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Student View - Why Politics Is More Than Just Parliament

by YPU Admin on June 9, 2020, Comments. Tags: HUM, Humanities, HUMS, international relations, politics, and student view

Introduction

My name is Joe Duquenoy-Taylor and I am a second-year Politics and International Relations student at the University of Manchester. I am originally from Brighton so moving to Manchester was both a big move and a big change, but I chose it because I love the city and I loved the course that was on offer here. Unlike many other universities, Manchester offers Politics and International Relations as a singular degree. This means that the course focuses on a wider range of political topics and issues and looks at the effects of these all over the globe. 

What Does Studying Politics Involve?

The first thing that I think is important to say is that people should not be put off studying Politics. It can seem quite daunting causing some people to think ‘it’s not for them.’ This blog should dispel the myth that politics is all about parliament and Westminster. Politics impacts our everyday lives in ways we may not even realise. Issues you may have seen in the news or even discussed with friends or family, such as Black Lives Matter, the climate emergency or the MeToo movement are all political. Breaking down the myth that politics is the business of old men in suits in London is important. Politics affects everyone and therefore people from all walks of life should be involved in the political process. If you have opinions on the climate emergency, on woman’s rights, on the rights of minority groups, if you take issue with rising poverty at home and overseas or the impact of war on refugees, then you too are political. 

We may not realise it but a lot of our opinions about the world boil down to politics and it is this part of Politics, not Westminster or the Whitehouse, that fascinates me and many others too. I didn’t take Politics at A level because I had a preconception that studying Politics would be learning the ins and outs of parliament and learning about partisan politics. However, when I started researching Politics degrees in my second year of A-levels, I realised politics was so much more than that. I saw that Politics degrees cover everything from nuclear weapons to chlorinated chicken. The more I researched politics the more I began to realise that everything, down to the food I had for dinner last night, is political. It was this realisation, that made me choose Politics and International Relations. In my degree so far, I have studied modules that focus on war and security, ‘third-world’ development, poverty and inequality, political philosophy and questions of social justice. The topics and issues discussed and debated in politics are infinite.

Politics Today

Just a year ago we thought we were in the most uncertain times in generations following the election of Donald Trump in the US and the Brexit vote in the UK – it seemed politics as we knew was changing. However, the coronavirus outbreak means we are now living in more uncertain times than ever. Living in a rapidly changing world where news is being bombarded at you 24 hours a day can be very confusing and cutting through the noise is important. Most of us nowadays, get our news through social media, whether it be on Snapchat, Instagram or messaging apps like WhatsApp. Whilst it is positive that we are all now able to access news in seconds, the spread of fake news is becoming increasingly common.

In politics, much like in normal life, we analyse and gather information from a variety of sources, ranging from academic journals to Donald Trump’s tweets. What is important though, for everyone when learning about currents affairs and political issues, is to make sure we can trust our sources of information. For people who are new to learning about Politics and current affairs and want information in an accessible manner I recommend ‘Simple Politics.’ They can be found on Facebook and on Instagram ‘@simplepolitics.’ They break down political jargon and explain things you may have heard in the news. This is reliable and impartial information that will help keep you informed about politics and allow you to develop your own political opinions. On Snapchat you can subscribe to ‘Outside of Westminster’, ‘Pod Save America’ and ‘Good Luck America.’ These are three short snap podcasts that give a summary of current British and American political affairs and both are targeted at younger audiences. If you feel you already have a basic grasp of current affairs and you want to learn more or start to look at political issues in different countries, then I recommend googling the Guardian politics articles where you will find in-depth articles on anything you have found interesting in the news.  The guardian podcast ‘Today in Focus’ which is available to stream and download on Spotify covers a whole range of issues, political and otherwise and is a great way of keeping up to date with current affairs and hearing a range of opinions on a range of topics. 

Exposing yourself to views that might contradict your own is necessary when studying Politics. If you don’t understand the other sides opinion then how can you argue your case? If you feel you have an interest in some of the big global issues discussed above then Politics and International Relations may be an ideal degree path for you to explore these further and starting by reading and listening to different reliable news sources now is a great start on that path. 

Going Further...


 

From Law to International Relations to Politics!

Introduction

Hi everyone! My name’s Moises Vieira. I’m currently doing a PhD in the Department of Politics. In my research, I’m looking at the intersection of migration and healthcare. In a nutshell, I’m interested in the (legal and ethical) challenges around providing healthcare for migrants, in the UK. I have been a student at Manchester since September 2018, where I’ve had the opportunity to discuss my work with world-class researchers, professors and fellow colleagues in the field of International Relations.

In addition to being a researcher, I am also a graduate teaching assistant in the Faculty of Humanities. So far, I have taught a module on the ‘Politics of Globalization’ where the students and I discussed different aspects of living in a globalised world, and how that impacts on social, economic and political life. Furthermore, I have also taught online modules addressing a range of issues within the field of International Relations and beyond: creating a sustainable world, security and trust, cybercrimes, partnerships for development, among others. 

As you can see, life as a university student goes way beyond simply attending classes and hitting the books. There are always a lot of extra activities you can engage with, according to your interests, academic background and previous training.

