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“a.r.t.e.s. international – for all”

Birgit Hellwig is a member of the programme’s grants committee

by Barbara Cuccarese

(Foto: Dzenina Lukac/Pexels)

From the variety of international opportunities supported by a.r.t.e.s. since 2010 arises the “a.r.t.e.s. international – for all” initiative that finds place in the framework of the IPID4all programme (International Promovieren in Deutschland – for all). The programme, promoted by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), encourages international scholars’ networking due to funded events like conferences, study trips, summer schools, and doctoral workshops. All doctoral students can apply for funding in this project: both doctoral students of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Cologne who take part in the Regular Track or in one of the structured doctoral models and doctoral students from foreign universities. We talked to Prof. Dr. Birgit Hellwig, who is a member of the grants committee, about the “a.r.t.e.s. international – for all” programme.

a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School: Dear Prof. Dr. Hellwig, since 2015 you have been a member of the “a.r.t.e.s. international – for all” grants committee. Which reasons motivated you to join it?

Prof. Dr. Birgit Hellwig: During my own doctoral studies, I was lucky to receive generous funding that enabled me to conduct fieldwork, to present my research at conferences and to interact with international peers and senior colleagues. I am convinced that these opportunities had a considerable impact on my development as an independent researcher. Through “a.r.t.e.s. international – for all” I now have a chance to help others enjoy similar opportunities. It offers the opportunity for Cologne students to go abroad, and for international students to come to Cologne – allowing for face-to-face interaction, gaining valuable international experience and – hopefully – forging long-term relationships with the various hosts and facilitating cooperation that go well beyond the current doctoral project.

Could you give us a short explanation of what the grants committee deals with? What points do you discuss during the committee meetings?

We meet four times a year to discuss the applications. Most of them are from Arts and Humanities doctoral students applying for research stays abroad (e.g., for fieldwork in a remote corner of the world, or for accessing materials in an archive), for international conferences, or for summer schools. We also receive applications from doctoral students who organize workshops, and from doctoral students in their final stages who require proof-reading (if their thesis is not written in their native language). And we receive applications from international doctoral students who apply for stays in Cologne, enabling them to pursue their research here and to establish links with Cologne-based scholars.

What are the criteria taken into consideration in order to evaluate the applications, and consequently choose among the candidates?

Our main criteria are the quality of the proposal, the qualification of the applicant, and the significance of the application for their doctoral dissertation project. In addition, there are a number of supplementary criteria – most importantly, we try to be fair and ensure that as many applicants as possible will benefit from the programme. This means that we take criteria into account such as whether or not an applicant has received previous funding from us, whether or not an applicant has access to other funds and/or can reasonably be expected to contribute towards the expenses, or whether or not the amount requested can be accommodated within our limited budget.

Which contribution can you make to the grants committee? What skills and knowledge are helpful according to you?

It has proven very helpful that we all have first-hand experience of different kinds of international collaboration and can thus easily relate to the applications and judge their significance. Over and beyond that, it is a real asset that the committee includes members from different departments across the faculty, contributing their own expert knowledge. In my case, I come from the Department of Linguistics, my own research is based on fieldwork in Nigeria, Sudan and Papua New Guinea, and I can look back on many years of experience working in the Netherlands, the UK and Australia.

Unfortunately, the “a.r.t.e.s. international – for all” programme will phase out in the near future. Would you state your thoughts on this situation?

I consider this an extremely unfortunate development. Each year, we receive well above one hundred applications – many of them excellent, and many of them essential for the progress of the doctoral dissertation project. This enormous response strongly suggests that “a.r.t.e.s. international – for all” fills a gap in the currently available funding schemes and enables doctoral students to conduct important aspects of their projects. I can only hope that the basic idea of the programme will continue and that there will be other opportunities for doctoral students to gain valuable international experience.

Thank you a lot for these interesting insights into your activities within the “a.r.t.e.s. international – for all” grants committee.