MA application done and sent

I have received two excellent academic references from my two Level 3 Open University tutors.  I am very pleased with them.  I’m considering framing them!

I have sent these, along with my application form, to Liverpool Hope University asking to join the MA in Peace Studies starting this autumn.

Well done me.

I’m very excited.  🙂

Civil Service Fast Stream

In today’s Civil Service News bulletin email, there was reference to the Civil Service Fast Stream.  This I took to be the Civil Service’s new graduate recruitment and fast progression scheme, intended for young people just leaving university.  It seems I thought wrong:

Fast Stream opportunities to advance your career

Did you know you don’t have to be a graduate to join the Civil Service Fast Stream, the development programme for our future leaders? And you can apply from within the Civil Service. Applications for the 2018 intake are open now.
Find out what’s new in the Fast Stream

So I had a butcher’s and saw I can apply now for entry in the scheme in 2018 when I have completed my degree.  I can also apply now as a Civil Servant, regardless of having a degree.  Any Civil Servant can.  Link.

There are apprenticeships – no, thanks – internships – no, thanks – and the various schemes organised by government function.  Having gone through the schemes, one says:

Safeguarding the UK’s national security by…working to reduce conflict…
…prevent and resolve conflict; and build stability overseas.

That’s me that is!  That’s what I want to do!  Those items are listed under the responsibilities of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office within the Diplomatic Service Fast Stream.

So I have started my application.  🙂

All I need to do is the two online questionnaire tests, the e-tray exercise, the video interview and see if I have passed.  Then the application form and see if I pass the sift.  Then attend the half day assessment at the assessment centre to such exercises as the leadership exercise, the group exercise and the analysis exercise and see if I pass that.  (I have done part of one of those days before some years ago and it went horribly wrong for me; they had the wrong exercises and, well, what do I know about being an HR Director?)  Then it is the final selection process will be an assessment at an assessment centre with specialist assessments to assess capability and motivations.  If assessed as successful, I presume one has jumped through the acceptance hoops.  Then it’ll just be probation, training, assessment, placements for 2 to 3 years, resulting in a potential salary of £28k circa 2021 but doing a job I passionately want to do.

If I don’t get accepted the first time – as many don’t – I can reapply a year later.  That will be after my Master’s Degree so is better anyway.

A template for university essay introductions

An article in the Guardian entitled How to write better essays: ‘nobody does introductions properly’ has, toward the end, a template for any essay that produces an ideal introduction in under 100 words.  I was not convinced.  He says:

Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.

I was going to strongly disagree and came up with an example to prove it, but failed.  I took his template:

Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.

and tried turning it into a very simple (and silly) introduction to prove it cannot be done in 100 words:

I am going to argue that in visual perception black is actually white.  I am going to substantiate this with the claims that black is black, white is white and in between are shades of grey.  I am going to refer to Tom, Dick and Harry who say black is dark, white is light and there is a sliding scale between them.  I will conclude with some thoughts on how reading 50 Shades of Grey will pass some time but it will not clarify our understanding of optical perception in humans.

But that’s only 91 words.  He might actually be right.  His template might be a good one.

Oops, I forgot the “Never use the first person” rule that applies in some subjects.  Second attempt:

This essay argues that rodents in the visual media don’t always like aged pressed milk curds.  This will substantiated with examples from old cartoons, feature films and modern digital cinematography, drawing on productions by Fred Quimby, Walt Disney and Pixar.  Their works demonstrate titbit-laden mousetraps, no dairy products and toy rodents who don’t eat at all.  The essay will conclude that it depends on context but that there is an age to cheesiness correlation, and it might be worth watching some Dreamworks videos for further research.

How’s that for a comprehensive media studies TMA introduction in 86 words?

I’m convinced.  What do you think of this method?

What is the learned journal for peace?

I started writing this in August 2015 and got stuck.

I’ve been wondering something for a week or two.  If I want to do research into alternatives to war, and there is such a thing as Peace Studies, then there must be a relevant learned journal.  The place where relevant articles are published for peer review.  I should have subscribed to it ages ago.  But what and where is it?

Courtesy of Google I see there is more than one. Searches I have tried:

  • “learned journal” “peace studies”
  • “peer-reviewed journal” “peace studies”

Searches I need to do: The OU library.


