GCfE Newsletter: Issue 5 Online

We are pleased to announce that the fifth issue of our GCfE Newsletter is now available, although we do apologise for the delay. The final issue of the 2014/2015 offers a re-cap of our 9th annual conference as well as a farewell address from the GCfE’s academic Dr Nick Martin, who has been with the forum since its inception. We are delighted to announce that Dr Isabelle Hertner, who has been involved with many of our events in the past and has even provided a short article on our conference keynote in this newsletter, will be taking over as the new academic director in the 2015/2016 academic year. Next year will mark the 10 year anniversary of the GCfE and it will certainly prove to be an exciting year. With the new postgraduate space opening in Westmere House next year we definitely aim to make this interdisciplinary forum a more integral part of all college’s at the university. The forum is open to all postgraduates at the University of Birmingham, research and taught, and is a great way to network with peers researching into any aspect of Europe, as well as gain experience planning seminars, workshops and conferences. Initial plans for next year, including developing the conference theme, are already underway and if you would like to get involved with the forum please feel free to drop us an email at gcfe@contacts.bham.ac.uk or visit us at our welcome lunch when the next academic year begins, more details about that will of course come at the end of the summer break.

We want to thank everyone who has come to any of our events this year and of course to our fantastic committee, in particular this year’s Events Co-Chair Emma Gardner. None of this would be possible without the hard work of the postgraduate students who steer and lead this academic forum. Thank you again to Nick for all you’ve done for the forum over the year, we hope you will still be able to visit us from time to time. Finally, many thanks to Isabelle for agreeing to work with such a diverse group of postgraduates, which will hopefully lead to the group moving in new and exciting directions in the next decade of European studies.

The GCfE Newsletter is now online on our publications tab available here: https://gcfebham.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/gcfe-newsletter-no-5-spring-2015.pdf and should shortly be on our university webpage www.birmingham.ac.uk/gcfe.

Happy summer everyone, we look forward to seeing you next Autumn!


Call for Papers

The Graduate Centre for Europe publications team has a couple of cfp announcements for our end of year GCfE Newsletter and the Birmingham Journal for Europe.

First, our GCfE Newsletter is open for submissions for short articles on any topic. This can include reports of recent conferences and seminar series, new research and works, collaborative projects, opinion pieces and so forth. The Newsletter would also be happy to run artistic pieces such as original poems, sketches and photography. For the Newsletter submissions do not have to be linked exclusively to European research, although the GCfE always loves to see more topics of this nature. If you would like to submit a short piece for publication within our final newsletter of the 2015/2016 year please email your submission as a Word Document to gcfe@contacts.bham.ac.uk by 22 May 2015. If you have any queries feel free to send those our way as well. Previous versions of our newsletter can be found here: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/gcfe/news/index.aspx.

Second, our cfp for the next issue of the Birmingham Journal for Europe is open for article submissions. This issue is accepting articles on any topic relevant to research in Europe. This is an interdisciplinary publication which is peer-reviewed by relevant academics at the University of Birmingham. In previous years this publication has been linked to our conference themes, and articles related to this year’s Dissidence theme or last year’s Travelling Europe theme are certainly welcome as we do not have journal issues on these topics. However, articles touching on other themes, topics and ideas are also encouraged as the journal moves to broaden its scope over the next year. Articles should be approximately 6000 words in length and adhere to the MHRA referencing guide. The full cfp for this issue is available on our publications tab and articles should be submitted no later than 30 November 2015. To see the previous issues of our journal please visit: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/gcfe/journal/index.aspx

Finally, if anyone is interested in getting involved with the GCfE committee and/or publications team we are always looking for new members to get involved. The committee organises a series of events and an annual conference and the publications team edits and publishes the journal, a newsletter and this blog. If you would like to get involved please do get in touch. Official positions may be advertised soon, but there is always room for members who would like to participate in the forum without taking on a dedicated role.

