Meeting in the Middle: Bringing Together UCML’s ECA Community’ project report:

Thanks to the funding provided by the UCML Small Grants Award for the project ‘Meeting in the Middle: Bringing Together UCML’s ECA Community’, the Early Career Academics Special Interest Group (ECA SIG) were able to convene at the UCML (now UCFL) Summer Plenary, held Friday 14th July 2023, at the Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies (School of Advanced Study, University of London). Representatives attended from all over the UK to discuss the topics presented by the Executive Committee members, and set a new agenda for the upcoming year. Our group presence at the UCML Plenary event provided a valuable way to network and discuss the current problems faced within Higher Education. Our main topics of discussion included the recognition of AI in university courses, examinations, and group activities; the importance of creating stronger links between Secondary schools and Universities, with mention made of the possible creation of mentorship programmes; the main targets for REF2028; and the recognition and improvement of future work conditions of early career academics. 

The ECA SIG is a thriving branch of UCML, with a record 23 representatives across modern-language teaching and research. Much of this growth has taken place in the past two years, during and following the pandemic, and can be attributed to a critical need to counter the ill-effects of isolated working, in often precarious employment environments. Early career academics attended our virtual coffee mornings, online seminars, and symposiums to foster a much-needed sense of community. During the Summer Plenary Event, members were able to generate new professional networks, socialise in-person, and obtain support from those facing similar challenges in a hostile job market. We were able to more widely promote our Code of Best Practice for Early Career Academic Employment, motion key issues affecting our languages community, and consolidate relationships with other UCML SIGs.

The UCML Small Grant scheme enabled our SIG representatives to be more visible to the Executive Committee members and clearly demonstrate our ideas, concerns, and contributions, which further reinforce the wider work of UCML.

Overall, ‘Meeting in the Middle: Bringing Together UCML’s ECA Community’ helped our ECA SIG network foster crucial interdisciplinary links that have been restricted during the pandemic. It also allowed us to identify knowledge areas that would benefit our language community in future. The project was essential in bringing members together and offering inclusivity and academic diversity to the Summer Plenary.

Dr Olivia Glaze, Ms Noémie Jollet and Dr Catherine McAteer

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