Title: Conflict Management and Peace Science
ISSN: Digital: 15499219 Print: 07388942
Publisher: Peace Science Society (International)
Desc’n: A peer-reviewed journal. Contains scientific papers on topics such as: international conflict; arms races; the effect of international trade on political interactions; foreign policy decision making; international mediation; and game theoretic approaches to conflict and cooperation. Features original and review articles focused on news and events related to the scientific study of conflict and peace.
Began: 1973
Frequency: 5 times per year (supposedly)
Cost: One article: £18. Either one issue or one year: £69
Comment: About 5 articles per issue. Only abstracts available online. Looks more like war studies than peace studies.

Title: Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal
ISSN: Electronic: 1911-9933 Print: 1911-0359
Publisher: The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS)
Desc’n: A much-needed forum for discussion. Fosters awareness of the atrocities linked to genocide while promoting the necessity of prevention. This peer-reviewed journal publishes articles on the latest developments in policy, research, and theory from various disciplines including history, political science, sociology, psychology, international law, criminal justice, women’s studies, religion, philosophy, literature, anthropology and art history.
Began: 2006
Frequency: 3 issues / year
Cost: Free
Comment: About 10 articles per issue.

Title: The International Journal for Peace Studies
Publisher: The International Peace Research Association (IPRA)
Desc’n: An educational research journal with articles on the causes and solutions to the social, cultural, and ethnic conflicts in the world.
Began: 1996
Frequency: 2 issues per year
Cost: Free
Comment: All articles are available online

Title: Journal of Conflict Resolution
ISSN: Digital: 15528766 Paper: 00220027
Publisher: Peace Science Society (International)
Desc’n: Peer-reviewed, provides scholars and researchers with the latest studies and theories on the causes of and solutions to the full range of human conflict. Focuses on conflict between and within states, but also explores a variety of inter-group and interpersonal conflicts that may help in understanding problems of war and peace.
Began: 1957
Frequency: 8 times / year, supposedly.
Cost: £17 for an article. £107 for, probably, a year.
Comment: About 8 articles per issue.

Title: Journal of Peace Research
ISSN: 00223433
Publisher: Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Desc’n: An interdisciplinary and international peer reviewed bimonthly journal of scholarly work in peace research.  Strives for a global focus on conflict and peacemaking.  Encourages a wide conception of peace, but focuses on the causes of violence and conflict resolution.
Began: 1964
Frequency: Bi-monthly
Cost: £80 per something.  Probably a year.
Comment: Can download a few articles.  Can subscribe to the Table of Contents.

Title: Journal of Peace Studies
Publisher: International Centre for Peace Studies
Desc’n: An interdisciplinary approach and aims at promoting peace and understanding among societies of the world in general and South Asian societies in particular.
Began: 1993
Frequency: Quarterly
Cost: ?  I cannot see how to obtain it.
Comment: Produced by the International Center for Peace Studies

Title: Peace Research: The Canadian Journal of Peace and Conflict Studies
ISSN: 0008-4697
Publisher: Menno Simons College, Canadian Mennonite University
Desc’n: Canada’s oldest and primary scholarly journal in its area.  Distributed internationally.  Publishes broadly on issues of conflict, violence, poverty, just peace and human well-being. Peace and conflict studies holds peace as a value, and peaceful methods as the most desirable form of conflict transformation.
Began: 1969
Frequency: Twice a year
Cost: $US 60 / year
Comment: Can download a few articles from 2007 to 2013 for free.

Title: Peace Studies Journal
ISSN: 2151-0806
Publisher: Central New York Peace Studies Consortium
Desc’n: An international peer-reviewed scholarly open access journal in the field of peace, conflict and justice studies.
Began: 2007
Frequency: 4 issues / year
Cost: Free
Comment: About 5 articles per issue.

Title: x
Publisher: x
URL: x
Desc’n: x
Began: x
Frequency: x
Cost: x
Comment: x

Center for Peacemaking Practice, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

Now in February 2017 it has just dawned on me to search the OU Library for journals with ‘peace’ in the name where they have the text available online and it is within the last 20 years and in English.  They hold ten items:

Title: Conflict management and peace science (Online)
Author: Peace Science Society (International)
Subjects: International relations — Research — Periodicals; Peace — Research – Periodicals
Publisher: Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Sage Publications
Identifier: ISSN:0738-8942
Publication date(s): 1980-1999
Opinion: looks good.