GCfE 9th Annual Conference: How to get the most from your PhD experience

The GCfE has had a bit of a longer holiday than previously planned, but we are still aiming to get updates about our conference onto the blog shortly. For anything that doesn’t make the blog we hope to have featured in the final newsletter of the year. Check back in a few days for a cfp for newsletter articles if you are interested in putting forward a short piece on anything related to Europe, including what’s going on in the UK.

Re-capping the conference in a bit of a reverse order, this post is dedicated to a summary of our second roundtable featuring guests from The University Graduate School, Careers Network and an academic speaker. This session focused on how to tackle the thesis, relationships with supervisors, conference opportunities and how to mentally cope with the pressures of graduate level research.


Our first speaker was Jim Bell, the Marketing and Events Officer of the University Graduate School. The Graduate School have always been a great support to the GCfE and it was great to have Jim join us for this panel. Jim kicked off the session with his 3 key ideas for how to get the most from your PhD.

1. Start off doing stuff

2. Organisation
-> figure out your motivation, why you’re doing the PhD and your end goal

3. Take ownership of your PhD
-> Don’t just do what your supervisor says, the PhD should be a conversation between you and your supervisor.
-> Be proactive, responsible and self-promoting
-> UGS offers several resources, including inductions and skills sessions
-> You need to decide what you want to take advantage of

Next up was Holly Prescott, who finished her English Literature PhD in 2011 and is currently the Careers Network Postgraduate Liaison with primarily taught students. Prior to this she worked in postgraduate recruitment. Three was a popular number for the panel as Holly also came along having prepared 3 key things. For Holly these were a bit more of abstract ideas than an active to do list.

1. Do not isolate yourself
-> Don’t let your circles get to narrow, especially if you aren’t planning to go into academia
-> keep your career options open
-> Allow yourself different types of models, influences and opportunities

2. Don’t put up too many barriers
-> Take a wide view and don’t limit opportunities to what fits your research

3. Smash your comfort zone
-> PhD offers an independence not available in other parts of life, take advantage.

Our final roundtable participant was Dr Isabelle Hertner, a Politics Lecturer in German. She’s been with the University of Birmingham for 4 years now, and has chaired about 4 or 5 Vivas. Currently she is supervising 4 PhD students, with her first supervised student competing the Viva this past December. As a PhD supervisor it is probably obvious that her first piece of advice was that the PhD must come first, but it’s also a good point to be reminded of. She goes on to say that you need to know what you are doing, but in today’s academic climate the PhD is just not enough anymore. Teaching is a good way too boost the academic CV as well as offers an opportunity to practice your presentation skills. Just remember to not take on too much as, of course, the PhD comes first. PhD candidates will also want to take the opportunity to publish (keep an eye out for our upcoming publishing roundtable post), but within the parameters of your PhD rather than new material which will take a significant amount of time away from your research. Finally, she offered a few comments on the relationship between the supervisor and student. One thing you’ll want to be clear on is the expectations from both the student as well as the supervisor. The relationship is one of time management on both ends.

The roundtable then opened the floor for a bit of Q+A, and this post will conclude with a recap of a few of the most stimulating questions.

Q: How should you approach the Viva?
A: (Jim): UGS used to run a preparation workshop but the feedback was that it wasn’t discipline specific enough so for now there is an online course available to help with preparation, see the UGS course page for details.
(Holly): Distance yourself from the horror stories and just focus on the task at hand. Don’t compare yourself to others and give yourself spatial isolation (e.g. work in a space where you can avoid the noise). Most importantly, keep in mind that this is the only examination that you will ever take that is on a book you wrote. View it as an opportunity to talk in depth with people who have looked closely at your work.
(Nick, GCfE academic adviser): Also keep in mind that you have a choice in your examiners.

Q: Regarding the job market as you are close to submission. You have no publications but are running out of money. Submit or starve, what should you do?
A: (Jim): You have to consider which direction is your end goal, academic or not. (Holly): If it is not academic than take an opportunity to go into that area and gain some experience and potentially an income while finishing.
(Isabelle): If the aim is academic, apply for academic jobs you are qualified for and want to do, e.g. temporary lectureship. Don’t waste your time going for things you aren’t suited to, and look into whether you can start a position before the Viva as some opportunities will offer more flexible start dates.

