Following the publication of the results of the 2019-2020 National Student Survey (NSS), we are extremely proud to say that we are one of the best Politics and International Relations programmes in the UK once again!
Dr Dele Babalola, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, reflects on the protests sparked across the world by the murder of George Floyd.
George Floyd, an African-American was killed in Minneapolis, the United States of America by [four] white American police officers. One of the officers had his knee on the deceased’s neck for about nine minutes as the 46 years old man pleaded for his life, saying, “I can’t breathe”. George’s death has sparked mass demonstrations not only in the US but also across the globe. It has also rekindled the debates around the issue of racism in the US and other multi-racial countries like the UK, Canada, and Australia, to mention a few. Unfortunately, Britain is in denial about racism but the Black Lives Matter protests across the country speak directly to the systemic racism inherent in the system.
I am delighted to be the newest member of the Politics team. Prior to joining CCCU, I was a Senior Lecturer at Baze University, Abuja, Nigeria. I also taught at University of Kent in Canterbury, UK.
My research focuses on federalism, political economy, ethnicity, democracy and elections, and terrorism in Nigeria. I will be teaching modules at undergraduate and postgraduate levels on the Politics and International Relations programme.
As the final teaching week of this academic year draws to a close, it has certainly been one to remember. Following Laura’s blog about teaching ‘from a distance’ last week, the Politics and IR team have been reflecting on their experiences of working from home. We had such a packed calendar in semester 1 that the abrupt changes took time to get used to. Here we share some images of our improvised work spaces and our thoughts on how life is going. We would love students and graduates to share their own images and comments in our social media channels. We miss you!
Following discussions with Student Representatives, we have put together a list of some of our favourite books, journal articles, novels, films or podcasts for you to try while studying remotely.
Please note that we are not expecting you to read all or indeed any of this if you do not wish to do so. It’s most important to focus on your wellbeing – mental and physical – and to use your energy to help friends, family or neighbours who need you. Nevertheless, if you do have time to spare then we hope you might find some of the suggestions below interesting and relevant.
Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below. we’d love to hear what you are reading!
This week the Pol IR team joined more than 300 educators around the UK who pledged to teach about the Sustainable Development Goals as part of the third annual #SDGTeachIN.
On Monday, second years in Dr Susan Kenyon’s Politics of Transport class examined the causes of transport-related social exclusion. The issues debated in class related to SDG 1 No Poverty, SDG 3 Good Health and Wellbeing, SDG 5 Gender Equality, SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities and SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities.
On Tuesday, first year students in Dr Laura Cashman’s Contemporary Global Politics class focused on SDG 2 Zero Hunger for the whole session. They examined the political and ecological challenges to ensuring food security for all. The class debated whether the goal was realistic and what kinds of structural changes would be required to see success in the next ten years.
Also on Tuesday, our third year Radical Political Thought module had a session led by Professor David Bates and Tom Sharkey on the theme “Refusing Capitalism: art, politics and resistance”. This was linked to SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production and SDG 16 Peace and Justice and featured research from their work linked to their Tate Exchange project.
Finally, tomorrow, Friday, our third-year module Political Ideologies in Action will focus on Social Ecology. Led again by Tom Sharkey, this is an ideal theme to approach the SDGs from a critical angle. It encompasses almost all the SDGs in a holistic manner using the ideas of Murray Bookchin to develop a different approach to resolve the ecological and political challenges facing our world.
The academic year 2019/20 has been incredibly busy thus far. As Semester 2 begins we are taking a moment to take stock of the highlights of semester 1.
At the beginning of the academic year the teaching team all blogged on how stimulating and sometimes daunting it can be to teach politics in times of upheaval. We were right. The semester was dominated by the concerns of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, which did not transpire, the snap General Election on 12 December and the increased urgency of calls to deal with the climate crisis. These events (and non-events) shaped the teaching in our British, EU and global politics modules in different ways. We had plenty to debate in our classes and we were kept on our toes rewriting lectures, minutes before class began some weeks! Dr Sarah Lieberman featured regularly in local and national news coverage explaining what on earth was happening.
We continued with the learning and teaching innovations which were praised in recent external examiner reports. Students on the Contemporary Political Thought module were involved with running MOVEMENT² a very successful outreach event sponsored by the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences. Students really enjoyed the simulated election hustings assessment as part of the second year British Politics module and the innovative Shut Up and Write Sessions for the Individual Study module which are running for a second year.