Title: Journal of peace education (Online)
Author: International Peace Research Association. Peace Education Commission.
Subjects: Peace — Study and teaching — Periodicals; Peace — Periodicals; Peace; Peace — Study and teaching
Publisher: Abingdon, Oxfordshire : Carfax Pub.
Identifier: ISSN:1740-0201
Publication date(s): 2004
Opinion: looks really interesting and relevant.

Title: Journal of international peace operations (Online)
Author: International Peace Operations Association.; International Stability Operations Association, issuing body.
Subjects: Peaceful change (International relations) — Periodicals; Political science — Foreign relations — Periodicals; Peaceful change (International relations)
Publisher: Washington, DC : International Peace Operations Association
Identifier: ISSN:1933-8198
Publication date(s): 2006
Opinion: stuck in the weird OU ‘loop11’ loop.

Title: Global change, peace & security.
Author: La Trobe University. Centre for Dialogue, issuing body.; La Trobe University. Institute for Human Security, issuing body.
Subjects: Security, International — Periodicals; Peaceful change (International relations) — Periodicals
Publisher: Abingdon, Oxfordshire : Routledge
Identifier: ISSN:1478-1158
Publication date(s): ©2003-
Opinion: has some really interesting looking articles.

Title: Journal of aggression, conflict and peace research Elektronische Ressource
Publisher: Bingley Emerald
Publication date(s): 2009-
Opinion: Primarily about interpersonal violence, does have a few articles on international violence.

Title: The journal of peace, prosperity & freedom.
Author: Liberty Australia (Organization)
Subjects: Libertarianism — Australia — Periodicals
Publisher: Brunswick, VIC : Liberty Australia
Identifier: ISSN:2200-3037
Publication date(s): 2012]-
Opinion: Three issues and nothing of interest.

Title: International journal of engineering, social justice and peace.
Subjects: Engineering ethics — Periodicals; Engineering — Social aspects — Periodicals
Publisher: Kingston, Ontario : Queen’s University
Identifier: ISSN:1927-9434
Publication date(s): 2012-
Opinion: Can’t get to it online (it has moved) and it doesn’t look relevant anyway.

Title: Peace and democracy in South Asia .
Author: Stockholms universitet. Politics of Development Group.; Asiawide Network.
Subjects: Peace — Periodicals; Democracy — South Asia — Periodicals; South Asia — Periodicals
Publisher: Malaysia : Asiawide Network
Publication date(s): c2004-
Opinion: three issues.  Cannot see anything immediately relevant.

Title: Performance and accountability report
Author: Peace Corps (U.S.)
Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.) — Periodicals; Peace Corps (U.S.)
Publisher: Washington, DC : Peace Corps
Identifier: ISSN:1930-1251
Publication date(s): 2004-
Opinion: Useless, broken link.

Less conventional postgraduate peace degrees

In a discussion about transferability of degree modules, it got me thinking about the history of universities and how 900 years ago one could switch between Bologna, Paris and Oxford universities willy-nilly because they offered the same curriculum.  Now it is really hard to get one university to give credits fro study in another even in the same country.  Division and protectionism, even in education.

Anyway, international peace degrees.

The University for Peace or UPEACE is (according to Wikipedia) “an intergovernmental organization with university status established in 1980 and based Costa Rica“.  I have looked at it before and eliminated it primarily on not having $US15,000 and partly because of lack of recognition for the qualification.  I also wasn’t too impressed with the course content.

The United Nations University or UNI is (according to Wikipedia) “the academic and research arm of the United Nations, established in 1973.  Based in Tokyo, Japan, has since 2010 been authorized to grant degrees. It provides a bridge between the UN and the international academic, policy-making and private sector communities.”  Most of its programmes seem to be about international development with the exception of the Institute for Sustainability and Peace Tokyo (Wikipedia) (their web site is down as I write this).  Even their Master’s Degrees are about the environment, sustainability and public policy rather than peace.  So, no conflict prevention type degrees.