Q: Thoughts on other activities and responsibilities during the PhD?
(Nick): Do mix with non-PhDs. You want the thesis in and passed as quickly as possible but at the same time you’ll need to have other interests and activities, which will help you to reach the primary goal. (Holly): It is re-invigorating and motivating to have more than your thesis in front of you.

Q: Interview advice?
(Isabelle): Develop and demonstrate skills, e.g. conference organising, managing a budget, etc. (Jim): Interviews, whether academic or not, are about providing evidence that you are qualified, but evidence can come in a variety of different forms.

We hope those of you who made the session found it fun and informative, and that those of you that weren’t able to join us have found this re-cap to be of interest. Of course the GCfE again wants to thank Jim, Holly and Isabelle for taking the time to put together this interesting and useful session.

For more on what the University Graduate School has to offer please visit: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/postgraduate/support/dr/graduateschool/index.aspx

For the Careers Network please visit: https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/employability/careers/index.aspx

Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Last year the Graduate Centre for Europe publications committee decided to publish a collection of the 8th Annual Conference proceedings with Cambridge Scholars Publishing. The collection enabled our editorial team the chance to work on editing and producing a book, and features the scholarly work of postgraduates across all fields of European studies working in the UK and across Europe.

Travelling Europe

We tweeted about the collection’s release a few weeks ago, but officially decided to publicise the collection in conjunction with our 9th annual conference. Congratulations to all the contributors as well as our hard working editorial team for making this happen.


Wine Reception

The GCfE committee are considering producing another collection in conjunction with our 9th annual conference theme. If you would be interested in contributing to a collection around the topic of Dissidence in Europe, from the perspective of any discipline, please keep an eye on this space as we will shortly be deciding whether we will go forward with a second publication. The cfp for the next issue of the Birmingham Journal for Europe will also be available soon. BJfE is a peer-reviewed journal run by the GCfE publications team, more information about which can be found on our publications page.

For more information about the Traveling Europe collection, or to order your own copy of the book, please visit: http://www.cambridgescholars.com/travelling-europe

More updates about the 9th Annual Conference, including our keynote and roundtable sessions will be appearing in this space over the next few weeks. We would like to thank all our participants, roundtable speakers, panel chairs and our keynote Jolyon Howorth. The GCfE conference would not be possible without such fantastic contributors. We hope to see many of you back next year for what will be our 10th annual event.

GCfE Postgraduate Afternoon: Working with Languages

How to work with your language & how to make your language work for you

Date: Wednesday 25th February 2015
Time: 15.30-16:30
Venue: 420 Muirhead Tower

Postgraduate Afternoon Flier
We often hear about how the ability to speak another language gives you the edge in the job market and how being bilingual means you are sought out by potential employers, but what does this mean for those of us pursuing postgraduate research, or those who opt to venture away from traditional language-focused professions such as translating, interpreting or teaching?  Join us as we explore how you can market your foreign language skills and make them work for you when seeking employment, hearing first hand from those who have been in that position and done it successfully.

Come along to hear from Chris Packham (Careers Network) followed by a roundtable discussion featuring a selection of University of Birmingham postgraduates who have put their language skills to use in securing employment.

15:30-15:45     Introduction followed by a short talk from Chris Packham
15:45-16:10     Roundtable discussion
16:10-16:30     Networking

As always the event is open to everyone and free refreshments will be available. Feel free to drop in at any point during the hour. We hope to see you there.

Spring Newsletter

The third issue of our newsletter is now available on our publications tab and on our academic web profile available here: Spring Newsletter. Our publications team has had an exciting year, with our biggest staff to date the Birmingham Journal for Europe team has been able to expand our endeavours to include both the newsletter and this blog. Provided we have as enthusiastic a team as this year our aim will be to expand the BJfE in 2014/2015 to include reviews and notes sections. If you are interested in getting involved with any part of our publications team next year please contact us at gcfe@contacts.bham.ac.uk for further details.

The third issue of the BJfE will be uploaded onto our academic site in the next few weeks. Keep an eye on our pages for the cfp for our fourth issue ‘Travelling Europe’ which will be launched in July.

