There are several things, both intellectual and social, that we try to achieve in this school:
A place where it feels good and safe to do intellectual work.
Doing ‘intensive intellectual work’ is not hard since most of us spend inordinate amounts of time working anyway. The feel nice part is less obvious in academia, and mostly means ensuring a relaxed atmosphere.
To ensure this, we have two simple rules, which have proven pretty successful:
1. minimise the barrier between teachers and students. We all stay in the same hostel, travel reimbursements are pretty similar for teachers and students, informal participative teaching style is encouraged, etc. This all expresses the fact that the school runs on interest in generative linguistics, and on curiosity; this is why students and teachers come. There is no commercial purpose of any kind: the EGG does not make money on the school, and teachers are not paid (but their expenses are reimbursed).
2. spend as much time socialising as we spend in the classrooms. Which means a lot of time! Of course, the fact that the teachers organise the school themselves also helps a lot.
At the EGG we want to create a kind of atmosphere that is more egalitarian than at other schools since we try to tune down the feeling of hierarchy. This also shows in teacher recruitment: the EGG is known for having young, sometimes very young faculty, and the transition from being a former student to teaching at the EGG is common.
At the same time, we expect everyone to treat each other respectfully, and the organisers are approachable in case someone feels that there is a problem of any kind. We reserve the possibility of not accepting certain people in future EGGs in case they have shown inappropriate behaviour repeatedly.
A school that is affordable
One prominent goal of the school is to keep the school affordable and to bring it to places where other schools and conferences are held less often or not at all. The EGG is very affordable: there is a comparatively low participation fee and even reductions for students from Eastern European countries, anyone can just walk in. Furthermore, we keep the cost of accommodation modest by lodging in student dorms, provided at roughly local prices. On top of that, we offer grants helping people to travel to the school who cannot make it otherwise. All the staff is involved in making this possible: the teachers come teach for free (some even pay their own travel), the school is organised by volunteers, and the hosting university kindly offers the class rooms. The only expenses of the school relate to the reimbursement of teacher expenses and dorm housing (plus student support). Teacher reimbursement is financed by a small contribution of all registered students (40-50 Euros), and we actively seek external financing (GLOW, van Riemsdijk Foundation) to keep this as low as possible.
Fun and stimulating research
Ideally, we would want a place where research happens rather than ‘being taught’. We try to do that by bringing together top notch researchers and providing a venue for them to interact with students in a calm and stimulating setting. The idea here is twofold: on the one hand provide great conditions for intellectual sport and creative research; and on the other hand provide mid to advanced participants with a great stimulant: live research done in a didactic way. (The difference between teachers and advanced students is of course largely artificial in this context.) The intention of the advanced track is thus to present live but accessible research & debate to students who already have a grasp of the basics, but not necessarily of the topic under discussion.
Furthermore, students self-organise an open podium in the second week where they present their ongoing research and get feedback from all EGG participants (students and teachers alike). Additional workshops are offered, often by students, providing basic information about LaTeX, statistics, corpus linguistics, and other methods that are useful in linguistic research.
Introductory and Advanced Courses
The EGG provides introductory as well as advanced courses in syntax, semantics, morphology and phonology, and more recently also courses with additional psycholinguistic and experimental angles. So there is something for everyone; often the teachers also attend and participate in other teachers’ courses. The intro classes are accessible to everyone and presuppose little to no technical knowledge. The advanced courses, on the other hand, tend to be topical or investigate phenomena in greater detail.
Teachers: young and old, junior and established
The EGG believes in encouraging new ideas from excellent junior researchers rather than in recycling established theories and conventions from rich-and-famous, established researchers. It is, in fact, well-known that much of the novelty of research comes from people who are new to the field, typically graduate students, post-docs, etc; but also researchers newly converted from other fields. In sharp contrast with many other schools, we are very happy to invite (very) junior staff, when we sniff promising content. Notice that we do have rich-and-famous established scholars teaching as well, but the proportion is typically inverse with respect to traditional events.