Tag Archives: Newcastle University

Douglas Carswell (and His Face)

To celebrate finishing my MA Politics (Research) degree today I have collected a sample of pictures of Douglas Carswell MP with different looks on his face. Mr Carswell (who is an MP I admire for his independence and positions on the rights of Parliament and backbench MPs) left the Conservative Party yesterday and joined UKIP, mostly over the parties position on Europe, triggering a by-election in Clacton for later this year. This created a great deal of public comment online, on TV and on the radio from Conservative MPs talking about Europe and the UK-EU relationship. This, unhelpfully, took place the day before my dissertation was due in, already pretty much done. This was based on, er, the public comment of Conservative MPs in relation to European integration. Thanks Doug.

I have  inserted an ‘odd-one-out’ into the line up. See if you can get it. Answers on a postcard.

Also check out this video on why you should come to Newcastle University to study politics. It’s rather good.


DC 1


DC 4





DC 3

The View from 32 in Review, or A Jaunty Look at Year One



After relentless pressure from my fellow postgraduate politics blogger, and academic social media guru, Craig Johnson (his blog is awfully good, and he counts all the views so please give him a read), I’ve decided to write a summary of my first year here at Newcastle (Whaaa what? First year? See bio for details). Hopefully this will give you a feel for what it is like taking that step up to masters level, especially one which is focused on research methods/training (MA Politics Research). Or maybe it won’t. Mostly though, it will be a reflection on my own personal experience as, if we are honest, you can’t ever really know that you can do something (or will enjoy it) unless you try it first (MA Politics degrees at Newcastle University: Don’t delay, sign up today!). I’ll then finish it off by explaining what I’m working on for my dissertation and how it is shaping up so far. I’ve tried to inject this with humour, but if you don’t get it, well, that really is a sad state of affairs. So…


Firstly, from the beginning I’ve tried to be more involved in departmental and school activities at Newcastle than I ever had before at Sussex or Leeds. At Sussex and Leeds, especially Sussex, if I am honest I was quite lazy with taking part in things outside of my immediate friends or my own degree.  This time I decided to go with this rule: If an opportunity came up, try and think ‘Why not?’ rather than look for an excuse to only concentrate on my own work or stay in and watch documentaries about John Major on Youtube. Unless it was an invitation to watch a circa-1960’s, subtitled, 3-hour black and white film about Scandinavian fishing communities. Then, like before, I would still say no.


This of course has meant taking on the role of updating this blog as a postgraduate ambassador for the Politics department, working at the Postgraduate Open Day and speaking at a small event for potential new Politics MA students. I also decided to take on the role of Postgraduate Taught School Rep, representing fellow PGTs in Geography, Politics and Sociology at both a school and faculty level. This has meant going to plenty of meetings, but they are often a lot more interesting than you would think and I have enjoyed getting my own, and other PGs, views across (most people who do politics have an opinion about pretty much everything, and I am certainly no exception to this particular rule, which helps).


I’m going to take up the role of PGR School Rep in October, after I was the unanimous choice of the two people who decide these things. Granted, I was the only person that applied, but in this world of strife and tumult, one should take the victories when they come. Questions/comments about the lack of democratic legitimacy in this selection process can be left in the comments section, where I will ignore them.


Starting out on the MA Politics Research, it was interesting to discover that out of the four people in the introductory meeting, only myself and one other PG were full-timers. The third was a part-timer called Mike. The forth an Erasmus student who had got confused and had wondered into entirely the wrong meeting, never to be seen again. Not to say that she completely disappeared, though I have no evidence to the contrary.


Doing the Politics Research programme you actually spend very little time in the ‘Politics’ department with other politics postgrads, with most time spent in the faculty research training facilities with PhDers. This would often result in encounters with other non-research oriented MA students going like this:


MA student: I’ve not seen you in any modules, which ones do you do?


Me: Well, I don’t really do any of the politics modules; they are all mandatory HaSS modules on my programme….


MA student: What exactly do you do then?


Me: Um, well, at the moment I’m just finished introduction to quantitative metho…


MA student: Oh god, that sounds boring. I hate maths.


Me: I have to go now.


This could often be frustrating sometimes, as you don’t get to spend much time with other politics PGs in ‘work hours’. However what you miss out in this context, you make up with by how much you learn and progress in your research skills. That is, at the end of the day, why you do this specific programme and not a general one. A year on, I feel I have a much greater idea of what being a researcher means, and the process you go through doing it. I have a huge amount more to learn, but slowly, I hope, I’m getting better at it all the time. Yes.


I’ve also been pleased to have the opportunity to work on a side-project with one of my supervisors on behalf of the PSA, surrounding the teaching of transferable skills in UG university politics courses. Hopefully that will progress in the coming academic year.


