Aston Centre for Europe 

Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union in 2009, ACE has become a major centre for research in European politics and society, ensuring real-world applicability of that research through practitioner engagement.

 

The Aston Centre for Europe acts as a ‘hub’ for a range of Europe and EU-related research projects and stakeholder activities across the University. Reflecting the European strengths of Aston’s research culture including specialisms in individual states, ACE has since 2009 become a major centre for research in European politics and society and ensured the real-world applicability of that research through practitioner engagement. ACE promotes research on Europe and its constituent states and role in the world, and interfaces with stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, the public) and gives support to ACE’s researchers and students. One of its aims is to increase research income and the number of ACE-related projects; and to increase the number of high quality publications, with an emphasis on journal articles and monographs.

Our aims are:

•    To increase research income and the number of ACE-related projects
•    To increase the number of high quality publications, with an emphasis on journal articles and monographs

In its first eight years, ACE's fundamental achievement is not only to have created a lively and supportive environment for political and social research on Europe, but also to have been considered by REF 2014 as the 5th centre for research excellence in the UK for Area Studies. In 2016 ACE became a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, and has developed its research strategy to reflect this. It is at the forefront of research on Europe and its states in the light of dramatic developments across the world: the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, the consequences of Brexit, the migrant crisis, and the rise of populisms in several European states.

Disclaimer: This webpage and the publications of the centre reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Practitioner Fellows

One of ACE’s objectives is to bridge the gap between researchers and users. To that end, ACE has appointed a number of high-profile Practitioner Fellows who play a key part in generating impact, advance our public engagement agenda through facilitating access to our user groups, and provide external expertise on key research projects.

  • Sir Michael Arthur KCMG - Former HM Ambassador to Germany and High Commissioner to India
  • Tony Barber - Europe Editor of the FT Andrew Douglas - Depository Trust
  • Dr Daniel Franklin - Executive Director of The Economist
  • David Harley - Former Deputy Secretary General of the European Parliament
  • Peter Kellner - President of YouGov
  • Simon Mordue – EU Ambassador to Kenya
  • Jill Robinson - Birmingham City Council, Former Head of the Regional, European and International Division
  • Tom Roe - Former EU Ambassador to Hong Kong
  • Peter Rodford - Former Head of Information Society Directorate General, European Commission
  • Professor Helen Wallace - Lady Wallace of Saltaire

Projects

Building upon internal and external expertise, ACE’s brief is to generate policy-relevant research and knowledge transfer on politics and policy, thus impacting upon thinking, behaviour, practice, and policy in specific user groups.

To live up to these expectations, ACE builds upon internal and external expertise, on high-quality partnerships with Universities in Europe and elsewhere. ACE exemplifies the central elements of the University’s Aston 2012 and Aston 2020 strategy documents: to be recognised for excellence in European politics and policy in a way that delivers real solutions for local and global challenges. ACE’s research strategy therefore has the following eight key aims:

  • To consolidate and grow an interdisciplinary research environment
  • To maintain and increase the quality and quantity of high-level research in order to enhance performance in REF 2014 and beyond
  • To support the development of researchers
  • To increase external research income
  • To develop a stronger interdisciplinary and international research network based on partnerships with European and international institutions and funding bodies
  • To increase the number of research students
  • To encourage research with impact for the local, national and international communities (given ACE’s strategic situation at the interface between academia and the policy world)
  • To demonstrate our research excellence to the outside world

Recent projects include

2020 Youth Manifesto for the West Midlands

Dr Danny Fitzpatrick has been awarded £4500 of Strategic Priority Funding by Research England to undertake a research project with the West Midlands Young Combined Authority. The project will co-produce a 2020 Youth Manifesto for the West Midlands, to coincide with the mayoral elections in May. 

Birmingham Live Music Project

About

Birmingham Live Music (BLMP) research programme examines the impact of shifts in the globalized music economy and national level changes on localised cultural, social and economic actors from the perspective of Birmingham. Its aims are to inform the public, policy-makers, and the different stakeholders involved of these effects, along with best practices and possible solutions to the different challenges faced by the globalised live music industry on a local scale. The programme aims at a detailed mapping of the live music ecosystem in Birmingham, deploying elements of the established ‘live music census’ methodologies (replicable surveys of audiences, musicians, venues and promoters, interview and observational data, stakeholder consultation) to produce tailored qualitative and quantitative data and recommendations in the Birmingham and West Midlands context, and contribute to the broader picture of the UK’s place in the global live music economy.