Extended Deadline: Application for GCfE Co-Chair Events

Job opening_GCfE Co-Chair Events 2014_15

As our previous co-chair application deadline fell within the exam period we have extended the call until Sunday 15 June 2014. As previously stated this is an invaluable opportunity to run an academic forum, organise an internationally recognised academic conference and further develop interdisciplinary networks at the University of Birmingham. The committee has a healthy budget with which to fiance both academic and social events so you will only need to come along with a passion and enthusiasm for your postgraduate community. You will have a fantastic and experienced Publications Co-Chair to work with and a 10-15 person committee to help run events. Guidance will also be provided by the 2013/2014 co-chairs as well as our academic director Dr Nick Martin. This position is open to any postgraduate at the University of Birmingham who will be studying full or part time in the 2014/2015 academic year.

If you are interested in applying or have further queries please contact Josie and Gail at gcfe@contacts.bham.ac.uk.

GCfE Co-Chair (Events) Applications Now Open


The Graduate Centre for Europe is a postgraduate led initiative moving into its 9th academic year. The chance to run the forum is a priceless opportunity to build leadership skills, develop interdisciplinary postgraduate research at the University of Birmingham and beyond, make important contacts amongst students and academics and of course, boost your CV. The committee is composed of around 10-15 postgraduate students from across several disciplines at the University of Birmingham studying from the Masters to Doctoral level. The forum puts on a series of events including skills sessions, roundtable discussions and an annual conference as well as manages several publications including the Birmingham Journal for Europe. The initiative is led by two Co-Chairs, one for events and one for publications, though all committee members often collaborate on both aspects of the GCfE.

The new Co-Chair (Events) will work with our new Co-Chair (Publications) who already has 2 years of experience with the GCfE, with advice from the two previous Co-Chairs. This is a flexible position and Co-Chairs will be able to determine how many events to run and what type of events to put on in addition to the annual conference which is the flagship event for the forum.

There is the potential to split the Co-Chair (Events) position for applicants who might like to apply as a pair and are feeling particularly ambitious about the programme they would like to run in the 2014/2015 year. To apply for the position or to pose any queries please email Josie (Co-Chair Events 2013/2014) and Gail (Co-Chair Publications 2013/2014) at gcfe@contacts.bham.ac.uk by June 6th.

We look forward to meeting the new faces of the GCfE!

EU Hustings: After Debate

ImageOn the 1st of May the Institute for German Studies, in conjunction with both the Graduate Centre for Europe and Europe Direct, hosted an EU Hustings debate featuring six potential candidates for the European Parliament. Each candidate was given two minutes to introduce both themselves and their platform followed by an intense question and answer session. The panel was chaired by Dr Isabelle Hertner, Lecturer in German and European Politics and Society and the Deputy Director of the Institute for German Studies.

The Candidates

Phil Bennion, MEP (Liberal Democrats) – Phil is a University of Birmingham alumnus. He is promoting a party liberal in economics and education policies aiming for a safer and greener Europe.

Will Duckworth (Green) – Will was a mathematics teacher for 30 years before deciding that there were just no political candidates he agreed with, so he decided he would have to get involved himself. He used his time to discuss the root issues brought up by recent UKIP propaganda. Particularly the first, second, third generation British citizens’ feelings of personal pain by the negativity directed toward immigrants. Will claims that even when the intention is not racism certain tones inevitably alienate and persecute minority groups. Green endeavors to support and value rather than merely tolerate.

Bill Etheridge (UKIP) – Bill spent 20 years of his life working in the steel industry, and for one year counted himself a member of the conservative party which he claims to now regret. He agrees that racism is never okay, but that immigration requires control. He feels the primary issue is overburdened state control both within the UK and particularly by the EU.

Neena Gill (Labour) – Neena aims to promote a sustainable economic growth platform. She has personally campaigned for the single, homeless and elderly. She served on the European Parliament for ten years and worked for a global multinational which have both contributed to her wider world view.

