Postgraduate Ambassador Profile - Steven Robinson

Why did you choose to do your research degree?

I finished my undergraduate degree with the intention of returning as a postgraduate. I enjoyed doing my undergraduate dissertation and felt that I was sufficiently interested in my subject to embark on a PhD. It’s hard to know quite what doing a PhD entails at that point, but I felt ‘I had one in me’ and the prospect of doing fieldwork in Portugal and researching my topic more closely excited me immensely.

Did you receive any funding for your studies?

Yes, I received a three-year studentship to cover my living costs and tuition fees from the School (worth £54,570 in total). I also benefited from the School Hardship Fund when I was struggling for money in the weeks leading up to me finally submitting my PhD thesis. To help with the costs of my fieldwork in Portugal, the Camões Institute awarded me an additional €1,500.

What did you do before your research degree?

I studied as an undergraduate at Newcastle, going straight from school. I did a Bachelor of Arts in Government and European Union Studies (2002–2006), which included a year abroad on an Erasmus exchange in Lisbon. After a year working in Norwich and living at home, I returned to Newcastle in 2007 to undertake a Master of Arts in Politics (Research) and the following year I began my PhD.

Why did you choose to stay on at Newcastle?

I studied politics as an undergraduate at Newcastle and as I thought about postgraduate study it seemed logical to continue at Newcastle. I knew my potential PhD supervisors well, and they knew me, which meant that I was sure they could be relied upon to help me through the process of applying for funding and developing my PhD research proposal. 

Over the course of my MA year, I worked closely with my supervisors to secure the School studentship, without having this good working relationship already established it would have been hard to get my proposal developed to a sufficiently high standard.

Those reasons kept me at Newcastle University, and the fact that as an undergraduate I really enjoyed living in the city of Newcastle, it meant that I didn’t really consider anywhere else for my postgraduate studies. Maybe now it’s time for somewhere new, but if I could settle in the North East I would be more than happy to do so.

What did you like most about being a postgraduate in your School?

All the staff in Politics, not just my supervisors, are immensely supportive and frequently offered me advice on everything from teaching to how to approach my viva. It’s nice to have a team of mentors and it made me feel like I was more of a colleague than a student.

What do you think of our academic facilities?

The teaching and library facilities at the University are excellent. It is a great place to be a young researcher, there are guest seminars every week and I had many opportunities to present my own research also. The Public Lectures Series also has a varied range of speakers, including some big names in politics. Over the course of my PhD many people who I cite in my work have come to Newcastle to give talks, so it’s good to get the opportunity to meet them, and question them, in person.

The Faculty provides research training courses to help you to sharpen up your data collection skills, courses on how to do qualitative and quantitative analysis and tips for editing, submitting and defending your thesis. These are all things which are useful to have both during your PhD and beyond. As a PhD student I had my own desk in a shared office and was given a free laptop, which is still working after being on continuously for the last four years!

What do you think of our social facilities?

There is an enormous range of clubs and societies in the University, definitely something for everyone, not to mention dance, yoga and keep-fit opportunities in the city if that’s what you’re into. In Politics, there is a vibrant postgraduate community, who instigate regular trips to the pub and film nights with free pizza.

What is it like to live in Newcastle?

The city and the University campus have changed dramatically since my arrival as a fresher in 2002. Changed very much for the better in my opinion! Even after ten years I’m still finding new places to enjoy, such as Chinese supermarkets, pubs I never knew existed, but it’s still nice to occasionally take the Metro to Cullercoats and walk down the beach to Tynemouth. Over the years I have lived in Jesmond, in the City Centre and in Gosforth – they all have their charms!

What are you planning to do now that you have got your PhD?

I hope to stay in academia and will be looking for post-docs and lectureships, principally in the UK, but I’m not going to limit myself to this country if opportunities should arise in Europe or North America. I’m sure in years to come Newcastle will welcome me back with open arms to present my research and to hear how I am doing.