I’m also currently well into the writing up phase of my dissertation, which is using a quantitative content analysis approach to map/measure the ideological cleavages and attitudes towards European integration amongst the current groupings of Conservative MPs/MEPs, using my own data set. It is certainly a challenge, and we will have to wait and see how it turns out, but nonetheless a challenge I’m enjoying.


After that it is on to start the PhD in October.


Thanks for reading.



P.S. Look out for another exciting edition of ‘The View from 32 Book Club’ coming soon. In about 250 pages when I finish the next one.

P.P.S. I will try to do better blogs from the autumn. Perhaps.

Postgraduate Politics at Newcastle University



Last week, myself and another postgraduate attended a ‘Twilight Session’ for those interested in politics MA study at Newcastle. This was lead by a presentation from Dr Simon Philpott (a Senior Lecturer in International Politics and MA Politics Programme Director). Both Veronica and myself then gave a short, informal talk on are own experience of postgraduate politics at Newcastle.

I thought it might be useful for anyone reading this blog, who might be thinking of coming to Newcastle to study for a politics MA, to layout all the reasons myself, Veronica and Simon gave at the talk for why Newcastle University is your best choice for postgraduate politics in the UK.

  • Wide range of eight different MA pathways, specialising in international politics. Newcastle also offers the MA Politics (Research) pathway, designed specifically for those looking to gain the research skills needed to make the step up to PhD level in the future.
  • Specialised PG modules, lots of flexibility on choice from across the humanities and social science PG modules at Newcastle. Create the postgraduate degree you want to do.
  • PG politics at Newcastle is committed to stimulating small group teaching, meaning no massive seminars that stop you from expressing yourself and discussing ideas.
  • Personal and friendly tutor-student relationship.
  • Staff are engaging, very motivated and always welcoming to PGs who want to come and discuss their work. They are also experts and leading researchers in their fields of study.
  • Excellent library resources. The main library for politics is right next door to the Politics building, so very easy access.
  • Active postgraduate community: Politics Postgraduate Society, Film Night, outside-speaker seminar series, student representation opportunities (represent your course or school at senior level meetings).
  •  Newcastle is consistently ranked within the Top 20 Universities list in the UK (Russell Group University).
  • Newcastle as city is also a fantastic city to live in: affordable, greate range of cultural and social experiences, excellent transport links with Newcastle International Airport and Newcastle Central Station (direct trains to London, Manchester, Edinburgh).

PG Politics at Newcastle is a fantastic and rewarding experience. So if you have read this blog post and you think Newcastle might be for you; don’t delay, apply today!

So, you want to be an MP then? Politics Degrees and Transferable Skills.

If, like me, you have studied politics at university and been asked this question before (more than likely, many times before), you and I will probably share a deep sense of frustration at the assumption behind the question; that the only possible reason you would take politics at university, as an undergraduate or postgraduate, is if you wanted to have a career as an MP or work in Parliament in someway. I could insert a joke here about what it is really like being a Member of Parliament these days, but I would like some of them to talk to me one day, so I had better leave it. Of course it is certainly true that many people who take politics degrees do go on to work in Parliament in some form. But this is not the aim or desire of every politics undergraduate, and neither should it be.

While many people asking this question have, naturally, only polite intentions, it does mask an underlying problem with how politics degrees are seen by those that take them at university, by society as a whole, and by some departments that ‘sell’ them to would be students. The perception is this: that after taking politics at university you will leave with a large amount of knowledge about specific political topics and concepts, such as the British electoral system, the nature of Middle East political culture and..…well..…that’s about it. Students, often undergraduates, get stuck and start looking at the floor. The perception often is that a politics degree will give you the edge in debates on the hot current affairs issues of the day down the pub, but not much else. At least, nothing that will help establishing a career after university finishes.

Many of us know that this is far from the case (research skills, quantitative skills, writing skills, presentational skills, to name only a few of the most obvious ones), but what are politics departments doing to explain to students the many transferable skills that a politics degree can bring? What creative teaching and assessment methods are being used that could introduce new key skills to politics modules, the type of key skills valued by many employers? What more could be done to incorporate more key skills into modules and better promote them to the potential politics students of the future?

It is answers to these questions and more that is the aim of a project I am assisting on at the moment, under the lead and direction of Senior Politics lecturer at Newcastle, Dr Alistair Clark. My current role is the formation of a data set of the transferable and/or skills advertised by UK universities (that offer politics, political studies or politics and IR as an undergraduate degree) as being taught through current (2013-14) politics modules. This requires a detailed examination of all the departmental websites that offer a breakdown of the content, teaching, and assessment methods used on their undergraduate politics modules. This is in its formative stages, so it isn’t possible to go into a great amount of detail here.

Of course, the great irony for me assisting on a research project such as this, about transferable skills and undergraduate politics degrees, are the key research skills that I will personally start to develop. From data collecting and analysis, to going through the research planning and writing up process, there are many opportunities for me to develop key research skills that I can use in the future. It is to the great credit of the academic community at Newcastle that those starting out on their postgraduate research careers, like me, are included on projects such as these.

