Only showing posts tagged with 'Humanities' Show all blog posts

The Unanswered Questions of Brexit

by YPU Admin on November 8, 2019, Comments. Tags: Brexit, Euro-scepticism, history, Humanities, PhD, Political History, and politics


‘Brexit means Brexit!’. The words of the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, in June 2016, on the steps of the UK Parliament. But what does Brexit mean? 

Hello, my name is Adam. I’m a first year History PhD student here at The University of Manchester and my research aims to understand the historical origins of euro-scepticism in the UK. The 2016 referendum produced a political crisis. The Vote Leave campaign narrowly ‘won’ 51.9 to 49.1 on a turnout of 72%. Questions of what it means to be a member of the EU, a member of The Conservatives, and much more broadly the British democratic system have been thrown into focus. 

For me, my interest in political history was sparked at a young age. I grew up with the backdrop of the Iraq War — campaigning as a part of the ‘Stop the War’ coalition. I was able to see how Politics has the ability to reshape our world, for better and for worse. Understanding the decisions taken in Westminster – and in constituencies – is therefore important for me.

In Depth... 

I am at the beginning of my research into euro-scepticism but already there are some important questions that have emerged. For example, why did the UK government, at the time, decide to use an open-question referendum rather than, say, a referendum on specific outcomes? Euro-scepticism is a subject that crosses traditional political boundaries but why? How far did ‘political education’, or lack of education, play in the mind of the voter? Did one group particularly benefit from worries of Europeanism? How far did the media present an unquestioning approach to scare stories?

I am in a slightly unusual position to be studying Brexit. As a historian, there is a tendency to look to events that are settled, although may be contested by historians! Yet, with the near daily developments with the UK’s exit from the European Union there is a wealth of new material emerging. This helps keep my research current, but it also throws up its own challenges in how I approach the topic.

Understanding political decisions is important for me. I returned to Manchester to complete a Master’s Degree (immediately before this Ph.D.) after a number of years in the ‘professional world’. It gave me an insight into the concerns and ambitions of businesses, yet I knew that I wanted to further explore my curiosity for History. After decided that I would leave my job, I quickly rediscovered my love of learning and had a wonderful opportunity to meet some amazing people (both academics and friends) who encouraged me to pursue my interest in historical politics further.

Ultimately, I would really like my project to contribute to a much more detailed understanding of how and why political decisions are taken. In this, I hope to contribute through various policy platforms and forums with the aim of ensuring that regional voices are included as much as ‘dominant narratives’ of the ‘Westminster Bubble’.

Going further…

Looking for further information about Brexit can feel a little overwhelming, trust me. However, understanding the origins of euro-scepticism allows us to narrow the field a little and there are some brilliant resources and blogs which help unpack the subject. For my experience, an excellent starting place is the ‘Britain in a Changing Europe’ Research Project run by Professor Anand Menon ( As an academic resource, it is thoroughly fact-checked and many of the contributors regularly appear in the media.

For a little further clarification of key terms and some of the ideas often discussed alongside Brexit (such as sovereignty, trade policy, and the Northern Irish ‘backstop’) see the London School of Economics and Political Science Brexit Blog ( Another resource that I regularly use is the BBC’s fantastic ‘Brexitcast’ ( Presented as a podcast (although now on TV as well) the podcast is a really informal way to get the inside track on news and gossip from the UK and Europe. 


The history of archaeology: A research-led approach


My name is Charlotte Coull, and I’m a third year PhD student at the University of Manchester in the History Department. I did both my undergraduate degree and my Master’s degree at Manchester before being lucky enough after applying to be offered funding by the History department to complete my PhD here.

I look comparatively at the history of archaeology in India and Egypt in the nineteenth century. Many people walk away with the idea that I am an archaeologist when I first explain my topic to them - however I am most definitely a historian and there is no digging involved in my work!

