Go Abroad Staff: Building academic communities abroad

Photo credit: Pixabay, JannGW, CC0

In this post, Dr Jenny Scoles, Academic Developer at the Institute for Academic Development, chats to Go Abroad Staff colleagues, Lesley Balharry and Calum MacDonald, from Edinburgh Global, about the realities and possibilities of applying for funding through Go Abroad Staff….

Building new academic communities is not limited to within the University of Edinburgh itself. Academic communities can be formed with national and international colleagues. These communities are essential grounds to fertilise collaborative research projects, seed good practice, and harvest innovative ideas. Yet finding the time, and money, to make these connections, can be challenging. One solution is Go Abroad Staff, which provides Erasmus+ funding for academic and professional services staff to teach or train in Europe and beyond.

I applied for Go Abroad Staff funding earlier this academic year, with the hope of visiting colleagues at Utrecht University, Netherlands. I weighed up my decision to apply on a number of different levels:

  1. Personal commitments: Due to child care, I didn’t want to travel too far so opted for a university on the Continent (although Chile was VERY appealing).
  2. Personal interest: I love to travel and meet new people, and going through Go Abroad was a funded, approved way of doing so during work time. #winning.
  3. Professional development: I’d heard from colleagues that Utrecht would be a welcoming institution. After reading though their website, I found numerous overlaps between our work at IAD and their Centre for Academic Practice, and thought it would be a great place to share good practices.
  4. Practicalities of applying: The application form wasn’t nearly as daunting as some can be, and I heard back pretty swiftly that I had received the funding, with clear directions on how to proceed with travel bookings etc.
  5. Ease of securing hosts: Colleagues within my department had visited Utrecht before so were happy to send an introductory email as an entry into setting up a visit.

However, I was worried that if I applied for a visit to Utrecht, this would be my ‘one-shot’ at applying for Go Abroad funding, and any future trip further afield would be ruled out. I decided to ask Lesley and Calum, who manage the programme, some questions that would help me understand behind-the scenes of the application process, and to get some clarity on how decisions were being made on applying for funding.

Here’s how the conversation went….

Isn’t it seen as a bit of a jolly?

Lesley: Whilst it is not a holiday, we think you’ll have a great time! You’ll build new relationships, share knowledge and experience, and get a fresh perspective on your role.

There are so many benefits from participating in a Go Abroad Staff experience – for personal & professional development as well as for your team and the wider University. Find out about the benefits on the Go Abroad – Staff website.

Can I afford to go?

Calum: Go Abroad Staff participants receive flat-rate travel and subsistence grants to support their teaching or training activity. Find out more about the funding available on the Go Abroad – Staff website.

Are places limited?

Lesley: If you’re interested in visiting one of our ICM (International Credit Mobility) partners outside of Europe then, yes, places at each partner institution are limited and can be very competitive. For example, we received many more applications for Canada this year than we had available, so some applicants who weren’t willing or able to consider an alternative destination were disappointed not to be successful in their application. It’s also important to note that partners vary from year to year so we cannot guarantee all institutions on offer this year will be partners in future years. The best way to ensure you get a place is to keep your options open and consider going somewhere other than your first choice of destination.

If you’re interested in going elsewhere in Europe, funding works slightly differently and we’ll consider an application to any institution! There’s no limit on how many people can visit any particular institution. So, as long as we have funds available, and your proposed activity is supported by your line manager, we’ll be able to consider your application.

Do I have to choose between Europe/and non-Europe?

Lesley: We have separate pots of money for European and non-European (ICM) visits so you can apply for both a European and an ICM activity – it’s not an either/or.

Can I apply for repeat funding?

Calum: You can apply more than once. We receive applications each year from staff who’ve undertaken teaching or training visits (to the same or different institutions) in previous years. When allocating funds, we would try to prioritise staff who’ve not benefited from Erasmus funding before, but, in practice, we can often fund both previous recipients and new applicants.

You can also apply more than once in a year. Again, if you’ve already been funded for an Erasmus activity in a given year, you would not be a priority applicant, but, in practice, if we have funds available to support additional activities, we’d be willing to consider repeat applications.

Can I only apply at one time point a year?

Lesley: We plan to open applications for 2019/20 at the beginning of June 2019, and the earlier you apply, the more likely you are to receive funding for your first choice of destination. However, we welcome applications throughout the academic year, and will fund eligible Go Abroad Staff activities as long as we have funds available.

Writing about your Go Abroad Staff experiences for Teaching Matters

If you have completed a funded Go Abroad Staff trip, and would like to reflect on what you did and learnt, please consider a writing Teaching Matters blog post. These can also be used as part of your professional development evidence, e.g., as an EdTA blog submission. Please get in touch for further details: teachingmatters@ed.ac.uk.

Jenny Scoles

Dr Jenny Scoles is the editor of Teaching Matters. She is an Academic Developer (Learning and Teaching Enhancement) in the Institute for Academic Development, and provides pedagogical support for University course and programme design. Her interests include student engagement, professional learning and sociomaterial methodologies.

Lesley Balharry

Lesley Balharry works in the Go Abroad team in Edinburgh Global and manages the Erasmus+ staff mobility programme, which provides academic and professional services staff with funding to undertake teaching and training activities across Europe. She is responsible for creating and managing partnership agreements, supporting outgoing staff, and coordinating promotional activities.

Calum MacDonald

Calum MacDonald works in the Go Abroad team in Edinburgh Global and manages the Erasmus+ ICM staff mobility programme, which provides academic and professional services staff with funding to undertake placements at partner institutions abroad. He is responsible for administering incoming and outgoing staff mobility activities to and from the University, and coordinating activities such as Erasmus+ ICM International Staff Weeks.

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