The impact of Exeter's Politics department

Published on: 6 August 2014

Image of European Commission HQ

The European Commission is just one of a number of organisations the Politics department has worked with. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

The University of Exeter’s Politics department is 50 years old and to celebrate we spoke to some of our academics to see what they’ve been up to – and how the department has grown over time.

Professor Mick Dumper, an expert in Middle East politics, joined the department in 1993 after completing his doctorate and has seen significant advancement over the years.

He explained: "It was a small department at the time, very focused on teaching. Since then a lot of changes have been implemented – they’ve also helped us work more closely with colleagues in history and sociology. We’ve become much more ambitious."

Professor Dumper has chaired meetings aimed at solving conflict in the Middle East and convenes a meeting of academics with the General Commissioner of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which according to Professor Dumper provides an opportunity for ‘frank and thorough’ discussion about challenges facing the Agency.

He finished: "There’s been a cumulative effort on the part of all politics staff to improve the department and as a result we’ve impacted on a number of areas."

Policy analysis

One such member of staff is Professor Claudio Radaelli, director of the Centre for European Governance (CEG), the University’s Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence. Jean Monnet centres form the Jean Monnet Programme, an EU initiative designed to encourage research and teaching in European integration studies.

Professor Radaelli joined Politics in 2004, but he knew of the department since the 1990s, when it became the hub for the systematic application of theories of the policy process to public policy issues in the UK and Europe.

He explained: "There were of course other departments in the UK who studied public policy – at that time the major issues were pressure groups politics and industrial crises. Exeter was the first place to put competition policy, industrial crisis and European integration in a theoretical context, using concepts such as state culture, regulatory governance and policy networks. Some of this work on the crisis reads like it was written yesterday, except it’s about other industries and other crises."

Leading academics at the time included Professors Stephen Wilks and Bruce Doern, whose work was translated into Italian – meaning Claudio picked up on it when he was reading Economics and Political Science in Italy. He added: "When I came to Exeter many years later it was like a kid who reads a fanzine for years and then one lucky day meets his heroes! It was an honour to work with these scholars."

EU

Professor Radaelli’s more recent work involves collaborating with Sciences-Po at the University of Bordeaux on learning within the context of crisis management, in response to the financial, economic and political problems that have gripped the continent.

Exeter was the first place to put competition policy, industrial crisis and European integration in a theoretical context, using concepts such as state culture, regulatory governance and policy networks.

Claudio Radaelli, Professor of Political Science at the University of Exeter

He explained: "A lot of my current research with Dr Claire Dunlop, a senior lecturer in Politics, is about learning. Especially how governments and policy makers learn and ensuring they learn to do the right things. Claire and I have developed models that account for functional and dysfunctional learning.

"We assisted the European Commission, the Dutch government and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on how to identify lessons from the international experience and measure regulatory performance. In July 2014 the OECD published official guidance to its Member States on regulatory evaluation based on work we carried out at the Centre for European Governance. One of us, student Jonathan Kamkhaji, is assisting the World Bank in implementing regulatory innovations in Botswana."

The Centre for European Governance is the base for collaborative work on Europe across the University. It is home to political theorists, economists, political scientists and lawyers. The Centre’s research covers a range of innovative work in research design, comparative policy analysis, the information society, European public management, representation, and EU constitutional politics with staff like Madalina Busuioc, Dario Castiglione, Alison Harcourt, Sandra Kroger, and Andrew Massey. The Centre is governed by an advisory board of non-academics, including consultants, policy activists, and officers from international organisations.

Work placements

The department had also planned 50 career mentorships for students to mark the anniversary – but a far greater number of people were interested in volunteering their time. Dr Dunlop, who runs the scheme, said: “We had no problem getting more than 50 mentors!

"We worked with Student Employability and Academic Success to put together a database of Exeter graduates who either came from our department, or who work in areas our students are looking for careers in – the Civil Service, think tanks and so on."

Alumni have signed up from organisations including Exeter City Council, the Bank of England and Parliament. The mentorships build on the Exeter Politics Internship Programme, which has run for four years and provides students the opportunity to work with MPs, either in Westminster or their constituency office, conducting research or performing administrative tasks. 

Dr Dunlop also has alumni come into speak to students about their careers. They have included Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sports, Minister of Equalities and Member of Parliament for Bromsgrove.

Lecture

As part of the celebrations Dr Mari Takayanagi, Senior Archivist at the Parliamentary Archives, gave an open lecture on parliament and the suffragettes at the University, covering aspects from the first petition in 1832 to equal franchise in 1928.

Professor Andrew Massey, Head of Politics at Exeter, said: "The work of the woman's suffrage movement is integral to the expansion of a broader and deeper democracy, but it is more than that, it about the civilising of politics."

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