Dear UACES Colleagues,
As I write this message the deadline for the Brexit talks have been extended once again and we still do not know what the full implications will be for our association and the wider academic community. I know there is a real sense of frustration among our members, as there is in the wider world, regarding this uncertainty. One thing does remain certain – your expertise in the field of EU studies and your ability to communicate this to a wider audience has never been more important than it is now! So, in a year that has posed many challenges for all of us, both professionally and personally, it is very reassuring that UACES remains very vibrant and engaged at the heart of the European Studies community. I am sure that as an association we will continue to play a vital role in advancing the study of Europe within the UK, in Europe and globally.
Our first ever virtual conference in September was a great success. More than 380 delegates registered for the event. The 75 panels on offer really underlined the interdisciplinary strength of UACES. The conference plenary (entitled ‘Equal and Inclusive? Responsibility and transformation in European Studies’) produced a very wide-ranging and nuanced discussion. My thanks to Emily, Emma and Melina in the UACES office for adapting so quickly and effectively to the challenges posed in organising the conference virtually.
Although we were unable to hold our 50th Annual Conference in Belfast because of the current pandemic, I am delighted to report that we will be returning to Queen’s University for the conference in 2023. It is also still our intention (the current situation permitting) to hold the next Annual Conference at Liverpool John Moores University in September next year. Do look out for the call for papers. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will all be able to meet in person in the wonderful, historic city of Liverpool. It is great news as well that we are also committed to holding the conference at the Université Catholique in Lille in 2022. Having spent much time in the Northern French capital over the last 30 years I know this will be an excellent destination for our Annual Conference.
Since my last Chair’s message, the Graduate Forum (GF) has continued to maintain a very high, virtual profile. The research series launched at the beginning of the pandemic continues to flourish. It has been an excellent way of keeping our PhD students and Early Career Researchers connected. The GF recently hosted its annual Doctoral Training Academy as an online event. Delegates enjoyed two, highly relevant roundtables on mental health in academia and the digitization of academic teaching. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the GF Committee for their outstanding work in recent months and to say a big thank you to the GF’s outgoing Chair Dr Rachael Dickson for her brilliant work in the role. I am delighted to announce that following the call for nominations the new GF Chair, as of January, will be the outgoing Communications Officer Dr Olga Litvyak, and that the new Communications Officer will be Louise Wylie.
In other news, our new website was launched in September and I am sure members will agree that this is a very positive development. A big thank you to Melina in the UACES office for coordinating this with our website developer and for overseeing the launch. We continue to look at ways of increasing our income streams faced with the various challenges ahead and the new website will certainly help as we seek to further internationalise our membership base, increase the number of practitioner members and introduce an undergraduate membership tier. At the AGM earlier this month, we voted to amend the constitution and to introduce various changes to our membership tiers.
I am also pleased to, finally, be able to announce the results of the UACES Best Book Prize for 2020 which is awarded annually for the book that has made the most substantial and original contribution to knowledge in contemporary European Studies. The quality of the nominations was very high. In the end, taking a lead from the Booker Prize committee, we decided to share the prize between two books, both of which make outstanding contributions to the discipline. So, my congratulations to Dr Eleni Frantziou (The Horizontal Effect of Fundamental Rights in the European Union) and to Professors Simon Bulmer and William Paterson (Germany and the European Union: Europe’s reluctant hegemon) on winning this prestigious prize. I am also delighted to announce that the prize for the best PhD has been awarded to Dr Niels Gheyle for his excellent thesis entitled ‘Trade policy with the lights on: The origins, dynamics, and consequences of the politicization of TTIP.’ Look out for nominations for the best book and PhD awards for 2021 in January. Our aim is to present the awards for both 2020 and 2021 at the Annual Conference in Liverpool.
Finally, a reminder that nominations are now open until the end of January for two members of the UACES Trustees Committee, so if you want to get involved in the running of the Association do consider putting your name forward. Nominations are also open to replace me as Chair from September. Do please get in touch if you are interested in the role and want to know more.
In a year that has posed many challenges for all of us, both professionally and personally, I thank you all for your continued support of our unique Association. It remains for me to pass on my season’s greetings and to wish you all a peaceful and prosperous New Year.
All the very best,
Nick Startin, UACES Chair