Team

Dr Patrycja Rozbicka, a lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University, Birmingham, whose current research focuses on different stakeholders in policy making, music and politics, and regulation of live music industry in the UK.

Dr Adam Behr, a lecturer in Contemporary and Popular Music at Newcastle University. His research covers cultural policy, the politics and sociology of music – particularly popular music – and the music industries.

Dr Craig Hamilton, a research fellow from the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research at Birmingham City University is a co-investigator on the project. His research explores the role of digital, data and internet technologies in the business and cultural environments of popular music.

Brexit and the V4: Potential Impacts, Interests, and Perceptions

The research project, funded by the International Visegrad Fund, focuses on investigating the interests of the V4 countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) in shaping the future of EU-UK relations. It analyses the economic, political and perceptional factors driving these interests, and aims to provide academically sound evidence for V4 governments in conducting the exit negotiations, as well as formulating relations with the UK post-Brexit.

The project is led by the Aston Centre for Europe, and includes the following partners:

The project began in May 2017, and ran for a year up to the end of April 2018. The policy report from the project was presented in workshops in Prague (13 March 2018), Bratislava (23 March 2018), Warsaw (13 April 2018) and Budapest (27 April 2018).

Read the full report here.

For more information about the project, contact:
Dr Balazs Szent-Ivanyi
b.szent-ivanyi@aston.ac.uk

Research Team

Balázs Szent-Iványi – Aston Centre for Europe
Dr Balázs Szent-Iványi is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University, Birmingham, UK, and also holds an Associate Professor position at Corvinus University Budapest, Hungary. Previously, he was a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow at the University of Leeds. His research focuses on the foreign aid and foreign direct investment policies of the Central and Eastern European countries, and has published on these topics in journals like the Journal of Common Market Studies, Europe-Asia Studies, the Journal of International Development, and Comparative European Politics . His latest book, an edited volume entitled Foreign Direct Investment in Central and Eastern Europe. Post-crisis Perspectives, has been published with Palgrave in 2017.

Vít Beneš – Institute of International Relations
Vít Beneš, Ph.D. is a researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and the editor in chief of the magazine International Relations (Mezinárodní vztahy ). He defended his PhD thesis at the Faculty of International Relations, University of Economics, Prague. He is the author of numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals (such as the Journal of Common Market Studies and Cooperation and Conflict , among others) and chapters in monographs on the topics of research methodology, international relations theory, EU enlargement and the European dimension of Czech foreign policy.

Tadeusz Chabiera - War Studies University
Tadeusz Chabiera, Ph.D., is a lecturer at the War Studies University, and a member of the Euro-Atlantic Association. He is an expert in the field of Polish foreign policy, security strategy and European Union affairs.

Matúš Mišík – Comenius University
Matúš Mišík, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. His main area of expertise is energy security within the EU. He also studies the role of perceptions within the EU decision-making mechanism. He is the author of Energy policy in the Enlarged European Union (IIR Prague, 2013, in Slovak) and Decision-making process in the European Union after the Eastern Enlargement (Comenius University Bratislava, 2016). He has published articles in Energy, Energy Policy, Geopolitics, Czechoslovak Psychology, Journal of Popular Culture, Comparative European Politics, Asia Europe Journal and Slovak Sociological Review.

András Tétényi – Corvinus University Budapest
Dr. András Tétényi is an assistant professor of economics at the Institute of World Economy of the Corvinus University of Budapest. He is Programme Managing Director for the International Economy and Business (IEB) Masters Programme and academic coordinator for the International Masters in Economy State and Society (IMESS) double degree programme between the University College London, and among others, the Corvinus University of Budapest. His research interest are in the field of official development assistance policies of the Visegrad countries and asylum policies of Hungary. He has published on the topic in the Journal of International Development.

This project is funded by the International Visegrad Fund, project no. 21640265.