Guests also came to speak to our students during timetabled teaching sessions. Stephen Fiddler, UK and Brexit editor of the Wall Street Journal came to speak to students in Dr Soeren Keil’s Jean Monnet EU modules. The Parliamentary Studies class had a special session with Professor John Curtice when he visited the university as part of the Vice Chancellor’s Public Lecture series.
Students also had opportunities to engage with wider extra-curricular activities. Our MPM series had a busy schedule. The highlight was the Hustings for the General Election, where the prospective candidates for the Canterbury seat faced a packed Augustine Hall and set out their case for election.
Our Careers Conference on 4 December had extremely positive feedback from students. We are always thankful to our graduate community for their willingness to give up their time and be such positive role models to current students.
Our PhD students had a busy semester too. Dr Paul Anderson and Dr Amina M’Lili graduated in September. Razia Shariff and Max Stafford both had successful vivas in December.
Finally, just before the Christmas break students on our Jean Monnet accredited EU modules went on a whirlwind trip to Brussels. They packed a great deal into a short trip, meeting representatives from the Commission dealing with space policy, enlargement and neighbourhood policy and the Integrated Crisis Response Team. Students were very enthusiastic about how the trip helped them to link the ideas discussed in the classroom to practical realities of policy implementation.
After such a busy first semester some may wonder what will sustain us in semester 2. We were sad to say goodbye to Dr Lucas Van Milders at the end of December but we will have a new lecturer in post in the next couple of months. However, if there is one thing that the CCCU Politics and IR team are renowned for it is our boundless enthusiasm and energy. We are ready and raring to go for another action packed semester!
Our Careers Conference, held jointly with the sociology programme, on 4 December had extremely positive feedback from students once again.
Using a ‘speed dating’ format, students moved between tables hosted by employers from a wide variety of NGOs and public sector organisations. Many said they were surprised and impressed to realise that there was such a variety of opportunities out there for graduates with their skills and knowledge.
It was also lovely to have three politics graduates in attendance. We are always thankful to our graduate community for their willingness to give up their time and be such positive role models to current students.
One of the highlights of semester one was the visit of Professor Sir John Curtice to our Level 6 Parliamentary Studies module. As Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde and Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre for Social Research, he is widely regarded as the country’s best known polling expert.
Ahead of a public lecture as part of the Vice Chancellor Series, Professor Curtice took part in a Q and A session with our politics staff and Parliamentary Studies students. He covered a wide range of topics including the 2019 general election, Brexit, Scottish independence and the reliability of polls. On the day (12 November 2019), Professor Curtice declared the election too close to call. Nevertheless, his predictions that the Conservatives would win, Corbyn would go, the Brexit Party would fail to gain a seat and the SNP would secure a large number of seats in Scotland, all proved correct despite the volatile voting patterns of the British public.
Students relished the opportunity to engage with Professor Curtice, and we’d like to thank him once again for his generosity with his time and expertise.
On the 9th and 10th of December 2019, 35 students from our 2nd and 3rd year, together with our MSc students, went to Brussels to speak to representatives from the UK Representation in Brussels, EU institutions and to see how the EU works in practice.
On the first day we visited the Welsh Office in Brussels, where representatives from the UK Representation welcomed us. We had further speakers from the European Commission, including DG Grow and DG Near dealing with EU space policy and the EU’s enlargement and neighbourhood policy. Each speaker presented the area they work in briefly, and what the EU is doing in terms of policies and activities.
The day concluded with a city tour, starting at the Grand Place in the centre of Brussels, where we learnt more about the history of Brussels and how it has changed over time, not least as a result of being the capital of the European Union.
On the second day we welcomed Dr Tarik Meziani from the Council of the EU’s Integrated Political Crisis Response team. He briefed the students on how the EU’s crisis response works and what lessons have been learnt in recent years. After his talk, we went to the European Parliament, where we visited the Parliamentarium, which is the documentation centre of the EP. We saw the original copy of the Schuman Declaration as well as other key documents of the EU.
The trip was funded by our Jean Monnet Chair in European Foreign Policy, which is part of the Erasmus+ funding we have been awarded for 2017-2020.
We would like to thank the UK Representation to the EU, the Wales Office in Brussels, all of our speakers, and particularly John Maas for their contribution to the success of this study trip.