ECHER: Spring/Summer 2020


The Covid-19 pandemic has affected and continues to affect us in ways we are still struggling to make sense of. Even within the academic “micro-universe” —the one most of us are closest to—the impact has already been profound and is likely to remain so for years to come.

Amidst all the challenges which emerged in this rather chaotic situation, there was one thing that struck me as particularly encouraging: we looked for new ways to stay connected and support each other, while being confined to our homes. This was very important to me, as I had been doing my doctoral studies at distance since I started them at the end of 2015, always trying to find ways to connect with my colleagues, wherever in the world I happened to be.

Like many other organizations out there, ECHER began organising weekly virtual meetings. Between March and May, we met ten times in total, discussing a variety of topics: academic writing, how we ended up in higher education research, peer feedback, literature management and referencing tools, thesis defence, and simply “how we were doing” in these unusual times. Depending on the meeting, there were between 10 and 25 participants, sometimes with as big as a 12-hour time difference among us.

Meeting some fellow ECHERites online was a very welcome routine. And even when the “Zoom fatigue” began to hit, I always looked forward to the meetings, since they brought together people from around the world—from Canada, Brazil, the UK, Germany, Finland, Turkey, Russia, Australia, etc.—to discuss things that were supporting my own doctoral journey.

Since the end of academic year was nearing an end, we stopped organizing the online hang-outs. Even if they did not really require preparation, facilitating an online event still needed someone to make an effort. However, we plan to keep organising online events also in the coming academic year and are now looking into interesting formats for such meetings. We’d be happy to receive suggestions regarding these (in the comment section below, via email, or social media).

Another thing we have kicked off recently is our “Meet the Editors” interview series. With this series we wish to engage as many journals editors in higher education research as we can in a conversation about their editorial work, as well as about the state of higher education research more generally. Keep an eye on the page, or follow us on Twitter, if you want to see how that unfolds. We have three more interviews coming over the next months.

Recently ECHER also reached a small milestone of having 200 members. The members are living in 46 different countries, mostly in Europe (cca. 75%), and a little more than a half of them are doctoral researchers. If you are not a member yet and you are considering becoming one, just navigate to the “Join us” page.

For me, being part of and developing ECHER has been one of the most valuable experiences during my doctoral studies. I hope the community will keep growing and offering me support also after I complete my doctorate. For the next weeks I’ll be preparing for my defence while enjoying the Central European summer.

Have a great summer everyone!

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Melina Aarnikoivu (@MAarnikoivu) is a final-FINAL-stage doctoral researcher at the Centre for Applied Language Studies at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Her dissertation on doctoral education as a form of social action has been approved and she will be defending her work on August 17th. In August she will start as a part-time “visiting professor” at the School of Advanced Studies in Tyumen, Russia, teaching academic writing and public speaking.

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