Florence Henry, MA Political Communication student

Florence Henry

What made you want to apply to your MA course and to Leeds?

I have a keen interest in politics, and have always been fascinated by the media. I studied International Relations for my undergraduate degree at Leeds and afterwards I was keen to study an MA in Political Communication as it incorporated my range of interests. 

While studying my undergraduate degree I became really interested in media framing when I was carrying out my dissertation on whether the media framing of ISIS terrorism created Islamophobia. I was drawn to the MA in Political Communication because it was so relevant and interesting to everyday life – learning about whether the media influences voting behaviour, the role of social media in politics and nudge theory were all so relevant. I did my undergraduate degree at Leeds and loved it so much I didn’t want to leave Leeds!

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

I think it is the relevance of the course content that makes me so passionate. It may sound a bit cliché but communications is relevant to everything around us, and discussing politics is so interesting. For instance, we even learnt about political TV dramas – doing a presentation on House of Cards, my favourite TV show, showed me I was doing the right course. Discussing the role of social media, journalism, and the media in voting behaviour is so relevant to everyday life, and so interesting. It really doesn’t feel like learning.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

I really enjoyed the variety of things that I studied in the course. I had the option to select modules which were very different from the politics ones I had focused on through-out university. For instance, I did a module called the Cultural History of Promotional Communication, which was all about the history of advertising – it gave me some commercial awareness and was interesting. 

My favourite aspect of the course though, was the vocational assignments which I took part in. For instance, I made a 10-year communications plan for the Green Party of England and Wales and it was really interesting to apply the theory I had learnt in the classroom to a real life context. In addition, we also had the opportunity to make our own campaign and present it – we created a campaign on how to increase how safe students feel on campus. Again, this opportunity to apply academic theory to a vocational environment has been worthwhile. It was also a great talking point when applying to graduate jobs.  Now that I’m working within a Communications and Campaigns Team in local government, the content I learnt during my Masters on Nudge Theory and running campaigns more generally has been useful.

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

Leeds is a great city – I love how close everything is. The campus is only a 15 minute walk to the town centre, and a 15 minute walk in the other direction to the Hyde Park area where a lot of students live. Leeds also has a lot going on which was great – live music, comedy, great nightlife and plenty of restaurants, bars and even film festivals! It’s safe to say you’ll never get bored in Leeds. Leeds is also a lot more affordable than other cities. It also has great connections. You can get to London in only 2 and a half hours, the Yorkshire Moors is 30 minutes, Manchester, or Sheffield in 45 minutes! 

What would you say about the learning facilities and teaching you experienced?

The new Laidlaw Library has great facilities and is a really nice environment to work in. The Edward Boyle Library has also now been redone and has a separate postgraduate area which is great. The MA Common Room which the School of Media and Communication offer to postgraduate students is also a great asset for both group work and independent study. 

The lecturers are passionate and experienced – especially Stephen Coleman, who really made the course so interesting and relevant for me. He’s a really well-respected Academic, who also has practical experience of speech writing for politicians meaning that he’s very well-placed to help you learn.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

There are so many activities for students at Leeds that you can get involved in – the range of societies is great. Alongside my studies I was a Politics Writer for the University Magazine Society Lippy. Last year, Pearson Education actually bought the rights to my one article to feature in an AQA English Revision Guide after finding my article online, which really shows the great opportunities that University societies provide. 

I also volunteered for a small Leeds-based Charity called the Zimbabwe Educational Trust as a Communications and operations intern which is really rewarding, and I was an admin assistant for the University of Leeds Footsteps Fund – both have increased my organisational skills! 

My MA has also given me the opportunity to get involved in some research – working with my lecturer, I’m part of a team conducting interviews with Leeds City Council on their recent campaign against domestic violence.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

Do it! The flexibility in the choice of modules, choice of essay questions and complete freedom to independently work on your dissertation means that you can really pursue your interests. The course is hugely relevant and interesting to anybody who engaged with Political Consultancy, Public Affairs or just has an interest in politics and the media. The vocational aspect of the course is also a really good selling point, and can help you to demonstrate employers that you have experience as well as knowledge. I thoroughly enjoyed my year MA, and people I meet are constantly impressed by the qualification!

What do you plan to do now you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

After finishing my MA, I secured a role on a Local Government Graduate Scheme called the National Development Scheme. I partake in four 6 month placements in different departments within Barking and Dagenham Council and have professional development training courses four times a year. The point of the graduate scheme is that I work above my pay grade and have responsibility that I wouldn’t normally be trusted with to lead on various activities. I do not think I would have been able to secure my graduate role without the vocational aspects of my MA – this gave me the edge in interviews and applications form to demonstrate that I was passionate and had worthwhile vocational experience. The knowledge about the media I have gained is now hugely helpful now that I am working in the Communications and Campaigns team of a council.