In depth

One of the most interesting things about research is that your topic and focus can change over time; as you read more, you become more aware of what has already been said about your subject, and most importantly you start to see different ways of looking at things and different ideas to pull out of your original material. This sounds intimidating, and you do need to be careful that you eventually find a path and stick with it (otherwise you will never get any work done!), but it can also be exciting. You have the opportunity to create something completely unique that will stand out from the crowd!

When I started my PhD, I knew I wanted to look at archaeology over a broad time and I knew I wanted my project to be comparative. My idea was to look for changes over time whilst looking at how and archaeologists reacted differently to what they found in India and Egypt - did they prefer Egyptian artefacts to Indian ones for example? All that hasn’t really changed. But what I have done is focused on stone.

Nineteenth century archaeologists in both countries discovered lots of things, including bones and pottery, but it was stone that really caught their attention in the form of temples, tombs, monuments and megaliths. Stone can be hundreds, maybe thousands, of years old; it can be in ruins or almost perfect; it can be huge, intimidating and strange because the people that used it, the people who built things from it in ancient times, are gone and cannot explain it. Take a look at the images here: this is the stone nineteenth century archaeologists would have found in India and Egypt, but unlike today they did not have technology like radiocarbon dating to tell them how old it was. They often did not know who built things or how.

Three years ago, I didn’t know this. I had not done the reading that told me that archaeologists in the 1800s were so perplexed by stone - it was only as my project progressed that I started to notice this and plan my work around it. Now my whole PhD thesis is looking at how archaeologists knew what they knew about Indian and Egyptian stone - or what they didn’t know.

To do this I work mainly with published material from the nineteenth century. I look at the language archaeologists used to talk about the sites they studied and the information they presented in these books and journal articles to their fellow archaeologists. If an archaeologist has written about how he found Indian temples confusing because they look so different to what he is used to in Britain, then it’s in my work; if an archaeologist has written about how amazingly old the Egyptian pyramids are and how spectacular it is to look at something so ancient, then it’s in my work.

History is a subject with so much potential to let you get creative and push the boundaries - your work can evolve with your thinking and reflect your changing interests!  

Going further - a wonderful website with blog posts about female pioneers in archaeology and other science fields. Click on the articles tab and explore! I would particularly recommend Hilda Petrie and Adela Catherine Breton. - not many people know much about India's archaeological history. This is the website of the Archaeological Survey of India- take a look at the 'photo gallery' tab and check out the massive variety of Indian archaeological sites!


From practising policy to a Politics PhD


My name is Dayo and I am a second year PhD student at the University studying Politics. I am researching how underrepresented members of the public in policy making (in the case of my research, Black and Minority Ethnic young adults aged 18 – 25) are included in the process of policy making. I also work as a teaching assistant for politics related courses in undergraduate and Master’s level courses.

In Depth…

My route into PhD has been an interesting journey rather than a direct path. It has been a process of re-inventing myself and following my passion. My undergraduate degree was in Economics which I realised quite early on was not for me so I did not particularly excel in this degree. After a year out working, I figured out what my next steps would be so I did Master’s degrees in Human Resource Management and Management Psychology. I did well in these courses. Doing a PhD was something I had previously considered as it was suggested by my academic adviser during one of my Master’s degrees but I did not pursue it.

On graduating, I worked for about seven years in the private and not-for-profit sectors in Learning and Organisational Development. The knowledge and soft skills I gained at university meant that I was able to progress in my career by successfully utilising these skills.

Whilst I had no academic knowledge of policy making, I began to get interested in policy making as one of my jobs gave me exposure to this field. I then started to notice the lack of diverse representation in decision making bodies of public policy. There were ‘hidden’ and ‘silent’ groups of people who were not getting involved in decision-making.

I wanted to know why this was the case and also find solutions that would increase representation in policy making so that their experiences of issues could be taken into account when policy is being made.

Transitioning from being a practitioner to being back in university has been great; it has given me the opportunity to have the headspace to read and articulate the issues I am concerned about. I am doing lots of reading! What is also great and a highlight of my degree is that my fieldwork - working with real people in the real world - provides the opportunity to design an approach based on academic theories and study whether it works or not.

Skills gained from the practitioner work, in particular project management skills (time and resource management as well as organisational), are helping me progress with my PhD.

Through my journey, I have hopefully shown that a route to doing a PhD in Politics does not have to be typical. I have also shown that political parties and elections is just one component of a Politics degree.

So if you want to be the change, a degree in Politics could be for you!

Going Further…

If you are interested in finding out more about politics, here are some links you may find useful.

Politics degrees in Manchester:

Career options as a Politics graduate:

Information about how Government works:

Information on the UK Parliament:

How research impacts on Policy:


Children's mental health and wellbeing

by YPU Admin on March 29, 2019, Comments. Tags: children, Education, Humanities, Mental Health, psychology, SEED, teaching, and wellbring


Hi, my name is Kim Petersen and I’m a second year PhD student at the Manchester Institute of Education (MIE).

My PhD research focusses on primary school children’s mental health and wellbeing. I am interested in looking at lots of different aspects of children’s mental health and wellbeing (e.g. feeling sad, angry, happy, enjoying  life etc.) and finding common patterns of mental health and wellbeing. I want to find out:

1) what causes the different patterns of mental health 

2) whether behaviour programmes used in schools affect children’s mental health 

I hope this information will help us to find ways to improve children’s mental health and wellbeing in the future.

In Depth…

How did I get here?

After my A-levels I went to Glasgow University to do a degree in Psychology. I went on to work for a charity, supporting children with different neurological conditions, like autism spectrum disorder. Then, I did a PGCE teacher training qualification and worked as a primary school teacher. While working as a teacher I became really interested in children’s mental health and wellbeing and what schools could do to try and improve it. So, I decided to go back to  university to do research in this area. First, I did a Master’s degree in Psychology and Education and then I applied to do a research PhD. I didn’t always know that I would end up doing this, but my experiences and interests sort of led me here, and I really enjoy what I am doing.

What is mental health?

Mental health is a term we have all heard of, but what does it actually mean? Sometimes, when people talk about ‘mental health’, they are only talking about mental health disorders, like depression or schizophrenia. Today, many researchers, and others, think that mental health is more than this. As well as mental health difficulties, there are also positive aspects of mental health like feeling good and satisfied with your life. There is a widely held statistic that ‘1 in 4 people have mental health problems’. However, 4 out of 4 people have mental health because 4 out of 4 people have brains! In other words mental health is something we all have and we should focus on helping everyone gain better mental health and wellbeing.

My research

I am investigating mental health in this broad way, which includes both mental health problems and positive aspects of mental wellbeing. We collected information about children’s mental health and wellbeing by giving surveys to around 3000 primary school children and their teachers. We also collected other information about the children, like whether they were male or female, how they felt about their school, their relationships with other children, their school grades, and whether they had taken part in a school behaviour programme.

To make sense of all the information collected I use a computer programme to help me to find patterns in the data. For example, I can use the programme to see if there are some groups of children who show very similar patterns of mental health. I can then look at what other characteristics these children have. For example, if I found a group of children that had no mental health problems but felt very happy and satisfied with life, I could find out if those children were more likely to be male or female, have better relationships with their friends, or have taken part in a school behaviour programme, compared to other groups. The aim is to identify what might be important for good mental health and wellbeing so that we can try to improve children’s mental health in the future.

Why is this kind of research important?

Improving children’s mental health has been highlighted as an important issue in the UK. The government has said that schools have an important role to play in doing this. Research is needed to show what schools can do to try and improve children’s mental health and wellbeing.

Going further

Find out more about children’s mental health and wellbeing on these charities’ webpages:

The Good Childhood Report provides information about what children and young people say about their own mental health and wellbeing:

This is a summary of a recent government proposal for how to improve children’s mental health and wellbeing:

Here is a link to the Manchester Institute of Education so you can see what courses we offer and what research we do:


More to economics than money, money, money!

by YPU Admin on March 8, 2019, Comments. Tags: Economics, Humanities, Institute for Fiscal Studies, macroeconomics, and migration


My name is Josefina Fabiani and I am a second year PhD student in Economics. I come from Argentina, South America, which may sound more familiar to those not that much into geography if I refer to it as the land of beef – specially asados – tango, Patagonia, football and of course Messi and Kun Agüero (not to get into politics and economics!). During my undergrad there I did a semester abroad in Austria, which completely influenced my future decisions. That experience opened my mind and made me realise I wanted to pursue further studies abroad. The UK wasn’t a tough decision for me since the quality of its higher education institutions is well known and I’ve always been very keen on the English language, the country’s history and culture (and its music!).

So here I am, starting my PhD in Economics in Manchester, where I will analyse the relationship between migration and different types of capital flows between countries.

In Depth…

The first year of the PhD was the MSc Economics, where we covered the main areas of the subject and received training on the techniques I will apply now on the research. In this second year, we continue with the coursework but now focused on our research area and at an advanced level. For example, my area is Macroeconomics, where we look at the economy as a whole with information on different measures such as GDP, inflation and unemployment.

A phenomenon that has always interested me was the migration of people from one country to another, maybe because I come from a country with a very large population of immigrants. Early on my undergrad studies I started digging into the topic.

Throughout history, migrations have taken place at different levels, for different reasons: regional migrations, overseas migrations, forced (by political persecution or natural disasters) or voluntary, expecting an economic or life improvement. In the era of globalization and communication, transportation costs have remarkably dropped, which fostered not only the flow of goods and knowledge across countries but also of people. However, whereas there is an apparent consensus to enhance international trade and capital flows, the economic consequences of immigration are at the centre of political debate. Migration policy has been characterized by protection of the domestic labour market and there has been an increasing negative popular perception of immigration. A better understanding of the dynamics of migration and its macroeconomic implications are key for policy design.

Going Further…

If you are curious to know a little bit more about what economists really do, then you are invited to take part on the activities organised at the Economics Department for school students. Some of them are:

Manchester Talk – IFS
"Is it fair to charge £9,250 for university tuition fees?"
13 March 2019, 4-6pm, Uni Place Theatre A

How much will you really pay for university? Does that depend on where and what you study? Are there any alternative ways to fund higher education? And how would these affect what the education system should be trying to achieve?

This IFS Public Talk, jointly organised with the University of Manchester, will be given by Jack Britton, Senior Research Economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and will give an economist's perspective on the ongoing tuition fee debate. Nicholas Barr, Professor of Public Economics, from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) will also be our Chair and on hand to put your questions to Jack.

Get an insight on Higher Education resources from the IFS here.

Details and free tickets can be booked here:

There is a pre-session aimed at Year 12/13 students that fulfil the Widening Participation criteria

(criteria: ). Please email for more information and registration.

Discover Economics Day
9 July 2019, 9.30am-3.30pm, Simon 1.34

The Discover Economics Day is a free event for Year 12 students to discover more about what economics is really about.

The day will consist of a series of interactive, educational sessions to help you find out what economists do as you start to learn the tools that they use to ask real world questions. You will discover how economics provides a clear way of thinking on how people make choices.

You will meet University staff and students dealing with the current issues in economics and will find out more about the economics courses here at Manchester and the career opportunities available for Economics graduates.

Join us and discover how studying economics will give you the toolkit to investigate the questions that you are passionate about!

Please email us at for further info and registrations.

Relevant links:

Blogs: (also radio!)

YouTube Channels and Videos:

  Jacob Clifford

  One Minute Economics

  Ted Ed

You can find more of Economics at UoM here

and keep updated with the activities organized via twitter