Tag Archives: university of exeter

SSIS BBQ

Sun, burgers, good laughter, goodie bags and plenty of familiar and new faces – these were all part of the end of year Student Engagement and Academic Representation BBQ held at the RAM garden on campus. The event was organised by George Flower and Anna Hamilton from the College of Social Sciences and International Studies with the aim of rewarding students from the college for their dedication to the improvement of the student experience.

SSIS BBQ 10

Plenty of awards recognizing the achievements of various projects and individuals were handed out. Within the department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology (SPA), members of the Sociology and Anthropology society were commended on their contributions to the department, alongside Global Exe, the youth project started by editor of this blog, Jason Chang.

SSIS BBQ 1

The BBQ provided an opportunity for SPA to interact with other attendees from CSSIS. Attendees from the politics department who had set up the “Diplomatic Hub” conversed with attendees from Global Exe and exchanged various ideas between each other to improve and make progress to their own individual projects.

SSIS BBQ 4

The melting pot of ideas and conversations did not simply stop at the projects and initiatives that students had set up. With the wealth of expertise in attendance, students from law to philosophy conversed about ideas for their future and also the sharing of good practice in their coursework. Among the many themes of discussion at the table included the study of linguistics, military law and even the sociology of name tags!

If you would like to join the table for such interesting conversations and would like to represent your cohort in a leadership position, places are still available to nominate yourself to be a representative for the Sociology, Philosophy or Anthropology SSLC positions! If you would like to find out more information or nominate yourself, email today!

Jason Chang

Studying for a degree? Consider doing work experience!

One of the most useful things about studying for a degree is the opportunity for work experience and the extra-curricular activities it brings. These endeavours can not only enhance your CV, but also broaden your understanding of the subject and how it relates to the wider world.

I was lucky enough to be accepted to intern at the local office of Ben Bradshaw MP, and I can honestly say that as well as demonstrating the practical applications of sociology the experience was a rewarding one, helping me judge in which direction I wish to take my life.

Exeter’s MP since 1997, Ben Bradshaw. (Image: commons.wikimedia.org)

As Exeter is holding elections for its City Council next month, most of my week was taken up by canvassing. We spent the week traversing the length of Exeter, often accompanied by Ben Bradshaw, which though physically tiring gave me a great opportunity to learn more about the city and its residents. Indeed, any kind of volunteer work within a city broadens your knowledge of the area and makes you feel more a part of it. This was furthered by the fact I was able to meet not only the local MP, but also the council leader and various councillors who were able to share their experiences of working in local government and information about Exeter’s communities and the problems they face. Meeting residents was also very informative; issues raised ranged from housing and schooling to their dislike of Labour’s new direction.

From a sociological point of view, what was most interesting was how demographics offer a key indicator of voting behaviour. While working-class areas and council estates proved more likely to support Labour, they were also far more likely to want to vote to leave the European Union. This ties in with findings that show that people in areas that generally possess a lower level of education and are more directly affected by immigration are more likely to wish to leave the EU. Similarly, while middle-class areas were more likely to vote for the Conservatives, they were also more likely to vote Green, which corresponds to the idea that people who have less to lose are more likely to risk voting for principles rather than out of pragmatism.

Anyone studying for a Social Science degree should make sure they learn something of the society and people about which they are theorising and back up their ideas with hard evidence. An ideal way to do this is through work experience in the political, journalistic or charity fields. University is about more than just studying for a degree, and the excellent connections and services of Exeter University and its SPA department provide students with perfect opportunities to pursue the fields in which they are interested.

Interview with Jen Smith

Jen

This week, we interview Jen Smith, a Masters student pursuing her studies in Philosophy.

Hello Jen, fantastic to meet you. Could you give us a little introduction about yourself?

Hi I’m Jen! I’m 22 and studying an MA by research in Philosophy.

You mentioned you originally did your undergraduate in Australia before having your final term in the University of Exeter. What was it like for you coming over?

Coming over was both incredibly exciting and terrifying.  For me, it was my first time living out of home and while I was fortunate enough to travel with a girl from my home university, I really didn’t know anyone.  However, this soon changed!  I lived at the Printworks with other international students, began working casually at the University and started going to events held by the Sociology and Anthropology society.  I still consider some of my closest friends those who I met on exchange.

