Student profile: Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson

I came to Oxford after completing a BA in Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge. I am interested in pursuing a career in academia, and I selected Oxford as my top choice for postgraduate study due to its distinguished reputation in political science research and teaching. I have not been disappointed.

Postgraduate study at Oxford offers numerous opportunities. The workload is fairly substantial, but manageable and rewarding. The Department is extremely well-resourced. It consists of a large community of the world’s leading academics and scholars with a palpable feel of being on the ‘cutting edge’ of research. I have been bowled over by the number of open seminars and talks which postgraduates can attend or even deliver a paper, gaining valuable experience for future work in academia or elsewhere.

The MPhil in Comparative Government is a strong programme which offers a healthy mix of substantive teaching, methods training, and opportunities for in-depth research. The course manages to achieve both depth and breadth adeptly.

A core course in the first year of the programme ensures that all students become familiar with the main currents of debate in the scholarly literature, which is especially useful to those who did not study comparative politics as an undergraduate. Teaching is conducted in weekly group seminars as well as more intimate tutorials with a member of the Department and usually one other student. The mixture of formats allows students with different strengths to engage critically with the topics in ways which are both enlightening and valuable.

Students have the opportunity to choose more narrowly focused topics to study in the second year. This enables us to pursue serious investigation of topics which may be useful for our theses but in a structured and communal setting which can enrich research and challenge stale arguments. It means writing the thesis is never a lonely enterprise!

One of the Department’s strengths is its awareness of the importance of ensuring that candidates are exposed to the main methodological debates and methods in the discipline. Students are provided with excellent methods training. Students may choose from a number of quantitative and qualitative courses, and it is heartening to see that the Department treats both approaches with the seriousness they deserve.

Finally, the camaraderie among my MPhil cohort has been an extremely positive feature of my time in Oxford. Students have been very supportive. Regular socialising in and outside of the Department with students from around the world has made my time in Oxford not only enriching but also a lot of fun. 

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