Churches, Arks of Migratory Narratives

Churches, Arks of Migratory Narratives: A Comparative Study of the Greek-Orthodox Religioscapes in Germany and Great Britain

Researcher: Dr Georgios E. Trantas – Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow

Horizon 2020 Framework Programme
Grant Agreement number: 789827
Acronym: GO Religioscapes — H2020-MSCA-IF-2017

Abstract

This research project deals with the Greek and Greek-Cypriot migrant communities in Germany and Britain, particularly with reference to their religiocultural symbolic constellations found in the public sphere, which illustrate the particularities of their establishment and integration in the receiving country. As regards the Greek Gastarbeiter, they identified their communities with their parishes, as the church often functioned as head of community and a mediator between them and the state. The bulk of the Greek-Cypriot Commonwealth migrants on the other hand, found the Greek-Orthodox Archdiocese already established as well, and as they expanded and dispersed across the British Isles, so did the parishes, which, in both cases, have served as arks of culture and identity. In that respect, one observes the phenomenon of interwoven migrant and church narratives; in the lapse of time, community and church, being closely knit, jointly constructed their migrant narratives of de- and reterritorialisation, cultural adaptation and hybridisation, essentially their own distinct sense of being and belonging. The particularities of this constantly under construction identity are manifest in the architecture, hagiographical/iconographical themes, aesthetics and concepts of their churches, which, albeit within canonical specifications, deviate from the normative typology as it is graphically attested by the occurrences of the phenomenon thereof. It is typical, however, of the Byzantine hagiographic tradition to include and demonstrate the socio-political conditions of its time and place; and, those visual manifestations are part of a sociocultural reality as such, given that they possess a contextual dimension with reference to their symbolic content, their thematic endorsement and the appropriation of extra-ecclesiastical identity elements, but they are also an act and a medium of communication in their own right. It is therefore feasible to decode their aforementioned content and articulate the narrative that they convey.
The primary research data will be accessible as soon as the field research is completed, in line with the European Commission ‘Horizon 2020 Open Research Data Pilot and Data Management Plan’, the European Union ‘General Data Protection Regulation’, and the Aston University ‘School of Languages and Social Sciences’ Research Ethics guidelines.


[*] Georgios E. Trantas and Eleni D. Tseligka, ‘Where the Byzantinesque meets the Urbanesque: Architectural and Hagiographic Elements of Greek Orthodox Urban Reterritorialization in Germany’, Zeitschrift für Balkanologie, (52 (2), (2016), p.254

EuroSim: Learning negotiations through simulations

Lecturing Team: Dr Patrycja Rozbicka, Luke John Davies

Aims

The Aston EuroSim Module has two main aims: 

  1. Provide students with negotiation and rhetorical skills, as well as in-depth knowledge of the functioning of European Union (EU) institutions. It does so through the usage of negotiation simulations, based on the development of a unique community of learning (this module mixes final year undergraduate students and MA students) and a professionalising ‘learning by doing’ approach; 
  2. Select and train students to take part in the largest and longest running EU negotiation simulation in the world, which is also called EuroSim. The latter has gathered annually, for the past 30 years, 250 students from 22 universities in Europe and in the US. As the only UK participant team in this highly competitive event, Aston University selects the 10 best students in the module to represent the country by providing them with its best expertise in negotiation, diplomacy and European affairs. As a result, students undergo a transformative experience enabling them to improve their self-esteem, social abilities and professional skills.

Teaching approach

The teaching approach at the basis of EuroSim: EuroSim distances itself from traditional teaching and learning methods and proposes a ‘learning by doing’ approach based on negotiation simulations. Instead of simply reading about negotiation skills, students develop and implement them in a specific negotiation scenario. This ‘learning by doing’ approach is based on the growing academic literature about the effectiveness of simulations in conveying complex knowledge thanks to its problem- based perspective. The same skills are still provided, but the role-playing element leads to the emergence of a new community of learning: the learning environment is entirely based on real life situations and documents, which promotes a more professionalising environment, as well as greater student involvement. The simulations are also recorded on video to allow students to learn from reviewing their performance. The learning strategy is complemented by high levels of student engagement through social media. The lecturers encouraged students to establish a Facebook page, as well as a Twitter account, which are used as part of communication and negotiation strategies.

Why EuroSim

Why fund the Aston EuroSim Module at a time when the UK’s relation with the EU is changing? Following the triggering of Art. 50, which officially kick-starts the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the UK has embarked on a complex and possibly long negotiation process to establish the basis for its future relation with the EU. Given the EU’s weight as a trade block and its geographical proximity, it is likely that the UK Government and UK- based companies will want to maintain an important level of exchanges with it. In order to do so, the UK will need a very large number of EU trained negotiators, working in the context of the civil service and of companies, who will be able to shape the new relation and ensure that national economic, political, cultural and social interests are safeguarded. 

