of the European countries?

The second morning panel focused on the extent to which Europe’s crises should be subjects of the European Studies curriculum. Is crisis in itself a useful analytical tool to comprehend the European integration process? Strong contrasts in views appeared between the speakers. On the one hand, Tim Oliver (London School of Economics) challenged the audience by stressing the need to figure dissident theory and disintegration more prominently in the field of European Studies. On the other hand, Carmen Gebhard (University of Edinburgh) observed that the term ‘crisis’ has been used so frequently to describe the EU, it no longer holds any analytical value as a tool for teaching European Studies. The rift of views revealed the difficulty of balancing in our teaching the long-term process of European integration against the short-term focus and eventful nature of European politics.

The afternoon panels started with smaller group discussions where they addressed presentation and delivery skills, designing modules and assessments as well as teaching innovations and publications. The guest speakers offered fresh insights into the purpose of module design, tips for presenting with confidence, and gave the participants tangible tools to implement in their teaching assignments.

The intermission between the two afternoon panels was earmarked for the UACES SF elections. The candidates present gave a brief presentation, while the applicants not in attendance had prepared short videos to explain their motivation to become a SF Committee Member. The voting followed.

The final panel of the conference focused on the career opportunities after the PhD, featuring Ben Leruth (University of Kent), Nick Wright (University College London), Steven Robinson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), and Feng Cunwan (Wuhan University). While Ben and Nick focused on their careers within academia, they took two different angles. Ben explained his post-doc trajectory, in particular his experience in writing project proposals as well as securing a lectureship/tenure-track position after the post-doc. Nick was able to explain the intricacies of attaining a teaching fellowship. Feng, who is a visiting fellow at the University of Edinburgh, contributed with insights from the Chinese job market for PhD graduates. He underlined that non-Chinese applicants have a competitive advantage in applying for the leading research institutions in the country, given recent internationalisation efforts. Finally, Steven spoke about his decision to work as a civil servant after the completion of his PhD. He assured the participants that there are plenty of opportunities beyond academic career paths.

The 2016 edition of the UACES Student Forum Seminars demonstrated both the challenges and rewards of teaching European studies, a career trajectory worth considering for PhD students graduating in the near future.

Quincy Cloet (University of Aberystwyth) and Pawel Pustelnik (Cardiff University)