Laurence Goodchild

MA International Studies, 2013

Laurence Goodchild

The possibility of tailoring the course to your own personal interests by choosing a “pathway” was a very attractive aspect. I really didn’t want to spend the best part of a year focusing on issues which were of little interest to me

Laurence Goodchild completed an undergraduate degree in Politics and Economics at Oxford Brookes but felt that he needed to address the issues they’d explored on an international or global scale and was confident in the capabilities of the Social Sciences department to help him do that.

I took an interest in politics from an early age, and whether through study or activism it is something which has been at the forefront of my life since. I am currently the Trade Union Liaison for my local Green Party and I’m involved with various social movements such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

When I applied to the course I wasn’t exactly sure of what path I would take after it, which is probably not advisable! However, I did know what I was truly passionate about, and broadly the lines of work I would want to aim for following the MA. Brookes were clear about how the course was applicable to a number of career paths and how it was suitable for those who would wish to do a PhD.

The possibility of tailoring the course to your own personal interests by choosing a “pathway” was a very attractive aspect. I really didn’t want to spend the best part of a year focusing on issues which were of little interest to me, so the flexibility of the course and the presence of staff with backgrounds in a variety of disciplines and specialisms was assuring in this regard.

I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of a cohort of students which was small enough to properly engage with each other. I have friends who have complained that they felt distant in postgraduate courses with hundreds of students; something which was certainly not the case at Brookes. The International Studies MA group was large enough for there to be a diversity of backgrounds and opinion, but not so large that you felt disconnected. Over time we genuinely developed as a group and as individuals; something which I think greatly helped with our coursework.

Second of all, I felt that the balance between being supported or led by the tutors, and exploring things for yourself was spot on. Areas of study and lines of argument are introduced and outlined, but you don’t feel ‘spoon-fed’ in the manner that you sometimes were in undergraduate courses. This approach helped me feel that I was really developing my abilities rather than just storing up information that was passively gained.

Finally, I really enjoyed being able to address the fundamental issues which are of great importance in terms of the bigger picture. Questions which address long-term issues, which go against conventional knowledge, or which are damaging to vested interests often go unheard for various reasons. Such freedom to think and to express yourself, while engaging with others who are doing the same, was a fantastic experience.

Oxford is a beautiful and friendly city which has good public transport and is small enough to get around by foot or bicycle when it’s sunny. Obviously the traditional attractions of the city: its history, culture, architecture etc. are very well known and can be very awe-inspiring, but it is also a very lively and creative city in more modern terms. You will rarely find yourself without some kind of event to fill your evenings whether it’s a gig, a political debate or slam poetry night.

Having access to Oxford University Libraries has a significance which is hard to overstate. Brookes has a fantastic library, but Oxford University Library, as a UK Copyright library, stocks everything published in the UK. With the two combined, you have a vast amount of literature to access which helps no end, especially when writing your dissertation at the end of the programme.

I am currently working in an administrative role for the NHS. However, I plan to put a PhD proposal forward over the coming months as the next round of funding opens up, and in the long-term wish to attain a research-based role either within academia or for a non-governmental organization.

The MA in International Studies demonstrates that you are capable of committing yourself to a difficult task and completing it to a high standard through your own initiative. I think that there are many skills which I developed further by taking the course including problem-solving, time-keeping, work prioritization, communication, and of course writing! However, beyond these general transferable skills, I believe that the more specific academic abilities and knowledge are essential in securing me a place as a PhD student.

I can honestly say that all members of staff involved with course were phenomenally helpful. The lecturers are very approachable and show a genuine interest in your work and the topics they teach.