Crowdfunding

Aston University hopes to take its team for every upcoming EuroSim simulation. Till date, we are the only British team participating in the event and hope to shine during upcoming conferences which will gather students from over 22 universities across Europe and the United States.
Every year, 220 students takes part in the European negotiation simulation, which has been running for 32 years. At Aston, we are very excited to be part of this incredibly enriching experience. We were given a chance to first participate in 2016 simulation, when 9 of our students went to Antwerp to negotiate EU regulation on Asylum Seekers. Since then, every subsequent Aston EuroSim cohort has come back with awards and international recognition.
Given Aston University’s strong support for widening participation in Higher Education, we are striving to ensure our best students can take part in opportunities such as EuroSim. An important part of this effort is related to attracting the necessary funding to cover the travel and accommodation of students taking part in the international simulation.
We want Aston University students to go again and we need your help to make it happen! If you want to help, please visit our JustGiving page to make a donation.

Contact: Dr Patrycja Rozbicka

External Relations: European Neighbourhood Policy - EU Committee of the Regions

Dr Nat Copsey and Dr Carolyn Rowe have won a tender worth €480,000, to produce research reports and policy advice for the Committee of Regions. Enhancing the COR's role in EU decision-making, the Aston Centre for Europe has provided the Committee with a rapid response capability, allowing broader consultation of local and regional players and harnessing technical expertise.  The most recent publications include:

Copsey, N., Connolly, R., and Marangoni, A-C. (forthcoming) The Efficient Use of Funds under the IPA-II Regulation, Brussels: Committee of the Regions. 

Copsey, N. and Marangoni, A-C. (forthcoming) Local and Regional Authorities for a Successful Eastern Partnership Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. and Rowe, C. (2013) A Roadmap to Reform in Public Administration, Fiscal Decentralisation and Territorial Cooperation, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. and Rowe, C. (2012) The EU funds available for local and regional authorities from the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries – information guide, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. & Rowe, C. (2012) Developing Technical and Vocational Training – local authorities’ roles, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. & Rowe, C. (2012) Fostering Sustainable Tourism – local authorities’ roles, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. & Rowe, C. (2012) Contribution of local and Regional Authorities to the Development of the Eastern Partnership: Framework and Opportunities, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. & Rowe, C. (2012) The EU funds available for local and regional authorities from the Eastern Partnership countries, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. & Rowe, C. (2012) How to use EU Pre-Accession Funds: Guide for the Sub-National Authorities from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. & Rowe, C. (2012) How to use EU Pre-Accession Funds: Guide for the Sub-National Authorities from the Serbian Subnational Authorities, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Forced Migration, Religious Diplomacy, and Human Security in the Eastern Orthodox

Principal Investigator: Dr Lucian Leustean, Aston University

British Academy Grant, 1 January – 31 December 2018

Abstract 

This project examines the relationship between forced migration, religious diplomacy and human security in Eastern Europe and Russia, as reflected in the post-1992 breakup of Yugoslavia, the post-2011 Syrian crisis and the 2014 Russian takeover of Crimea. It focuses on four areas: 1) the circulation of ideas on human security between religious and secular courts, monastic settlements, pilgrimage sites and educational establishments; 2) religious strategies in relation to violence, tolerance, transitory environments and resettlement; 3) religious support, protection and mechanisms towards displaced populations, and 4) religious channels of diplomatic engagement advancing human security. The project collects the first dataset on ‘Eastern Orthodoxy and Human Security’ and organises two workshops held by an interdisciplinary Network on ‘Religion, Diplomacy and Human Security in the Eastern Orthodox World’ which brings together academics and policy makers. It provides education materials to diplomats and policy makers on how to engage with religious actors in Bulgaria, Greece, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.

Principal Aim of Project

The project offers an understanding of the role of religious communities in fostering violence, survival, tolerance and resettlement, religious support, formal and informal types of diplomacy towards forced displaced populations.

Research Questions

  1. How do Orthodox actors (national churches, religious institutions, national and internationally-affiliated organizations) and state bodies engage with human security in Bulgaria, Greece, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine?
  2. What are the mechanisms of Orthodox support towards forced displacement communities in these countries? How does forced migration impact upon religious practices, values and political structures?
  3. How do Orthodox actors engage in diplomatic relations with both religious and secular bodies? How does Orthodox diplomacy impact upon state relations in Eastern Europe and Russia and, most importantly, between Eastern and Western Europe?

