On the annual Talent Day, 29 EUR scholars were awarded with prestigious research grants and subsidies. The researchers received different kinds of grants, that depend on their experience and academic careers. EM talked with Dr. Payal Arora, an Indian faculty member of the ESHCC, and one of the six young researchers that were awarded an EUR Fellowship grant.

The EUR Fellowship is a grant of €135.000,-, that gives young researchers the opportunity to do research for a maximum of two years time. It is especially designed by the Erasmus University for researchers that miss out on a Veni grant from the NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research). Scholars who received a good evaluation by the NWO, but due to budgetary issues could not obtain a Veni grant, can apply for an EUR Fellowship grant in the same year. This is how Arora received her grant for her research called ‘Virtual parks: conceptualizing leisure spaces in the digital age’.


Growing accountability

The Dutch academic environment is currently changing, due to budget cuts. We asked Arora how she experiences the Dutch university life: “It is growing and transforming in a dramatic way, as the heavily subsidized form of education is not sustainable anymore. The standards of performance are increasing, as scholars now have to perform, publish, teach and have a larger accountability towards the university and students.” Arora thinks the Netherlands is doing quite well, as according to her, other countries such as Italy, Spain and France are still battling with this issue of accountability.

The Netherlands vs. the USA

Arora has lived, studied and worked in India, the USA and the Netherlands, and feels that she has learned to question the educational systems that are otherwise taken for granted. Comparing the Dutch educational system to the American system, she notes that education in the USA is hierarchical and oriented towards merit, whereas in the Netherlands, students see a university education as their entitlement. She herself was able to obtain several grants, which made her able to finance her education at American universities. She enjoys the Netherlands and its academic environment, as the Dutch system allows her to freely pursue her research and conference engagements as long as she performs well. However, she does miss parts of the American system: “I felt like a kid walking around in a candy store: you could study all sorts of weird courses and count them as electives.” Another aspect of universities such as Harvard and Columbia that she misses is the intellectual community around these universities, where people from all academic disciplines came to talk about a wide variety of subjects.

‘Shopping malls of art’

Arora plans to spend two years on the research she has now received a Fellowship grant for: “It’s a theoretical proposition, so I can basically write it anywhere. There is no fieldwork involved.” Her research will focus on the historical concept of public  parks, that she will apply to online leisure spaces. She is also working on a new project linked to the art world, which will focus on how ‘high culture’ institutions, such as museums and auction houses, are now interacting with mass media. An interesting example of this topic is what would happen to the auction value of a painting if it gets a million likes on Facebook. Arora: “We are moving towards a ‘shopping mall of art’, where art is now a part of mass-consumption. Online and offline are two connected worlds, which make it a very contemporary, relevant topic to study.” IS