Academically, the exchange experience was invaluable.  I got the chance to study a range of different subjects that weren’t available to me back home and also learnt a variety of new ways to approach my studies.

Personally, coming over and living in the UK gave me a great sense of independence and confidence.  I had such a positive experience living and studying in Exeter that it definitely led to me choosing to do my masters here as well.

What would you say are the main differences between the higher education systems of Australia and the UK?

Generally speaking, I think Australian universities are a lot more relaxed.  Not only are wearing shoes to class optional but universities are more accessible and very flexible in terms of degree structure.  For example, I studied a Bachelor of Arts which allowed me to graduate with a double major in Sociology and History and minor in Philosophy.  This was hugely important to me, as I was able to use the flexibility of an Arts degree to select subjects uniquely tailored to my own research interests and gain an interdisciplinary perspective on a variety of different social issues.

While Australian students work hard, perhaps one of the biggest differences for me was British students’ attitudes towards studying – a lot more seems to be expected of you here in terms of the amount of reading you are required to do per module and the constant emphasis on graduating with a 2:1 or above.

Could you tell us more about your experience so far with your MA in Philosophy? 

So far, my experience has been great and I am fortunate enough to have an excellent supervisor.  However, it has also been very demanding.  Due to the fact that my masters is solely research based, I have no classes or general structure to my week so it requires a lot of self-discipline and motivation!

Could you tell us more about your dissertation topic?

I am particularly interested in exploring how normative practices in Western societies shape individual moral perceptions concerning the permissibility of sexual violence towards women.  While there is a strong social and legal consensus that rape is morally wrong, there has been little philosophical research that has sought to articulate the nature of its wrongfulness.  While it seems both obvious and intuitive that rape is morally abhorrent and harmful to both individuals and society, current statistics on rape and sexual violence reveal an inherent contradiction between the grave manner in which rape is perceived culturally and the sheer prevalence with which it occurs.

How do graduate studies compare to undergraduate studies?

So far I have only handed in the first chapter of my thesis, so I don’t feel as though I can make any big comparisons yet! However, so far I think the biggest differences have been learning how to study completely independently and also adapt to working at a higher academic standard.

What are your plans upon graduation? 

I am hoping to secure a PhD position in the next few months and then pursue a career in academia.

Finally, what’s your favourite read in Philosophy?

My favourite read in Philosophy would have to be Foucault’s Discipline and Punish.

Why Study Sociology? Because it’s more relevant than ever.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked as a Sociology student is, ‘why study a Social Science?’ Shouldn’t I be studying something like a hard science, economics or business management if I want to get a “serious job”? Why should employers be interested in a social science degree? I must say, I find these assertions a little disingenuous. Quite aside from the benefits which come with any degree – research and analytical skills, an increased ability to work independently etc – I believe that Sociology is one of the most applicable degrees available.

Boiled down to its simplest elements, the word Sociology means the study of society, which makes it a discipline grounded in an ever-changing social world and one which is always relevant. The close relationship the subject has to everyday life and current affairs makes it an exciting one to study, prompting its students to look at the world around them anew. As well as this, this relationship makes the discipline a very important one, with those working within it tackling such problems as the refugee crisis, urban deprivation and crime.

While society has always been subject to upheaval and unrest, I do believe that we are currently experiencing a particularly tumultuous period, the gravity of which people are only just beginning to understand. It would seem that the consensuses established after 1945 are being undermined at an alarming rate. Since the financial crash, we have seen an unprecedented rise in nationalistic, anti-egalitarian movements which no one could have really predicted. From UKIP’s rise in the UK, to the Front National’s in France and the PVV in the Netherlands, nationalist, anti-immigration, anti-EU parties are surging. Even in Germany, the anti-Islamic PEGIDA movement has rapidly grown in popularity – particularly after the attacks in Cologne. In no small part, the growth of these sentiments has been fuelled by the refugee crisis putting pressure on European border policy, and the expansion of ISIS and renewed threat of Islamist terrorism.It is clear that the very foundations of European co-operation and liberal democracy are seriously threatened for the first time in the postwar era.