Methodology

1.Dataset on ‘Eastern Orthodoxy and Human Security’
During the first six months (1 January-31 May 2018) it will collect qualitative and quantitative data in Belgrade and Kiev. The interviews will be conducted in the capitals of these countries with official representatives of Orthodox churches and state bodies in charge of religious affairs. The areas of investigation are as follows 1) ideas related to human security among religious and secular courts, monastic settlements, pilgrimage sites and educational establishments; 2) violence, tolerance, transitory environments and resettlement; 3) support, protection and mechanisms towards displaced populations, and 4) diplomatic engagement advancing transnational alliances on security.    

2.Academic and Public Policy Network on ‘Religion, Diplomacy and Human Security in the Eastern Orthodox World’

The Network will officially start on 1 January 2018. In the second part of the project (1 June-31 December 2018), the Network will assess in detail national case studies on the four themes of investigation and ensure dissemination and policy engagement in the region by organising two workshops:

  • ‘Religion and Migration in the Eastern Orthodox World’ in Belgrade (June 2018).
  • ‘Religion, Migration and Social Change in the Eastern Orthodox World' in Kiev (September 2018). 

The programme of each workshop will be designed by taking into account local expertise and by bringing together academics, civil society, mass media and governmental organisations.

IR and Aesthetics

The #IR_Aesthetics, funded by the Aston Centre for Europe, is a field research project investigating the stories of migration and the refugee crisis in Serbia, Macedonia, and Greece from inter-disciplinary perspective. It focuses on (1) political expression in marginalised communities through use of graffiti and music, (2) use of technology and social networks, (3) investigates everyday geographies of the refugee crisis, and (4) migration and trauma, and children in IR.

Research Team

For more information about the project, contact: Patrycja Rozbicka

Follow #IR_Aesthetics and @IR_Aesthetics

Jean Monnet Module: European Union Approaches to Corruption and the Crime - Terror Nexus

Staff members responsible for the module:
Dr Helena Farrand- Carrapico (PIR- LSS)
Dr Jelena Wochnik- Obradovic (PIR- LSS) 

The Jean Monnet Module awarded to Aston University in 2015 develops new teaching and policy engagement activities on the EU’s approaches to corruption and to the crime-terror nexus. Although Justice and Home Affairs is the fastest growing policy field the EU has known in recent years, there has been little emphasis on pedagogical activities that explore the European Union’s understanding of, as well as responses to, the intersection between corruption, organised crime and terrorism. The module is composed of taught lectures and seminars; academic and practitioner guest lectures; two study trips; innovative assignments including a mission negotiation, a briefing paper and an optional co- authored policy paper; social media presence; and the release of a free, public lecture series - the Aston Jean Monnet Lecture Series. The module has academic added value due to its unique content – the crime-terror nexus is an emerging debate in EU studies – and approach. First, the crime-terror nexus is not yet a major focus of postgraduate taught modules; however, the current global context and EU’s concern with issues such as maritime piracy, terrorism, cyber crime and their increasing intersections, gives urgency to the need to academically reflect on this phenomenon. The module is also unique in its delivery and assessment, the focus of which is practical implementation of academic and policy debates. Students will take part in a ‘Mission Negotiation’ and write a briefing paper, instead of a traditional essay. Their learning will be supported by integrated study trips, funded by the module. Equally important, the students will have the opportunity to co- author a real policy paper, under the supervision of the academic coordinators, to be submitted to a think tank or EU institution.

BISA South East Europe Working Group

Purpose

Established in 2002, the British International Studies Association (BISA) Working Group on South East Europe (the post-communist Balkans, Greece, Turkey and Cyprus) aims to become a space for debate and research on issues related to the security, political, economic, justice and social transformation and reconstruction of the region. The Western Balkan dimension of the group particularly engages with external state-building processes following the conflicts in the 1990s as well as issues related to the Europeanization, economic cooperation, soft security challenges and the place of the region in Europe's energy politics. The aim of this working group is to strengthen the network of scholars working on the abovementioned issues and to initiate a dialogue with policy-makers and practitioners interested in South East Europe. Future activities of the working group include joint panels at international conferences, specialized workshops and joint publications.

