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From practising policy to a Politics PhD

Introduction

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: https://www.socialsciences.manchester.ac.uk/politics/study/courses/

Career options as a Politics graduate: https://www.socialsciences.manchester.ac.uk/politics/study/careers-and-employability/

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/

 

How we think, and how we think we think, and what does it have to do with financial regulation?

by YPU Admin on April 20, 2017, Comments. Tags: Banking, Behavioural Economics, Humanities, Law, PhD, Policy, Research, and UoM

Introduction

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.

In Depth

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.

Going Further

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:

https://www.behavioraleconomics.com/introduction-to-be/ - a comprehensive introduction to behavioural economics, including the primary research in the field.

https://hbr.org/2009/07/the-end-of-rational-economics - a Harvard Business Review article explaining the role of the presumption of rationality played in economics.

https://www.ft.com/content/9d7d31a4-aea8-11e3-aaa6-00144feab7de - a Financial Times article on applications of behavioural insights in public policy.

http://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk - 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.

http://nudges.org - a blog about choice architecture.