In Depth…

I went to Law School as an undergraduate student, and decided to pursue an academic career following my Master’s degree in International Relations. I undertook my studies in Brazil, so doing my PhD at Manchester has been an incredible experience both on the academic and personal levels. Most of my activities take place on campus, such as attending seminars, lectures, workshops and specific training events for career advancement. Doing a PhD in Politics is a great opportunity to move around and explore the world, too: as a researcher, I have attended academic events in a range of cities in the UK, and international conferences in a few countries, such as Switzerland and Denmark. These have been invaluable experiences in order to further my research, but also to meet new people and explore new places.

Back to my main research interest: What does it mean to be looking at the intersection of migration and healthcare? Let’s say an immigrant (with unlawful residence in the UK) falls ill, and is denied access to the NHS. In my research, I analyse issues like that, and ask questions such as: Is it ethical to deny healthcare for migrants on the grounds of immigration status? What are the human rights implications of refusing healthcare for non-citizens? By addressing these questions, I seek to raise people’s awareness of these important issues around public health and migration, which are very relevant for both migrants and UK citizens alike. 

Going Further…

A short guide for healthcare provision for migrants by the charity ‘Doctors of the World’:

The British Medical Association (BMA) opinion on refusing migrants’ access to the NHS:

Some reflections on charging migrants for healthcare:

Some context on the extension of ‘hostile environment’ into a range of areas, including healthcare:

A special focus on pregnancy and migrant women:

A report on the health of migrants in the UK, by the Migration Observatory, at the University of Oxford:


 

The Unanswered Questions of Brexit

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

Introduction

‘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 (https://ukandeu.ac.uk/). 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 (https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/). Another resource that I regularly use is the BBC’s fantastic ‘Brexitcast’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05299nl). 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. 


 

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/

 

Study Abroad: Where will your degree take you?

by YPU Admin on November 12, 2015, Comments. Tags: European Studies, french, languages, politics, Research, Study Abroad, undergraduate, and UoM

Introduction

Hi, my name is Carys Rees-Owen and I am a recent graduate of European Studies and French. Doing a joint honours degree gave me loads of options, which is why I chose this degree. I studied French, History and English Literature at A levels – I always knew I wanted to study French at university, as I loved languages, but I also wanted to specialise in another subject. European Studies allows you to choose any module from the Politics, History or Economics department, with one or two compulsory modules in European Politics every year. I decided to focus on politics modules as I’d always followed the news and took part in debates.

In Depth

Choosing Where To Go

The best thing about my degree was the option to spend my third year abroad in order to improve my French. I had the choice of studying abroad, teaching English abroad as an English Language Assistant or working abroad. I wanted a bit of variety, and definitely wasn’t ready to get a proper job or internship. I wasn’t too eager to spend a whole other year studying either, but I did want to experience life as a French student. I decided to make a compromise – I applied to study at a university in Lyon, France for the first term and then applied to be a Comenius assistant in Martinique, a small French island in the Caribbean, for the second term. A Comenius assistant is similar to an English Language Assistant, however with the option to teach another subject besides English (like politics). All assistant jobs are funded by the British Council, meaning all my accommodation, food and travel costs were covered as well as an allowance for living. I also got an Erasmus grant for studying at a European university, so the cost of going abroad was never a big worry for me.

My Year Abroad

I moved to Lyon, France’s second biggest city, at the end of summer 2013. After a lot of searching, I managed to find a flat with another 3 French students just down the road from my university. The next five months are a blur of cheese, good wine and French cafés. I loved living in France, but studying there was completely different to how I imagined. Lectures lasted 3 hours long (when in Manchester they last an hour) and it felt a bit more like high school – there was a lot less discussion and debate than I was used to in Manchester. I studied Politics modules there, but in French. It was interesting to see how similar topics were taught in France but from a completely different angle. I did struggle at first with my courses but as my French improved I found it a lot easier. I saw such a drastic improvement in my French in such a short amount of time, and definitely took advantage of discovering a new city.


I then moved to Martinique in January 2014. It’s such a beautiful island, with so many white sandy beaches, thick jungle and a great mix of French and local Creole culture existing there. I worked in a high school for 5 months, working roughly twelve hours a week.  This meant that the rest of the time I had there I was free to do whatever I wanted. I spent my time on beaches, hiking in the jungle and mountains and exploring the island. Teaching English was challenging, especially considering that my pupils were only 4 years younger than myself but it was a really good way to integrate into the local community. I made really good friends with some of the other teachers there, who taught me more about the culture and history of Martinique.


Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better year abroad. I got to experience French student life, as well as spend months lounging on white sand beaches in the Caribbean. More importantly, my French improved drastically, as did my confidence. Moving to a completely different country without knowing anybody is incredibly challenging, and sometimes frustrating, but the experiences I had were definitely worth it.

Going Further

Getting the chance to study abroad isn’t just limited to language students either – check if your course allows you to study abroad for a semester! I’d recommend checking out these websites for more information on what you could do:

www.thirdyearabroad.com  

http://www.britishcouncil.org/study-work-create