I'm 22 years old, from Gloucestershire and am a big fan of rugby (and of course the best team in the land, Gloucester). I’ve been active in local politics for quite a few years, spurred on by TV programmes like House of Cards and the West Wing.
Why I chose to study BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies at Leeds
I wasn’t 100% sure when applying to universities what course I wanted to do (something in the Arts), but on the train up to visit the Leeds campus I spotted BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies. The course offered a placement working in parliament and the opportunity was too good to miss. Additionally, when you throw into the mix Leeds' reputation, how great the Students Union is and the level of student support available while you're here, the University and course as a whole was a perfect match.
The placement has certainly been the best aspect of the course so far. To work in Westminster is a great experience – even if just for the buildings and people-spotting (Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan, Stephen Fry)! But to actually work on legislation and party policy is invaluable, putting what you’ve learned in your degree on into practice.
On my placement, I worked for a Labour MP in Westminster. Most of the work involves research but what you’re actually researching varies from day to day – it could be laws in other countries, different organisations, or a problem from a constituent. Sometimes I give tours around the Palace of Westminster too – a good chance to put your knowledge to the test and also pick up all the quirks of Parliament, like where a suffragette chained herself to one of the statues. In all honesty, the highlight has to be just working in Parliament itself – the building and the history that comes with it, spotting the politicians and journalists and seeing them in action.
Going back to university, I’d like to think that having essentially been in a full-time job for a year, my work ethic will have improved. More than that, the kind of skills that you use a lot in university (note taking, processing vast amounts of information quickly) have been improved by being on a placement. Finally, the knowledge picked up whilst work in Parliament can only help when studying for a Politics degree!
I would certainly recommend doing a placement to other students, even if it’s not politics. I’ve found it really helpful to have had ‘real-world’ application of what I’ve picked up so far at university. It also puts you well ahead of the pack when applying for jobs in the future.
Life in Leeds
Leeds is brilliant. Coming from the countryside I definitely wanted to live in a big city. My favourite of aspect of Leeds is that it’s really manageable – you can walk from the University to the other side of the city in about 15 minutes. From nightclubs to olde worlde pubs, Japanese food to massive Yorkshire puddings, Leeds has everything you’ll need.
Being a social sciences student, you don’t require specialist equipment or laboratories, so sometimes you can find yourself having a seminar in a random part of the campus (the hospital springs to mind). But in terms of facilities, the libraries seem to have everything you need, and online subscriptions to journals helps a lot.
The broad array of societies available in the Union is one of the first things you discover at Leeds, and you have to be careful not to sign up to too many! I’m a member of a couple of political societies but my main involvement is with the Real Ale and Cider Society – not as boozy as it sounds and the best thing is you see parts of Leeds and Yorkshire you’d never normally see.
I’m a big fan of watching sport, so Leeds has that covered with football, rugby league, rugby union and cricket. And there’s more pubs you can shake a stick at so when you need to watch your own team it’s never far to go.
Make sure you want to learn about all parts of politics (history, political science, theory...) before settling on doing a politics degree. To get onto PPS you need to do an interview but don’t be put off by this – at Leeds, the interview was a chance to meet some of the staff and have another look around.
I’ll be graduating in summer 2015, so with an election having just finished there should be plenty of tempting jobs in the world of politics and one day, I think I definitely would like a job in the field. Having said that, I think it’s more important than ever for people working in politics and especially politicians themselves to have real-world experience and to have had a ‘proper’ job. Probably the best thing about having a social sciences degree is how flexible you are in the job market.