Anthea McIntyre, MEP (Conservatives) – Anthea is clamoring for three Rs – reform, renegotiation and referendum. The most challenging problem that she sees Europe facing is high unemployment due to a mismatch of skills training. She has pushed to cut the European budget and opt out of the euro bailout.

Nicole Sinclaire, MEP (We Demand A Referendum Party) – Like Bill, Nicole had previously belonged to another party, in her case UKIP. Nicole refused to sugarcoat her platform and directly claimed to have left UKIP because of their extreme racism. She has pushed public petitions to force debate in Parliament and strives to maintain a mobile presence in the streets meeting with everyday people outside of election seasons. She has worked for debt relief and food distribution.

Highlights from the Q+A

The question and answer session enabled students, academics and external visitors the opportunity to address the issues they wanted to know more about. The most pressing questions centered around the issue of a referendum and racism, a selection of which (including some of the answers) have been included here for further consideration.

Q.1. What is racism?

All participants agreed that racism was the discrimination against or mistreatment of members of another race (and in some cases, alternative religion and/or gender played factors in this discussion). However, most generally agreed that it wasn’t racist to debate immigration. Nicole advocated that silence on the immigration issue alienates voters and has cost Labour seats because they avoid the issues. Aiming to address this, Neena responds that debating immigration is not what is problematic but the manner in which this is done is crucial. She pointed out that UKIP addresses this issue by creating fear, uncertainty and blaming all problems on immigrants at the exclusion of other factors. Will ultimately concluded that the problem is engendered in the blaming of migrants (not just immigrants) and that the ‘issue of immigration’ is primarily a problem of poor government and governing.

Q.2. If there is a referendum regarding leaving the EU what happens with currency and the market, what are the trade implications and what will the UK do?

Will, Neena and Phil stressed that their parties did not want to leave the EU, that the aim should be reform not exit. Neena feels the single market couldn’t possibly remain accessible, and while Phil countered that access would be likely the UK would lose any say, lose out on trade deals and investments that create jobs and likely be impoverished within 20 years. Conversely, neither Nicole or Bill could possibly imagine staying and think that the UK will be better outside the EU. Nicole pointed out that leaving the EU is a two year process and that there would be time to transition, nothing would collapse overnight. Bill feels that the UK generally buys from rather than sells to the EU and that it is ridiculous to think that Europe would suddenly not want to sell after a referendum. If anything, leaving will open more doors for trade in Bill’s opinion.

Q.3. The UK is the fourth biggest group of migrants, generally benefits from free-movement and the majority of studies show that generally immigrants are not actually travelling to take advantage of the healthcare system. What are thoughts considering restrictions on those coming in but not on those coming out?

Bill generally argues that all nations, not just the UK should control their boarders and definite immigration qualifications. Nicole’s stance particularly on benefits immigration is that if this is not a motive for migration than there is no harm in legislation. Anthea similarly supports free movement so long as it is for work rather than to claim benefits. Neena claims that roughly the same amount of people leave the country as enter it and immigration is generally a positive workforce rather than a problem. Similarly, Phil points out that migrants generally pay much more in taxes than they ever draw in benefits and are a positive contribution to the treasury. Both he and Will tend to agree that people do not relocate their entire lives to a new country simply for benefits.

We hope you’ve found our few select event highlights of interest. Don’t forget the election will take place on Thursday the 22nd of May 2014. If you are an eligible and registered voter the GCfE would like to encourage you to remember to get out and let your voice be heard.

4th Postgraduate Afternoon: Where next for Ukraine?

ImageOur final postgraduate afternoon of the 2013/2014 academic year will take place next Tuesday, the 13th of May at 3:30pm. There will be two speakers giving short presentations on the topic of Ukraine followed by an open roundtable discussion. This free event will take place in G52 of the ERI buliding (on Pritchatts Road) and is open to everyone. As always refreshments will be provided.

Don’t disappear for the summer just yet though. In addition to a few further news bulletins we still have one final social event to wrap up the year, the details of which will be posted in a couple of weeks. As always, if you have any questions, ideas for events or would like the opportunity to get involved please send us an email at gcfe@contacts.bham.ac.uk.