Both are dead ends for me.

Lancaster University Post-Graduate Open Day

Went to Lancaster University today to attend one of their many post-graduate open days.  It has seemed to me other universities only have the one day per year, or bundle post-graduates in the the undergraduates, but Lancaster University have made more of an effort.

I attended by bus from Lancaster town centre.  Although it is just outside the city centre, it is easy to get to by bus if you live in Lancaster.  There is an underpass road with the bus stops down there.  This means the buses drop you off right in the centre of the university campus, but there is no traffic on the campus.  It is very cleverly done.  You just go down a staircase and voilà! there’s a road and bus stops down there.

It was better run and better organised the the others I have been to.  It started at 1 pm and, being a Thursday, the weekly market stalls were up.  The centre of the university is like a tiny town centre with a WH Smiths, Greggs, cash machines, Costa and a bunch of other shops.  It feels like a new town’s town centre, especially with these farmer’s market type market stalls which are there every week during term times.

Personally escorted round the library taking in the very collections I personally needed.

Big chat with a departmental manager about the options.

Discovered that if only 1 person chooses a module, it gets run, unlike elsewhere.

I can do a custom degree (within reason).

One can attend all the department’s lectures; this means if one changes one’s mind about which 5 modules to do, it is less of a problem.  Just start out by doing all the ones you want and not doing the 5,000 word essays in the ones you want to drop.

St Andrews University open day

I attended the St Andrews University open day to see if it was somewhere I would want to do a master’s degree in peace studies.

The town is pretty, small and full of history.  It is also clearly a town around a university, not a university in a town.  Over a third of the 20,000 population are students.

Learning is self-driven.  There would be four contact (teaching) hours per week with tutors doing more when they can; Peace Studies would typically be five hours per week.  I am capable of self-learning, it is the teaching I would be paying for.  I want more than that.

It does not feel like a suitable environment for a mature student.  There’s nothing to do.

We could not afford to live there.

I am sure it is brilliant for an independent, focused, young adult with self-control and a passion for their subject.

But I’m ruling it out for me for cost and value-for-money reasons.

St Andrews University open day, pre-research

I’m in St Andrews in Scotland today to see what the town is like.  Tomorrow is the St Andrews University post-graduate open day.  The university has an excellent reputation for peace studies so it needed to go on my shopping list, despite it looking too expensive with too few work prospects and, therefore, an unrealistic option.

We’re staying at The Inn at Lathones, a very comfortable and welcoming hotel just outside St Andrews.  They kept the restaurant open for us when we arrived quite late last night and the dinner was excellent.  So was breakfast this morning.  The staff are great and, as every visit to Scotland has confirmed to me, the Scots are friendly and generous people.

The wander round the town was interesting.  It is obviously a university & tourism & golf town.

I stumbled across Student Accommodation Services by accident, popped in and they could not have been more helpful.  Lots of information and advice and a map of the town.

I had an excellent pint and a couple of free tasters in The Central in Market Street, a Victorian boozer with an excellent atmosphere and surroundings.

We picked up some bits for Christmas and gizzits for people in the friendly shops.  I got speculative costs from the letting agents for various forms of private accommodation of various sizes (although Premier Lettings was a bit snooty and unhelpful, warning me it was a bit expensive and not even wanting to give me a business card when I asked).

A bit disappointed the public loo was 30p and I had no change.  Also, I tried to buy a free bookmark in the Salvation Army shop for 20p so I could get some change, but they said it had no code on the till so could not take my money.  So, back to the pub to use theirs, and make a booking for dinner.

Then I saw the university’s Student Careers office.  I had to pop in.

When I first expressed an interest in working in the peace sector, one of the very first things I found was a page on the St Andrews University Careers Service web site about the peace sector.  That page was the start of my research.  I could not resist the opportunity to pop in and have a happy exchange with these good people.

At the desk was a young chap.  I asked if I was in the right place for student careers advice.  He sat back in his chair as if avoiding a leper, pulled a face as if encountering a blocked toilet and said:

Yes.  This is for students only.  The Job Centre is over that way“, flicking his hand in the general direction of ‘away’ like a dowager duchess dismissing a beggar.

