Matthew Lovatt, MA Political Communication student

Matthew Lovatt

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

Though I grew up and went to school in Stoke-On-Trent, Leeds has increasingly become a second home to me. I’ve spent many personally important and intellectually rewarding years studying and living here, completing a BA in English Language, an MA in Political Communication, and just recently beginning a PhD in the School of Media and Communication. 

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

The decision to apply to the University of Leeds has always been an easy one for me. From my experience of the University at an undergraduate level, I knew that the University was a place that I could trust to nurture and support my studies. The libraries are modern and well-resourced; the teachers are engaging and thought-provoking; and the campus is great place to both work and socialise. I’ve taken various modules, had lessons by many different teachers, and studied across two different schools. My experience has invariably been a positive one, and I’m sure that will continue throughout my PhD!

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

I have always been interested in the relationship between language, the media, and politics, so I knew that the MA Political Communication would provide me with the perfect opportunity to explore these concepts in an academic context. I’m passionate about my subject, and this stems largely from my belief that communication is central to society’s democratic well-being. For the sake of a healthier democracy, it is integral that we better understand the changing ways in which politicians, the media, and citizens interact, and how this may have important consequences for democratic ideals related to citizenship, representation, and equality. 

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

What I found most enjoyable about the course was gaining a more complex understanding of something I’d been interested in for years: politics. It felt rewarding to think that I was gaining specialist knowledge about the important political events that people debate about in the pub or across the family dinner table. In the past, I’d been quite steadfast and narrow-minded in my beliefs about politics, and the course prompted me to think about issues in different and more complex ways. This has been crucial for my intellectual development and for any future work I’ll be doing in my PhD. Most of all, on a personal level, it has made it a lot easier to win arguments about politics with my dad!

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

It’s great to live in Leeds, not least because of the sheer diversity of things to do. Whatever you’re interested in – be it food, sport, theatre, music, nightlife, or history – you can be rest assured that there’s something for you here. Personally, I enjoy spending time in Headingley. It’s a bit quieter than the city centre, and there are lots of pubs, cafes, and restaurants to enjoy.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

I was drawn to the School of Media and Communication because I knew it had a reputation for being one of the best in the country. The School provides excellent facilities for its Masters students, like its dedicated postgraduate room, and there are also a wide-range of interesting modules to choose from taught by internationally renowned scholars. As well as this, the libraries on campus are exceptionally well resourced, and they provide students with pleasant environments to work in, whether working alone or in-groups. Naturally, all three libraries have good access to coffee, which can be absolutely essential if you’re in need of a caffeine recharge!

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

Another particularly impressive aspect of the University is the huge array of clubs, societies, and activities on offer. In the past, I’ve been involved with the student newspaper and a couple of my school’s reading groups, but you can get involved in lots of different things like political campaigning, volunteering, sports, music, culture, spirituality, and many others. There’s even a Quidditch team! 

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

For anyone thinking of applying to the MA Political Communication course, the events of the last two years have shown that there is no better time to do so. In Britain, Brexit and the most recent General Election result shocked political commentators and pundits, while developments across the pond with Trump have been equally perplexing. New terms have been introduced to the political lexicon (like “post-truth”, “alternative facts”, and “fake news”), and there is a growing emphasis on how people are interacting with new media like Twitter and Facebook. There is a sense that we are living in an increasingly volatile and unpredictable political environment, and the MA Political Communication is a great opportunity to learn about – and contribute to – nuanced understandings of these crucial political developments.

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?

I enjoyed my MA course so much that I signed up for another three years! I’m now studying for a PhD, which is being funded by a The White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH) Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Competition Studentship. It explores the concept of political storytelling, with a particular focus on British politicians and their recent tendency to use anecdotes and personal narratives in their public and parliamentary addresses. It’s supervised across both the School of Media and Communication and the School of English, by Professor Stephen Coleman and Dr Fiona Douglas. I hope to use the knowledge and skills I learnt during my MA to come up with a well-written thesis, with the hope of eventually having an academic career!