The Constitution Unit


Volunteer Tales

Jeremy Swan volunteered on the Special Advisors Project, he gives an account of his experience as an intern.

"I applied to the Constitution Unit shortly after graduating with a masters in medieval history. I really wanted a career in political research and policy, and I knew how important it was to gain hands-on experience. I began in April 2012 and started working with Dr Ben Yong on the Government Legal Services and Special Advisers projects. I was treated very much as a member of the team and was given ample opportunity to develop my research, media monitoring and writing skills. The Constitution Unit also offered me the opportunity to attend interesting seminars covering a wide range of topics, such as elected mayors. Since leaving the Constitution Unit, I have gone on to hold various positions in Parliament, the City of London Corporation and I am presently based at a foreign affairs think tank. I had a fantastic experience at the Constitution Unit and I look back at my time there with much fondness and gratitude. If you are interested in pursuing a career in politics, then an internship at the Constitution Unit will provide you with an excellent grounding in the skills that employers look for."

Will Smith, who went on to intern with Margot James MP in Westminster, gives and account of his experience at the Unit

"I was lucky enough to get onto the Unit's internship as soon as I graduated from university. I worked with Dan and the Parliament team, looking into the influence of select committees. This meant collating references to select committees in the bills we were looking at, and then coding them for future analysis. I thoroughly enjoyed this given my interests in British politics and my ambition to work in Parliament. 

The whole experience of being at the forefront of the argument was fantastic, and it was really interesting to see how research units worked. Beyond the academia, everyone was very welcoming and helpful, and always included us interns in their social events. The unit provided me with invaluable experience, and for anybody interested in politics, I would highly recommend it."

Babak Moussavi, gives and account of his experience at the Unit and what he did next. 

"I was at the Unit in early 2011. I worked on Meg Russell and Meghan Benton's project examining the impact of select committees. My main task was coding the data from LexisNexis to see whether media coverage had an effect on the likelihood of the government accepting or implementing the committees' recommendations. It was a great three months, and I learned a lot about parliament, the constitution, select committees, and British politics in general, as well as useful office skills, including how to use Microsoft Access, LexisNexis and SPSS.

After completing the internship, I almost immediately started working as an intern at the Europaeum in Oxford, which is an association of leading universities around Europe, and works to promote research collaboration between its partner institutions. That lasted for three months, but I continued to work as a research assistant there once it was completed. At the end of the year I was offered a job as a research assistant by the director of the Europaeum to work on his personal research project on Indian politics. As a result, I travelled to India for three months at the beginning of the year to interview Indian MPs. Following that I went back to the Europaeum for a while, but ended up back in India before long, and am here again on my third stint until July. I have interviewed 50 Indian MPs to date. I am also working part-time at the Indian Institute of Social Sciences in Delhi, and have been plying my slightly more random trade as a card magician at various events in the capital. In addition, I was recently accepted to study the MSc Contemporary India at Oxford University next year."

Martha Spurrier, a Cambridge history graduate, gives an account of her experience 

"I started at the Constitution Unit in February, having graduated with a history degree the previous summer. I worked for Dr Meg Russell, on various aspects of her House of Lords project. I can honestly say that working at the Unit has been a rewarding venture into the real world. The work that I have been doing has been incredibly varied and I have been given the freedom to follow my own initiative and often to choose the tasks that appeal to me. Whether I have found myself doing literature reviews in the majestic armchairs of the House of Lords library or analysing the latest voting rebellion, I have always been interested, challenged and given real responsibility. The Unit is a very friendly place to be, but it is also a place of academic integrity and public profile which commands the kind of respect that can really brighten up a CV."

Ben Yong gives an account of his experience as an intern before becoming a Reserach Associate at the Constitution Unit

"My time as an intern was so interesting. Working under Robert Hazell, I quickly finished a short literature review on judicial legitimacy and the new UK Supreme Court. Robert then asked me to look at the experience of minority government in New Zealand, and what, if any, lessons Westminster could learn. Robert gave me a general outline, and then allowed me the freedom to explore and analyse the topic as I wished. I was encouraged to do a set of phone interviews with various NZ journalists, academics, politicians and political advisors on their experience of coalition and minority government-this was something I particularly enjoyed as early on I'd expressed an interest in doing qualitative work. 

You are treated as someone who can make a real contribution; the work is intellectually challenging; you are always learning something new about how government 'really' works. I think what's best about the Constitution Unit is that the work and events are varied so there is always something interesting going on."