When you study Politics, you will be taught not what to think, but how to think

NATO model event simulation room

Blog by Chris Heinhold, Ph.D student in Islamic Studies

Having completed my undergraduate degree at UCC in History and Study of Religions, I felt that I wasn’t quite done with education yet. I had no way to pay for a master’s degree though, so applied for literally every scholarship going! There are a number of them available, both through individual departments and on a university wide basis. I was very fortunate to receive the ‘College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences Taught Master’s’ scholarship. This allowed me to take my place in the Politics MA.

This MA programme is interdisciplinary. It crosses the departments of Government, History and Politics. The MA coordinator, Dr. David Fitzgerald, along with the department secretary, Dawn French, do a fantastic job of holding these elements together. As part of the programme you complete sixty credits of modules, thirty in each semester, along with a dissertation worth thirty credits. While the dissertation is inevitably mostly written over the summer, I really appreciated it not all being left until the end of semester two- you are encouraged to think about and talk through ideas for your dissertation topic during the first term. Without this support early on I don’t how I would have had the dissertation in on time.

The module choice is fantastic. As I said, the choice is divided evenly between the three departments, and you must compete some from each. I found the philosophy modules particularly challenging, as this was not an area I had any experience in. However, despite this, they were among the most enjoyable modules of the course. Philosophy really stretched my ability to think and argue in a way I was not used to, and is probably the element of the programme I gained the most from in terms of my continuing career (along with reading radical science fiction in Laurence Davis’s Government module ‘Re-imagining Democratic Politics in a Changing World’, which was more fun but just as valuable!).

The biggest personal highlight during my MA programme was being chosen to travel to Bologna, Italy, to take part in the NATO model event. This is an annual two day simulation. There were students from across Europe taking part. We were all assigned individual countries and presented with a crisis simulation which we had to solve by mutual agreement.

Still not ready to finish my studies, I am now a PhD student at the University of Chester, working on generational dynamics in transnational Shia organisations, back in a Study of Religions department. The Politics MA programme at UCC allowed me to explore different ideas and ways of examining the world from various disciplinary viewpoints. It opened methodological and theoretical avenues which I would not have explored otherwise.

I would highly recommend the Politics MA to anyone who wants to develop a career in academia, to anyone who wants to move into the world of public policy, or to anyone who wants to explore ideas beyond their previous academic discourse.

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