Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Cllr Ben Chastney

MA Democratic Studies | 2005 - 2006

Photo of Cllr Ben Chastney

I decided to study MA Democratic Studies as having just finished a BA in Politics/Philosophy I felt that I wished to remain in academia and study more on the subject of political theory. I chose to study at POLIS as aside from being employed in Leeds, my BA was within the POLIS department and I had very much enjoyed both the course and lecturers and so wished to remain studying there.

The course outline was well detailed and met the intended outcomes. It ran very similarly to the undergraduate course and so there were few surprises in course delivery. I enjoyed the significant proportion of international students studying the MA that provided the opportunity to meet and obtain political views from across the world.

The seminars were, in all cases, my favourite element of the course. Often longer and more detailed than during my undergraduate work, these allowed vibrant and thought provoking debates. From studying the course I gained a more detailed understanding of key theoretical concepts, such as participation and democracy, beyond that studied at undergraduate level.  'Added value' to work and ideas generated during my BA in what felt like a worthy extension of learning.

I have always been more than happy with both the staff and facilities at POLIS and the wider university.  Having done an undergraduate course at the same school I had few concerns over the workings of this MA.  However, it was clear from speaking with those requiring more administrative and academic assistance, such as international students, were readily able to access this support.

I would certainly recommend this course to anyone wishing to advance and build on their work from undergraduate or equivalent studies.  I would recommend anyone considering this course to simply talk with the course leader them to confirm the details of the work programme options and whether this fits in with their aspired outcomes.

As a city councillor my job is so varied as to make brief definition impossible, though my primary role is to respond to the queries, concerns and demands of the constituents in my ward.  This is achieved through providing individual assistance and advice or by championing a broader issue at a wider level.  My work with Children's Services largely involves assisting the Executive Member in running this citywide department, such as by attending meetings in their place and researching certain key issues of concern in order to provide policy advice.

Whilst of course difficult to gauge, I would certainly say studying for the MA Democratic Studies has advanced my career. The theoretical concepts studied perhaps do not bear direct relation to practical politics in which I am daily involved but I find it most valuable to have this academic awareness or grounding behind my work. The skills of debating and critical analysis developed during this course would be helpful to anyone and I certainly find them of consistent use.

I have certainly considered undertaking a PhD at some stage in the future.  I would most like to develop study in an aspect of political theory which I feel has not been sufficiently analysed from certain angles.  In particular, the role of the representative is something that consistently fascinated me throughout my academic studies and which I have practical experience of now.

Whilst I enjoyed many lecturers throughout my time at POLIS, I think Dr John Schwarzmantel stood out during the MA.  Aside from holding very interesting seminars, the support and advice he provided me for my dissertation in particular was fantastic.  Unlike my undergraduate dissertation, which I approached with apprehension, this was a far more productive and enjoyable piece of work to undertake and I am conscious that John helped steer it in that positive direction.

When I am not undertaking political activities of one form or another, I spend much of my free time reading, walking and socialising with my friends.  Though I have been idle of late, I do enjoy various sports, such as football, squash and golf and play these whenever I can.

Right now I am happy with my council work but of course look forward to the opportunity for new and greater roles of responsibility within this position and possibly more academic studying in a few years time.

© Copyright Leeds 2016