Seven things you could do if you’re interested in a career in policy

Policy is one of those areas that PhDs and research staff often mention to me that they’re interested in moving into.  They have found out that it combines a good level of research knowledge and experience, with the possible opportunity to effect change for a certain group.

But gaining experience in this area, prior to getting a job in it, is important.  Here are some ideas you could look into, while you’ve got the luxury of being within a huge organisation such as King’s.

1) Join King’s Think Tank Society, attend its events or contribute to its publications.  This will get you meeting other like-minded people and an outlet for your thoughts.

2) Become a staff or student rep.  Getting used to committees, governance, advocacy and how these tools work is really important for understanding how policies are created and applied across organisations. Outside of King’s, think about becoming a charity trustee or even a school governor.

3) Follow the work of the KCL Policy Institute which acts as King’s policy consultancy.  You’d find out more about how these consultancy organisations work and how their outputs differ from academic research.

4) Attend some events* where people who work in policy talk about their jobs.  Not only will this increase your knowledge of the range of roles involved but it gives you an opportunity to meet other researchers interested in the sector and to practise talking to an employer. The sorts of organisations that come include the UN and EU. *KCL log-in required; look for ‘Public Policy series’ in the events listing.

5) Attend Policy Idol 2016!  It’s too late to take part but take note of it for next year!

6) Take a look at this case study on the Grad School blog and follow the Industry Insider, Peace Politics and Policy blog from the Careers Group.

7) Consider signing up for the KCL Research Consultancy where you may find that projects in measurement, evaluation and building sector awareness help you demonstrate that you’ve got the skills it takes to become a policy wonk.

Arts & Humanities PhD Case Studies: Ministry of Defence

This interview, and the others published over the past and next few weeks, are with the employers represented at the recent King’s College London Arts & Humanities PhD careers event. They have been written by PhD candidate Valeria Valotto, to whom we are very grateful!

From Politics and International Studies PhD to Defence and Security

Dr. Victoria Tuke

Current position: Victoria Tuke works in the Defence Strategy and Priorities team within the Ministry of Defence.

Starting point:

Between 2008 and 2011 I completed a PhD in Politics and International Studies, writing my thesis on Japanese foreign policy.

First turn – Daiwa Scholar

For many years I have been keen to enter public service but with a specific interest in Defence and Security issues. My PhD was a means to an end: a career in government, think tanks and NGO. Immediately after finishing the PhD in 2011 I was lucky enough to get a two-years long Daiwa Scholarship (Daiwa is an Anglo-Japanese Foundation). The scholarship allowed me to hone my Japanese language skills while working ‘hands-on’, this time, for the British Embassy and a Japanese politician, in addition to continuing my own research.

Second turn – Civil Service Fast Stream

Upon returning to the UK in 2013 I secured a job as part of the Civil Service Fast Stream. I had the chance to work in a range of departments including Cabinet Office, Ministry of Justice and on a short secondment to BAE Systems. In April 2015 I eventually landed my current position at the Ministry of Defence.

How did you make it?

The move from academia to government has been challenging and quite an adjustment. If you are keen on a specific sector or industry my advice is to get your foot in the door first, and only then work your way to your ‘dream job’. Because I did my PhD with the transition in mind I put extra effort in securing a number of internships (editorial, research) in Government and Think Tanks alongside my PhD.

What is the next move?

After developing experience in the ‘reality’ of public and foreign policy, I would very much welcome a portfolio career and any opportunity to return to some form of an academic career in the future.

Research Council Policy Internships

Research Council policy internships provide an opportunity for Research Council funded PhD students to work for three months in one of a selected group of highly influential policy organisations.

The Research Councils organise internships for current Research Council-funded PhD students to work at partner host organisations on a policy topic relevant to both the student and the host. The student will be expected to produce a briefing paper, participate in a policy inquiry and/or organise a policy event.

Internships are awarded to both parliamentary and non-parliamentary organisations.

Further information and details of how to apply can be found at the following link –

Next application deadline: 16:00 BST 28th August 2015

Support for PhD candidates who teach

Many of you gain teaching experience at King’s while undertaking your research degree. This is great for you and good for the university too.

We want to make sure those of you who do teach are well supported. Faculties deliver a range of training, induction and buddying arrangements for Teaching Assistants (TAs) and King’s Learning Institute (KLI) also offers the ‘Preparing to Teach’ course and the more advanced PGCAP course that leads to a nationally recognised qualification. KLI has considerably increased capacity on these courses in responses to requests from TAs.

Recently we have had discussions to see how we can improve support further, and that involved a focus group with TAs. In response to the three main suggestions to come out of this session, we have made the following changes:

  1. University policy guidance is now available on the Teaching Opportunities webpage of the Graduate School. Our focus group said they found this a very helpful document but hadn’t previously been aware of it.
  2. KLI has agreed to arrange drop-in sessions for TAs on different campuses so you can call in and get advice on good practice and/or discuss problems you are having with your teaching. These will begin in September 2015.
  3. The Graduate School has set up a discussion forum where you can contact other TAs, share your experience and good practice, as well as offer advice and support to your peers. This can be found on KEATS, but you will need to submit an application form for admission to the forum. This can be found on our internal web pages by clicking here and selecting the tab entitled ‘Forum for King’s Graduate Teaching Assistants’.

Professor Vaughan Robinson
Director of the Graduate School