Department of Political Science


Best Dissertation Prize: Rory Springbett

13 January 2021

Congratulations to Rory Springbett, MSc International Public Policy student who has been awarded the Best Dissertation Prize. Find out about the project and his experience below.


Dissertation Title – ‘Towards Diversification: Assessing the Impact of US Aid for Trade on Recipient Country Export Performance.’

I began my dissertation journey with a desire to investigate a topic that touched on international trade and political economy, as I have always been intrigued by the intersection of economic development and statecraft. After reading around the subject of Aid for Trade, I was motivated to use it as a platform to combine discussion on the nuances of political economy with a quantitative assessment of the trading performance of developing countries, with a particular focus on export diversity. Settling on my topic was incredibly exciting, and I was determined to use empirical analysis to draw meaningful policy conclusions.

Some of the main challenges lay in transforming raw data into variables that could be modelled to provide substantive insights. I needed to understand how any differences in datatype would impact the conclusions that I could draw from each variable. Furthermore, given that the topic of export diversity represents a relatively new and under-studied area of the Aid for Trade debate, I needed to show how my research was relevant to the wider literature. I therefore relied on a clear theoretical approach to set up the background to my own empirical analysis. This helped greatly when evaluating my results in the discussion section.

In undertaking this project, I built on the quantitative methods skills gained at UCL by further developing my knowledge of statistical analysis and data handling. I am truly thankful for this, as I can take these skills forward with future work and research. I also learnt that it is important to be ambitious when embarking on a dissertation. Projects which set out to test a core set of hypotheses to the fullest extent, as well as being the most conclusive, are often the most satisfying for the researcher.

I would suggest to any student undertaking a dissertation project that it is vital to understand the evolving debate around their topic, particularly if their work relates to a broad policy area. There is rarely consensus on issues in public policy and there is almost always scope for further study. Grasping the academic and practical context will help students to situate their own work in the literature, and this helps when identifying which issues require further research. It is encouraging as a researcher to provide a unique and consequential take on an issue.

Overall, my dissertation journey was an unforgettable experience and I hope to take forward the lessons learned into all aspects of my life. I would like to thank everyone at UCL, along with my friends and family, who supported me along the way.