A protest against the ‘”Islamisation” of Europe, by the German far-right street movement ‘PEGIDA’. (Photo Jan Meyer/AP)

Coupled with this are seemingly ever-increasing divisions between social groups. Only last week, the so-called pick-up artist and anti-feminist ‘Roosh V’, a more grotesque example of the growing ‘Men’s Rights Activist’ movement, had to cancel a series of meetings of his ‘neo-masculinist’ movement. This was largely because of threats he had received as a result of his stance on legalising marital rape. Thankfully, such extreme views are rare, but it cannot be denied that the climate of debate in general has become more toxic – especially with the advent of social media. Debates between left and right have become increasingly polarised, with personal insults, censorship and threats now commonplace – a state of affairs which should worry anybody who values democracy and debate.

All this being set against an increasingly insecure job market, a hacking back of the state and revolutions in digital technology makes the future very uncertain, even rather dangerous. We have made the mistake of assuming that ‘progress’ is something easily defined and linear, and we forget that society is able to fall back into darker times far easier than progress to brighter ones. If our present is marked by anything, it is uncertainty, and it is the job of sociologists and anthropologists to try to both understand and explain what is happening. In my opinion, we are experiencing a backlash against rapid social change which has left an increasing amount of people ontologically insecure and in need of something to stake their colours to.

For my part, studying Sociology has led me to the thought of Émile Durkheim, and I believe his belief in social solidarity and collectivism in preference to the individual has great pertinence for our age. However, I realise there are plenty who would disagree with me, and it is this that makes Sociology a stimulating subject to study. In 2015, Exeter was ranked as one of the top 10 Universities in the UK for Sociology by both The Complete University Guide and the Guardian newspaper. Coupled with the broadness of the course and specialisms of the academic staff, studying Sociology at Exeter can equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to help combat some of the most pressing issues of our time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Kelly Tucker

Kelly Photo

This week we catch up with Kelly Tucker, 3rd Year Sociology SSLC (Student Staff Liaison Committee) Representative to get her take on what it feels like being representing her cohort.

Hello Kelly, great to meet you. Could you give us a little introduction about yourself?

Kelly: Hi, great to meet you too! Well I have just completed my second year at Exeter studying BA Sociology and will be going into my third from September, which I am looking forward to. I am originally from London and I love reading, participating in sports, and spending time with friends and family in my spare time.

Great! Could you tell us more about what the SSLC does?

Kelly: The purpose of the SSLC is for students to voice their opinions, concerns, and ideas to senior members of staff in the department. We are a point of contact for fellow students to approach us with anything that they would like to be voiced to the department or anything that they would like changed. This could be for clearer feedback, different methods of assessment, or anything else that could be thought of to improve the course for the next incoming students! We meet regularly and this gives the staff an opportunity to ask us how things are going, and for us to propose suggestions and ask questions.

What made you want to run for the position as 3rd Year Sociology Rep?

Kelly: I am really passionate about my course. I want to make an academic career out of it so I really wanted to get involved as much as I could. I felt this would be a great experience and a chance for me to share the opinions that myself, friends and classmates have. I also felt this would provide a good networking opportunity, a chance to meet other students in the department as well as develop stronger relationships with members of staff of whom I may not have been taught by.

What are the key areas that you are looking to improve within the sociology course?

Kelly: Well I think the course is great, so this is a tough question, of course there is always room for improvement, so I will just be looking out for things that I feel could be strengthened. Quite a lot of people that I have spoken to have stressed concerns surrounding modules that are marked 100% on one essay, this was raised at our latest SSLC meeting and staff are now considering revising that. During the exam period many felt that one hour for one question was not quite long enough and therefore felt quite pressured, so that is perhaps an area for the SSLC to look into. I also feel getting students to be more involved in tutorials is an area that could be improved, and letting students feel more comfortable in approaching lecturers during office hours as these are underused and lecturers really do want us to make the most of it, there is so much more you can get from a face to face conversation than a two sentence email!

What are the challenges that you anticipate facing this year in your work as an SSLC rep? How would you resolve them?