A Look Back on Semester One of PG Politics at Newcastle

I thought it would be an interesting idea to write a piece looking back on the first semester of MA Politics Research at Newcastle University, looking over the different units you undertake and challenges you face. So I did, and here it is.

  • Thinking About Political Research

Also called ‘Theories and Approaches to Politics” to non-research folk, this module aims to introduce you to the philosophy of political research (ontology, epistemology), key concepts and approaches in political research (postcolonialism, positivism, rational choice theory, Marxism, postmodernism etc.), all of which are approaches to political research in which Newcastle has experts on staff that use them in their day to day work. Each week you are introduced to a new approach. I personally found this a fascinating and intellectually challenging experience, as you are constantly going over the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, comparing and contrasting them with each other, seeing where they are similar and where they clash. It also focuses the mind of which approach, or combination of approaches, can best answer the questions you are formulating (or in my case, I already have) for a PhD research proposal. If anything, it shows just how of many complex and diverse ways scholars can take to research politics in the modern age. For that reason it can be difficult and confusing at times, but like with many complex problems, they gradually become clearer overtime.


  • Thinking About Research

Delivered by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HaSS) PG Research Training Programme, this unit looks at the nature and practical aspects of the research proposal process (how to formulate research topics, questions, appropriate methods to answer these questions, theoretical approaches etc.). It also looks at how to approach fieldwork, like interviews, and the challenges this can bring. As part of the assessment, you work in a group of other research MA folk on a designated social science topic (for me, underage drinking), formulating you own questions and research methods. You then present your research proposal in front of your peers and a panel of judges, to pitch your proposal as if you were trying to win a research grant. This again was a challenging but beneficial experience, as it develops your skills at presenting academic work to a large audience in a group, defending your choices with reasoned argument. It was also an interesting look on how the research proposal works, both in theory and practice.

  • Information and Library Skills

This was a short HaSS unit of three sessions delivered at the Robinson Library. Its aims are to introduce you to what research resources Newcastle and the outside academic world has, how you can access them and which ones will benefit you in your research. It also helps you think more carefully about how you gather and stay on top of the latest information relevant to your field. It is probably of more benefit to those that have not previously been at a UK university, but it certainly has helped me think more critically about my research strategies and how I make sure I don’t miss important developments in my area of interest (email alerts on journals!). You might think, ‘Well I know all of this already, why do I need to go to this?’ In my opinion I would pause when thinking this, as I did, and think do I really know all the sources of information in my area, every single one, and the easiest way to access them? This answer, if we are honest, is probably not.

  • Nature of Explanation and Enquiry

Truth be told, this is very similar to ‘Thinking About Political Research’, and for those doing both units (as I did) there was often a great deal of crossover when exactly the same approaches were discussed. Not to worry if you are a prospective student reading this, as this has now been changed, thankfully. However it was very interesting to listen to the lectures by staff that use the different approaches, from across the Social Science community at Newcastle, discuss how they approach academic explanation and enquiry. The discussion groups afterwards, with 1st year PhD researchers and a few MA research students like me, were also very interesting as so many people, from so many different academic fields, had many perspectives on the approaches I hadn’t always considered before. It again really focuses the mind on what approaches are most appropriate for you, in your own subject and for your own area of research.

All in all, it has been a great start to the scholarship. I feel I know much, much more about what it takes to do political research, the processes you must go through and the challenges/difficulties you face. What I know for certain is that the world of political research is a complex one, and I have a lot more to learn next year and in the future.

About Me

My name is Tristan Martin, and I am a MA Research student in Politics at Newcastle University. I am in the first year of a 1+3 research scholarship, eventually starting a PhD next year. The aim of this blog is to give my perspectives and insights on the process of working through a Research masters in Politics. I will be updating this blog at least once a month, more often if I can. Hopefully I will be able to share some useful experiences to those considering going into PG research in Politics here at Newcastle.

I am also the PGT School Representative for the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, as well as being a PG Ambassador (the main reason for this blog). Additionally, I am a graduate member of the UK Political Studies Associaton.

A small biography of me: I am 25, born in Sussex (South East of England) but have spent most of my formative years growing up in York, North Yorkshire (North of England). I did my BA in History at the University of Sussex, Brighton. I also hold an MA in Politics from the University of Leeds, West Yorkshire. My research interests focus on the ideological divisions within the Conservative Party around European integration, and to what extent pressure from UKIP and coalition government with the Liberal Democrats are distorting, changing and intensifying these divisions. I am also interested more generally in the Conservative Party, British politics, political parties and the European Union.

Check out my Twitter page for tweets on British politics and the EU. Please check back here soon for more updates.

You can also read the Q&A style profile I did for the Politics section of the Newcastle University website here.

Thanks for reading.