Building Strong Academic Communities: Report & Workshops

Research and Report

Strengthening a Liminal Community. Anthropological Framework for Rethinking University Support Strategies for Early Career Researchers and PhD Students.

FairerTales Retreats for Academics evolved as a result of a strategic report (download report as pdf) that Hannah Wadle from FairerTales authored after an ethnographic short study. The report creates an understanding of the complex situation of young Researchers through the anthropological concept of “Liminality”, of living betwixt-and-between, in limbo, on the threshhold. Liminality is used to explain aspects of the negative experiences of precarious lives in a situation of very liminted job prospects and complex life transitions. Liminality is however also employed to draw attention to Liminal Thinking Capacity (LTC) and intellectual creativity as the essence of the academic and research profession and to demand its protection and appropriate valuing.

The report further proposes solutions about how to improve the lives of PhD students and Early Career Researchers. This is done by a proposition of tailored support programmes and networks for researchers during and after the PhD, through structural interventions in institutional frameworks, through a changeing value discourse about academic practices and the concept of the “researcher”, and through the creation of a political body representing the interests of ECRs. The report was developed for the University of Manchester as part of an AHRC-funded Public Engagement Fellowship.

Residential Workshops for PhD Students

“Building a Strong Doctoral Community”

What does it mean to be part of the academic community for me, for us? How do we want to belong, where do we see our place? What relationships do we aspire to with our colleagues. For the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership and the University of Manchester, FairerTales designs workshops for first year doctoral students. We helped them to establish their own terms for being academic peers by letting them design and perform their own initiation rite into the PhD journey.

“Thank you for the opportunity to make us grow, feel bigger, and get over fears!” (Participant of “Building a Strong Doctoral Community”, Nov 2016)

“Thanks for forcing me not to be cynical!” (Participant of “Building a Strong Doctoral Community”, Nov 2016)

“I have received great enthusiasm from this cohort to support me in organising the conference in Liverpool this October. I usually have to twist arms to get a couple of students to help, but this year I had 10 volunteers, all from that group of 1styear students! They seem to get on well and are extremely motivated. Same with student reps etc…This is such a shift in mentality from what I have seen in the previous cohorts. So we definitely want to do this again” Carole Douguedroit-Arrowsmith, Graduate Administrator at the University of Manchester.

Residential Workshops for Early Career Researchers

“So you’re a Doctor now!?”

We worked with Early Career Researchers, who, after finishing their PhDs often face a challenging moment of insecurity. In our residential we gave them a platform for exploring their fears, re-discovering their strengths, and finding a shared voice to express their concerns on an institutional level.

“It made us all reflect about how overcome the challenges of being the grey zone of ECR.” (Participant of “So you’re a Doctor now?!”, Manchester, July 2016)

“It was really good to meet people with similar experience to mine.” (Participant of “So you’re a Doctor now?!”, Manchester, July 2016)

“I was aware about the problems. The most revealing thing was the scale of negative emotions regarding post-doc process.” (Participant of “So you’re a Doctor now?!”, Manchester, July 2016)

“It gave a different perspective on the topic.” (Participant of “So you’re a Doctor now?!”, Manchester, July 2016).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *