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.
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!
If you are interested in finding
out more about politics, here are some links you may find useful.
Politics degrees in Manchester: https://www.socialsciences.manchester.ac.uk/politics/study/courses/
Career options as a Politics
Information about how Government works: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/
Information on the UK Parliament: http://www.parliament.uk/
How research impacts on Policy: http://www.policy.manchester.ac.uk/blogs/
My name is Elena and I’m a second year PhD student at the
University of Manchester School of Law. I research the ways in which the ideas of how people think
and make decisions impact regulation of banks and banks’ handling of risk. This
is an important matter because banks have a significant place in the economies
of most countries, and their behaviour is key to the economic and financial
welfare of society.
How I got here
I completed a 4-year law degree in Russia, after which I
decided to continue my education in the UK. After a law conversion course (GDL)
I enrolled on an International Business and Commercial Law Masters programme at
the University of Manchester. I was particularly attracted to the financial
regulation module because of the enormous impact financial services have on
society – the crisis of 2008 being a stark example. One of the lectures
included a small bit about behavioural economics – a study of how our
psychological traits influence our purchasing, investing, and other economic
decisions. I thought that that was a fascinating topic – and after reading more
about it, decided to do a PhD on it even though I had never considered becoming
a researcher before.
To make any (not necessarily economic) decisions, our brain
needs to process large amounts of information in a short amount of time.
Processing all of it in a comprehensive manner would require a lot of mental
effort. Considering the amount of decisions we make on a daily basis, if every
one of them required a lot of time and effort we would not be able to function
normally. To rectify that, our brain developed thought patterns that help us to
process information quicker. One of those thought patterns is called
‘availability heuristic’. When thinking about a certain topic or the
probability of an event happening, our mind immediately refers to the most
prominent belief or a vivid piece of information in our memory. This can cause
a mistake in judgement. For example, people start worrying about a possible
earthquake a lot more if they recently saw an earthquake report in the media.
Another example is people estimating the crime rate in the area a lot higher
after seeing a murder report on TV. And these are just a couple of examples – there are
many thought patterns, or heuristics, that make our decision-making easier but
also make us make mistakes along the way.
For a large part of the 20th
century, the common
academic opinion was that people tend to be rational, process all available
information in a comprehensive way, and only make the most beneficial decisions
for themselves. This approach became popular with governments as well,
particularly in the US and the UK. This view resulted in designing policies and
regulations that were aimed at those perfectly rational individuals. When
confronted with human irrationality, government regulations and policies failed
because people did not act as they were expected to. This was a part of the
reason for the 2008 crisis.
Now that academic and government circles have largely
accepted inherent human irrationality, policies can be adjusted to reflect the
reality of human behaviour. In some areas – for example, consumer protection –
there is a lot of progress. But others, such as financial regulation, require a
lot of modification to reflect the true nature of human decision-making. My
research aims to make regulation of banks more effective by designing a
behavioural framework of board-level financial decision-making that can be used
as a policy foundation.
I enjoy my research because I find
learning about how humans make decisions, and how the way our brain works
influences the law, fascinating. Here are some interesting websites where you
can learn more about this area:
- a comprehensive introduction to behavioural economics, including the primary
research in the field.
- a Harvard Business Review article explaining the role of the presumption of
rationality played in economics.
- a Financial Times article on applications of behavioural insights in public
- Behavioural Insights Team’s website. It’s a social purpose company partly
owned by the UK government that is dedicated to devising ways to apply the
insights of behavioural science to public policy.
- a blog about choice architecture.