Kelly: I suppose differentiating opinions may arise, so these will need to be approached by taking everyone’s point of view into consideration until reaching agreement. Encouraging people to get on board and support your ideas can also be a challenge, so I would just try and resolve this by making sure that my case is feasible and realistic!

In what ways do you think the needs of a student change as they progress through their degree?

Kelly: I think we begin to develop our interests. We begin to understand more about what we are specifically interested in researching and exploring. I think often it is assumed that as students progress through their degree they become more independent and need less support from staff, but I actually don’t think this is the case. Second and third years still need the support but in different ways, this is when students should be encouraged to take it upon themselves to approach staff members that are working in the fields they are interested in. I recently approached a lecturer who specialises in the area of research that I want to write my dissertation on. I found her so helpful and got a lot of encouragement and resources to look at over summer.

And, finally, what advice would you give students in balancing their time between university work and play?

Kelly: I would say write out your deadlines at the start of term! I always do this, and it is rewarding when you get to cross them off as you go along. Don’t leave things until the last minute. Plan! Plan fun things too like a trip to the cinema or a night out with friends. Always take a look at the essay and sample exam questions at the start of your module and make a note of the one that interests you so you can look out for things relevant during lecturers. Set aside a few hours a day for study, and give yourself the evenings off to unwind! Remember you only get to go to university once and it goes so quickly so be sure to do your best but also enjoy the learning experience too, don’t let the stress and pressure take over, you’re here because you want to be! I can’t believe I am going to be in third year already.

Find out more about the SSLC here: https://www.exeterguild.org/change/howto/content/How%20Tos/2013/07/11/How-To-What-Is-an-SSLC/

Jason Chang

Discovering Sociology and Anthropology at Exeter

Amory BuildingAlthough one of the smaller disciplines within the department, Anthropology nonetheless has a large number of students who are proud and excited about their programmes at Exeter. Often taken in conjunction with other related courses such as Sociology and Philosophy, Anthropology is also a fascinating discipline in its own right. We caught up with two students in the latter stages of their courses to see how they’ve found it so far.

Owen, 2nd year BA Sociology and Anthropology

My first two years of studying anthropology totally removed the blinkers forged throughout my life as I discovered an incredible variety of world-views. It made me question and put into perspective my own culture, which up until then seemed to be a universal truth. It only now seems to be one of the myriad ways of living and going on about one’s life. It is as if you had been taught all your life to put in milk before the tea and then someone showed you that you could also put it after. Not only can you put the milk after but at any moment and in any fashion! The way people bring up their children, the customs and habits, the symbols vary dramatically from one culture to another. All these ways of being are just as valid as one another although in some lectures I have been tempted to judge certain practices. Criticizing one culture for its practices is tempting as we touch upon ethical issues such as FGM. Obviously the picture is far more complex. If anything, anthropology has taught me to be far more critical of what I see in everyday life and how I’ve been socialised into a certain world-view.

Jess, 3rd year BA Sociology and Anthropology:

Anthropology at Exeter offers a diverse range of modules that have grounded my understanding of the discipline through the study of classical texts, but that have also opened up exciting new fields ranging from childhood to medicine and even terrorism studies. Taught alongside Sociology, the dual nature of the department (particularly following the BA stream) provides the opportunity for a more inter-disciplinary approach to studying which I believe is unique to Exeter and makes the course fresh and exciting with the wider range of module choices available each term. This alongside our own personal ethnography and artefact projects has allowed me to engage practically with the course and work not simply as a student but as an anthropologist out ‘in the field’. In particular I have enjoyed the small, close knit and supportive nature of the department with students collaborating across year groups on projects and seminar discussions.

During my time here the successful Sociology and Anthropology Society have organised a range of fantastic careers talks aimed specifically at the interests of students within the department. These areas have so far included the charity sector, the police force and journalism. They have proved particularly useful in third year as a source of networking. Termly socials and end of term balls have increased the sociable nature of the degree too. Student led subject mentoring, module choice guidance, friendly, approachable and down to earth lecturers and a brilliant administrator have really contributed to my overall enjoyment of the course alongside everything else the wider University has to offer.