Convenors

Dr Denisa Kostovicova, Department of Government, LSE, d.kostovicova@lse.ac.uk

Dr Gemma Collantes-Celador, Department of International Politics, City University London, Gemma.Collantes-Celador@city.ac.uk

Communications officer

Dr Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik, Politics and International Relations, Aston University, j.obradovic-wochnik@aston.ac.uk  

Membership

If you would like to become a member of the working group, or if you have any suggestions for the group, please contact: j.obradovic-wochnik@aston.ac.uk

Comments and Suggestions

If you have any comments or suggestions for the group, please contact Gemma.Collantes-Celador@city.ac.uk 

Grants

In addition to the substantial internal investment from the University, attracting external research income is and will remain a major priority for ACE. Major grant successes include: 

  • An ESRC grant award (£22,464) on Poland’s influence in the EU (Copsey, 2009-10).
  • A £70,622 ESRC Grant to investigate religious lobbies in the EU (Leustean, 2010-11).
  • £52,000 from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to research the changing nature of Christian Democracy in Germany (Green and Turner, 2010-11).
  • A £77,000 Leverhulme grant for a study on political leadership in the UK (Gaffney, 2012-14).
  • A tender, worth €480,000, to produce research reports and policy advice for the EU’s Committee of the Regions (Copsey and Rowe, 2010-14: see under 2010 for more information).
  • £58,500 from the DAAD for a comparative study of migration policy in the UK and Germany, plus £34,000 from the FCO for a high-level policy seminar (Green, 2012-13).
  • The DAAD awarded ACE a further £48,000 for a project entitled Reframing German Federalism (Rowe and Turner, 2012-13).
  • A Jean Monnet Module entitled 'Crime- Terror Nexus' (30,000€) (Farrand-Carrapico and Wochnik- Obradovic, 2015- 2018).

Research Environment

ACE was set up with a university grant of £500,000 with the aim of providing a research environment in European politics and society to promote self-sustaining research activities. That environment has produced a steady stream of high quality research publications, a large volume of external research income, and sustained impact. ACE has generated over £750,000 (the PSU unit has raised a further £80,000). ACE frames its environment through research outputs, seminars, conferences (35 since 2009); keynote lectures in Birmingham, London, Brussels, Berlin and elsewhere; and consultancies and briefings to government ministers, shadow cabinet ministers and UK and overseas government officials. We have provided advice to the UK Government, EU institutions, EU Member State governments, and a US Congressional Committee, as well as to the private sector. ACE staff also engage regularly with the national and international media.

For staff

There is a Research Enhancer for ACE who organises research seminars, offers advice to colleagues on publishing and grant applications (grant proposals are presented to the group and the Assoc Dean Research), coordinates sabbaticals, and has begun developing individual research portfolios for each member of research-active staff to guide and plan their research agenda until 2020.

Staff have one day a week free of teaching or administrative duties to concentrate on research. The School’s sabbaticals policy allows each member of academic staff to apply for a research leave every three years. All sabbaticals are planned in advance, and include the development and submission of a research grant proposal, and research targets.

There is a special focus on supporting ACE’s Early Career Researchers mentored by a senior member of staff during their probation period. The University also has an ECR Career Development Plan.  In 2012, three post-doctoral Research Fellows joined ACE. The post-doctoral fellows actively publish with their principal investigators – this being specified in the original research proposals – and co-organise research seminars and workshops, including with the European Commission in London, the DAAD, and the FCO, thus facilitating exchanges between ACE and other public bodies. ACE mentors and supports its Teaching and Research Fellows. When they move on to jobs elsewhere, they become Honorary Research Fellows of ACE and remain actively engaged with us as part of the wider ACE environment. ACE’s environment has a clear physical identity: designated seminar rooms, offices, a resource room for Masters and PhD students containing workstations and printing facilities.

For students

ACE’s research students are supported by the University’s Graduate School (GS). Through the Aston Postgraduate Research Society they meet other students from across the University, benefiting from student networks and societies. ACE also has its own dedicated postgraduate room.

ACE research students present their work in several forums, including the Politics and International Relations research seminar.

Each research student can apply for up to £500 for conference travel annually. PhD students are monitored and guided outside their supervisions through the University’s online MAP (My Aston Portal) system. ACE research students have a supervisor and associate supervisor, who have completed the University’s training for research supervision. All research students follow a Research Methods and Skills Module, a prerequisite for the ‘Qualifying Report’ examination at the beginning of the second year, based on a 10,000-word report and a viva voce examination. All research students complete an annual Training Needs Analysis. ACE encourages research students to join their respective professional associations, such as the Political Studies Association (PSA) and University Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES). Research students contribute articles on contemporary issues to the ACE blog. The School also has a Director of Research Degree Programmes who accompanies research students from admission to completion, advising on administrative issues and monitoring academic progress and general welfare.