IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Q&A with Amina Harrath

Amina is a student on the Social Sciences with Quantitative Methods* BSc, class of 2020. She talks about diving right into all the opportunities available at UCL.

* From the 2020/21 academic year onwards, this degree has been renamed as the Social Sciences with Data Science BSc.

What it is like to study this degree?

I am currently in my second year and I am really enjoying it. I think the quantitative methods aspect of the degree makes you more employable because you have the quantitative skills that traditionally social scientists didn’t have. The degree is part of the UCL Q-Step Centre which provides students who want to go into research or academia with the necessary skills in quantitative research methods to carry out those research projects. 

The second year is quite different to the first year in the sense that I have a lot more flexibility. This year six out of eight of my modules are optional (two of which I can pick from another department) which is great because I can pick a niche area of the introductory subjects that I did last year and really focus on what sparked my interest. This term I picked a module from outside the department on financial management and next term I have picked a module called mergers and valuations. I have picked these to help me with my chosen career path in finance or consultancy so it is really beneficial to have that flexibility.

Tell us about your journey into university study.

I took a gap year in between my A levels and my first year of university; the main reason for that was I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to study and also career-wise I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. On my gap year I did a few internships, one at The Economist and one at the Institute of Economic Affairs (which is a free-market think tank), which made it clear to me that I still wasn’t sure!

Therefore, I wanted to have the most flexible degree programme possible - I wanted to be able to narrow down my interests each year rather than having to make a snap decision. UCL was the only university that offered social sciences with quantitative methods and I felt that all other degree programmes at other universities didn’t offer the same breadth of flexibility. So ultimately, I chose UCL because of this degree.

What is the biggest challenge you face while studying?

For this degree some students have a sociology or psychology backgrounds and other students have economics or maths backgrounds. That means people come with very different perspectives and different understandings of how society works and different interests.

At first, when people in class would refer to sociologists or philosophers who I had never heard of I felt worried that I wasn’t as aware as others. But I’ve realised that it isn’t that I lack knowledge, I am just coming at an issue from a different perspective. For instance, I know a lot more than some of my classmates about politics and history but others know a lot more sociology. Once you have come to that realisation and stop worrying it is actually a real positive to have these different perspectives as you can constantly learn from each other.

I think the most valuable aspect is being able to specialise in something that you really want to do but you also have broad array of disciplines that you are learning, so you get breadth and depth with this programme. 

What do you hope to do after completing your degree?

I’m interested in consulting. I have been trying to develop the skills you need for that through societies. Last year I was involved in UCL’s Consulting Society and this year I am going to be one of the student consultants for London Strategic Consulting which is a subsidiary of the Business Society here at UCL. Teams of UCL and LSE students consult on real life projects. Last year the clients included Depop and Deliveroo. This year the clients include Biju Bubble Tea, which is my favourite bubble tea place so I really want to work on that project.

What it is like to live and study in London?

I was born in London so it feels like home to me and it is comforting to have that familiarity. However I do want to throw myself out of my comfort zone a little bit so I am going to apply to study abroad. I am going to the Study Abroad Fair next week to find out more about my options. Based on last year’s list of partner schools I am thinking of applying to UC Berkley in California or maybe McGill in Canada, but I also want to find out about opportunities to study in Singapore or Hong Kong.

Where do you tend to study?

I cannot study at home, once I get home my brain switches off, so I mainly study at UCL libraries. I have also used other universities’ facilities such as SOAS and the LSE; all University of London institutions have access to each other’s facilities so you have loads of options of where to study. The architecture of the different libraries is very different. The main library had an old, Shakespearian feel to it but the Cruciform Library has a very modern feel to it so you can switch environments and find the place that feels right to you. 

What do you do when you’re not studying?

I am quite into sports so I started Muay Thai last year, which is a form of martial arts. 

I am involved in the Women in Finance Society, I was the first year representative last year and this year I am the treasurer. I was also involved in the Arab Society and now I am the Vice-President. I am also involved in UCL’s Bloomsbury Capital Investment Fund – there are weekly meetings and students can pitch a company that they want the fund to invest in and then together we vote on whether to invest in it and how much. If the pitch is successful we invest real money from the society’s sponsors – the size of the investment fund is around £10,000. 

I was also elected to be the first year Black and Minority Ethnic Student’s Officer for UCL’s Students’ Union which was really fun, I got to be involved in initiatives like Black History Month.

What were your first impressions of UCL?

I had an older brother who attended the university so I had an idea of what UCL was like but I don’t think anything quite prepares you for it. I think at first I was overwhelmed with all the opportunities available, but in a good way – I dived right into it and had a committee position for five different societies in my first year!

What would you say to somebody thinking of applying to the IOE to study your course?

I would definitely recommend this BSc, I don’t see a reason for people not to study it. I think when you finish school and are told that you have to make a decision of what you want to study there are two types of people: you either know what you want to study or you’re not entirely sure and you want to pick a broad subject. I think it satisfies both types of students.

If you know what you want to study you are able to pick your modules and pick what you want to specialise in. For instance, if you know for sure you don’t want to do any sociology modules you can decide to just do politics and economics. If you are the other type of student and you aren’t certain what you want to study this degree lets you try a few different things and gives you more time to make a well-informed decision of what you want to go in to.