Reflections on 2022-23.


Reflections on 2022-23.

The 22/23 academic year is drawing to a close and so it’s time to look back and see what the Politics and IR team has managed to achieve in that time. Spoiler – it’s a lot!

With the easing of Covid restrictions, there was hope for a more “normal” year but the spiralling cost of living crisis presented new challenges. A great deal of effort went into revamping teaching and working on new ways to encourage students back onto campus. New modules came onstream for our first years and these were very well received with high levels of satisfaction reported. Dr Demetris Tillyris introduced ‘Playing Politics in a Post-Apocalyptic Hogwarts’ – a four group Prisoner’s Dilemma game/simulation, to explore Thomas Hobbes’s thought, for the Level 4 module, Freedom, Justice, and Rebellion. Dr Sarah Lieberman’s 3rd year Security Students took part in a global NATO disinformation challenge in October and acquitted themselves very well.  

We were delighted to get a high number Golden Apple nominations from students to show that our efforts were valued. Dr Laura Cashman and Dr Demetris Tillyris were joint runners up for the Inclusion, Community and Diversity Prize. Dr Tom Sharkey and Dr Dele Babalola were also nominated for Golden Apples and Dr Susan Kenyon was nominated for the IVETA Woman Leader of Educational Excellence Award 2023.

Dr Sarah Lieberman travelled a lot this year to reinvigorate our international exchange programme after the disruption of Brexit and Covid. We are pleased that in addition to the university-wide opportunities to study in North America, our students can also apply for exchanges (taught in English) to Prague, Zeppelin University Germany and Lille, France.

We appointed Thahmina Begum Thanyia as our new Academic Tutor to provide students with additional skills development support. Thahmina joined Laura in the School’s Closing our Gap working group to focus on ways to ensure all students can succeed and achieve their full potential. Dr Muzaffer Kutlay also joined us this year as Senior Lecturer in Politics and Law. Her expertise in global politics and forced migration will further enhance our curriculum. Students were also delighted to hear that Dr Tom Sharkey would continue teaching them as part of his new School-wide role as Lecturer in Criminal Justice.

Always keen to support our students’ employability, we held our first face to face employability fair for three years. We were delighted to have so many graduates involved with both this event and the Foreign Policy Analysis module’s Working in Diplomacy roundtable. Our students (and we lecturers) love to see what previous graduates have achieved.  

To celebrate their contributions, politics graduates were invited to attend the Alumni Gala Dinner and Shayne Halfpenny-Ray (graduated 2016) was shortlisted for the Outstanding Contribution alumni award for all the support he gives the University and our students, inspiring them with his achievements and experience.

More celebrations were in order when Kumba Krubally passed her PhD viva in February and Saliha Smaine passed her MPhil viva in May. Our PhD programme is very active and popular and we always welcome new applicants.

Outreach to local schools continues to gather pace again post-Lockdown and this year Susan hosted visits to campus for sixth forms students from the Leigh Academy who learned about library and research skills and Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys preparing them for the EPQ. Dr Tom Sharkey and Professor David Bates organised the We Have the Power day with 16-18 year olds from Canterbury Academy, Canterbury College and Barton Court Grammar School and the Change Makers outreach sessions for year sevens from Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey, Holmesdale School (Snodland) and Heartsdown Academy (Margate). They explored questions of art and politics, giving students the opportunity to find their own voice and produce something on an issue which matters to them. Laura, Demetris and David delivered specialist guest lectures to schools including Canterbury Academy and Worthgate School.

The team have also been publishing and disseminating their research widely. Our Work in Progress research seminars were back in person and Demetris restarted the Making Politics Matter Series ‘Doing Justice to Ugly Graffiti’, with Derek Edyvane and Alba Griffin (University of Leeds).  In November, Dele and Sarah joined our visiting Ukrainian Research Fellow Dr Natalia Slobodian to speak at the first Faculty of FSESS Beacon Lecture – Coping with the Global Energy Crisisorganised by Professor David Bates.

We’ve presented our research at national (Manchester, Leeds, Greenwich, London, Glasgow) and international conferences (Bilbao, Lille, Lyon, Prague and Trondheim). A significant contingent (Dele, Susan, Tom, David and PhD student Jo Rothery) featured at this year’s PSA conference in Liverpool where current staff also had a chance to catch up with colleagues from days gone by. David organised 5 panels as part of the Marxism Specialist Group, including sessions on decolonising radical political thought.  Sarah, Laura and PhD student Kehinde Abolarin attended BISA where Sarah’s new Astropolitics Working Group launched its first series of panels.    

Publications continue apace too with new research accepted and published in top journals including Astropolitics, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Journal of Ethics, Philosophy & Social Criticism, Space Policy.  Sarah’s edited volume The Commercialisation of Space: Politics, Economics and Ethics was also published in March. The European Review of International Affairs (ERIS) – the academic journal we jointly manage with Sciences Po University, Paris, has also continued to grow with Tom currently in the role of Managing Editor.

Outreach and impact work included the Together Stronger Practice Lab – where David and Tom presented alongside their South-Wales partners Valleys Kids – on class and intersectionality as part of political and artistic practice at the Wales Millennium Centre. Attendees included arts practitioners, academics, community organisations, and centre staff. They have also continued to work with Dover smART on their highly impactful public engagement project.   

Sarah visited the Agency for the Space Programme of the European Union (EUSPA) in Prague to discuss issues related to sustainability in space. She was also part of a delegation briefing the Czech Government on their space strategy. In May she organised a roundtable with key industry partners about the future of the UK space sector.   

Laura joined the steering committee for Kent County Council’s Joint Strategic Health Needs Assessment for Kent’s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Populations. Susan presented her research about commuting students to Transport for the South East, our sub-regional transport body.  Some of our third-year students were also invited to talk with Transport for the South East about their experiences of travelling as a student.  This built on their work in their second year Transport: Politics and Society module.  They received great feedback and they have been invited to speak at the regional conference later in the year. 

Given that it’s been such a quiet year in politics, it’s hardly surprising that the team have been invited to provide expert comment across a range of media channels. Sarah features regularly on BBC Radio Kent and other BBC regional stations and Times Radio discussing the latest ups and downs in British politics. Susan spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC News about the impact of rail strikes on long term travel behaviour and social exclusion and Dele was interviewed by La Presse, Montreal, Grid News, USA and France 24 about the Nigerian elections.

We rounded off the year with a party to celebrate the achievements of our third years. They faced many challenges in the past three years but persevered and showed wonderful resilience. We wish them all the best and look forward to what next year will bring.

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