I was at a loss for words.  I had been dismissed and was expected to depart from his presence at once.

The arrogant, stuck-up, public-school, elitist prick had, in a few words, managed to undo an awful lot of good impression created by the town.  I felt embarrassed and not posh enough to be in this town of big expensive cars and daughters of rich daddies.  Suddenly the attitude in Premier Lettings explained itself, the 30p for a wee, the types of shops (no mobile ‘phone or 99p shops here!, just a M&S Food Hall the size of most supermarkets elsewhere), the inflated prices of everything.  However, the caff with the sign “Kate met Wills in here” still seemed tawdry.

Is this a good university?  Or merely an expensive one?  They are not the same thing.  Right now, it feels all fur coat and no knickers.   Tomorrow, we shall see what the academic side is like.

Update:  we went back into town for dinner.  At the table next to us were three men.  One was saying to one of the others (amongst other, similar comments):

  • “We turned down 50 students who wanted to learn this shit.”
  • “I’ve brought you all the way up here to convince you you already have this job.”
  • “I already know who is getting the post doc places.  Now it is a matter of convincing them to apply.”
  • “I need to see your CV so I can tell you what the Master wants to see in it.”
  • “Make sure you tell them you have another job offer.  It tells them you are in demand.”

Master’s degree in Peace Studies – what to think about

A useful resource for what to think about when considering doing a master’s degree is the postgrad digital magazine from, here.

It includes tips on:

  • questions to ask at a postgraduate fair (what the universities call their visiting days or open days, I presume) such as “How did last year’s students obtain funding?”
  • that one should apply at least eight months before the course starts
  • how to write a personal statement (whatever one of those is)
  • studying abroad.

As I am shopping around at the moment for where to do such a master’s degree I have lots of questions.

  • Do I want a master’s degree or a research master’s degree?
  • What modules make up the degree?
    • and are they relevant for my career aspirations?
    • and will I learn stuff I want to learn?
    • and will I learn stuff I need to learn?
  • Will an Honours Degree in Philosophy and Psychology qualify me for the course?
  • What are the fees?
  • What funding options are there?
  • Is it “master’s degree” or “masters degree”?
  • How long is it?
    • If it is for two years, does one attend in the second year?
  • Will I be doing a PhD after the master’s degree?
    • Will this master’s degree help m get onto a PhD course?
    • Should I do an MPhil instead?
    • Or maybe an MRes?
  • Will it still be running when I want to do it?
  • How realistic for me is the geographic location?
  • Will it be prestigious?
  • Is the title of the master’s degree a suitable one?
  • How many ECTS credits is it worth?
    • How many ECTS credits do I need / want?

Regarding the ECTS business, ECTS is the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System.  A degree earns credits which are transferable across Europe.  Typically, each year is worth 60 ECTS credits where each credit is about 25 to 30 hours of work.  Most European master’s programmes (‘programmes’ seems to be what they call them) are worth 90-120 ECTS credits.  However, UK master’s degrees only last one year and are—supposedly—worth 180 UK credits where two UK credits are equivalent to one ECTS credit.  However, I can see some UK master’s degrees are worth only 60 ECTS credits rather than 90.  The Open University says two of its credits are equivalent to one ECTS credit, so an OU master’s degree (180 OU credits) is 90 ECTS credits.

University of St Andrews – Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies

I keep seeing University of St Andrews Peace Studies MA being referenced so St Andrews is on my list of potential places to go to do an MA in Peace Studies. It is actually an MPhil or MLitt in Peace and Conflict Studies.  They have a postgraduate open day on 11th November 2015 which is an appropriate day (Remembrance Day) to find out about their peace studies.  That looks like a jolly good idea, especially since we like Edinburgh.

So, how to get there.  Oh.  I thought St Andrews Uni wa in Edinburgh.  It’s not.  By quite a lot.  It’s in a place called… St Andrews.  Which does not have a train station.  That’s not convenient.  And it’s a 90 minute to 2 hour commute from Edinburgh, or an hour from Dundee.

For me to study, requires us to have an income.  We’d have to move to where there are jobs.  I don’t think St Andrews is practical because of the lack of public transport to get there.

Such a shame.