The Early Career Higher Education Researchers network (shorter ECHER) was established in 2011 as a response to the need of early-career scholars in the interdisciplinary field of higher education to share experiences, support each other and expand opportunities to meet and collaborate.
Since the earliest days ECHER has operated as a loose and mostly informal network of fellow academics, colleagues and friends, and it has as such acted as a support to any aspect of early-career researchers’ social and academic life.
Being an ECHER member does not imply an age limit nor any other kind of external impositions on how we are supposed to feel. You can be a member of ECHER for as long as you feel you are in the early stage of your academic career.
Although its members at the moment are predominantly European, ECHER is not exclusively a European network and it especially welcomes early-career higher education researchers from other parts of the world.
ECHER seeks to strengthen its ties with other communities of similar character, as well as with well-established associations of higher education researchers, such as CHER (which stands for the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers). Since 2013, ECHER has a representative in the CHER Board of Governors, appointed for a period of four years. The first ECHER representative was Mari Elken (2013-2017). In 2017, the role was taken up by Jelena Brankovic.
The ECHER network was initiated just before the 25th annual CHER conference, which took place in Reykjavik (Iceland). An initial meeting involved 25 early-career researchers from Germany, Finland, Ireland, Italy, England, Norway, Slovenia, Serbia, Canada and the United States.
Since then, ECHER has organized yearly gatherings of its members, sometimes in combination with a workshop and usually prior to a CHER conference. Below we list the workshops, starting with the most recent.
2016: Journal publishing in higher education for early-career researchers
September 4, 2016, Cambridge (UK)
The event was organized by Mari Elken and Bojana Ćulum. It was dedicated to academic publishing and it was organized in two parts. The first part was a round table debate about early-career academia. In the second part, professors Simon Marginson (University College London), Jussi Välimaa (Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä) and Emanuela Reale (IRCRES CNR) shared their experiences on academic publishing and its challenges.
2015: Early-career researchers and book publishing in higher education
September 6, 2015, Lisbon (Portugal)
During this event, book editors of New Voices in Higher Education Research and Scholarship, Bojana Ćulum and Yurgos Politis shared their experience with book production and publishing, focusing on coordination activities and challenges. The event was also an opportunity for the CHER conference “first-timers” to be acquainted with the ECHER network and the upcoming conference.
2013: ECHER Workshop on academic publishing
September 8, 2013, Lausanne (Switzerland)
The aim of the 2013 pre-CHER workshop was to discuss a number of issues of interest to early career researchers, as well as the functioning of the ECHER network. Manja Klemenčič (Harvard Graduate School of Education and Centre of Educational Policy Studies at University of Ljubljana) delivered a talk on how to get published in journals and offered tips on improving academic writing, from the point of view of a journal editor.
2013: ESF-ECHER Colloquium “Higher Education and Society: Implication and Effects”
April 13-14, 2013, Dublin (Ireland)
The ESF-funded colloquium entitled “Higher Education and Society: Implications and effects” was organised by Filipa Ribeiro, Bojana Ćulum, Yurgos Politis and Jonathan Drennan and hosted by University College Dublin. The colloquium addressed questions on the role of higher education in today’s society; questions of the ways in which HE influences the understanding of social issues by students, policy-makers and even HE researchers; discussed the dissemination strategies of research work, especially for early career researchers; and argued on the ways in which researchers cope with the emergent standards in HE research and with the changes in the nature of knowledge itself.
The colloquium combined talks by invited international and Irish guest speakers, and presentations by participants as well as plenary discussion sessions. The guest speakers were Prof. Gaële Goastellec (head of research unit at the Observatoire Science, Policy and Society, University of Lausanne, Switzerland), Prof. Maria Slowey (Director of the Higher Education Research Centre in Dublin City University, Ireland) and Prof. Ellen Hazelkorn (Vice President of Research and Enterprise, and Dean of the Graduate Research School, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland).
2012: Workshop on early-career academia in higher education
September 8-9, 2012, Belgrade (Serbia)
The event brought together 14 early-career higher education scholars to discuss the status, role and the future of the ECHER network. Prof. Jussi Välimaa joined to share his views on the usual challenges encountered in publishing in relevant journals, the role of editors, as well as on the publishing opportunities for early career researchers. Prof. Christine Musselin and Dr. David Hoffman shared their views on the role of CHER in the academic community and on the potential future cooperation between ECHER and CHER.
In addition to the events, ECHER has also prepared and edited a book on higher education: New Voices in Higher Education Research and Scholarship (edited by Filipa M. Ribeiro, Yurgos Politis and Bojana Ćulum). The book explores the role of higher education in today’s society. It discusses the rapidly changing nature of higher education around the globe, especially the relationship between higher education and social development.
This book takes a critical stance on contemporary views of issues that set the pace for the concept of higher education in a global context. The book’s insights into higher education and research in this field offer a way into a dialogue about the critical issues related to, among others, inclusive practices, internationalised practices and institutional responses to the diverse needs of the higher education field.
New Voices gathered new as well as more established voices in the higher education field and in doing so provided readers with deeper insights into the complex nature of the relation between higher education and a society, faced with constant change and dilemmas. Crucially, the book aimed to support international collaborative research and in particular the collaboration and visibility of early-career scholars, which is one of its more important distinctive contributions.
The book has been reviewed by Ana Sofia Ribeiro for the European Journal of Higher Education.