Univ Dates: 2013-2015
Degree: DPhil International Relations
Degree Level: Postgraduate
Occupation: Research Associate at the UCL European Institute
Biography: Benjamin joined UCL in 2016 as a Research Associate. He previously worked as a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University, Lecturer in International Relations at Wadham College, Oxford, and Associate Lecturer at Portsmouth Business School.
Benjamin was awarded his DPhil in 2015 for a thesis on the party politics of Cold War strategy. He also holds an MPhil in International Relations (Distinction) from St Antony’s College, Oxford, and an MSc in International Relations (Distinction) and BSc in Government from the London School of Economics. He was awarded Oxford’s Deirdre and Malone Thesis Prize for his MPhil dissertation on Anglo-American relations, as well as the ISA’s Alexander George Award for his paper on seat-share and executive autonomy in majoritarian parliamentary systems.
Benjamin’s research lies at the nexus of International Relations, Comparative Politics and Foreign Policy Analysis. It examines how diverse ideological traditions imagine ‘the international’ and how these different worldviews are channelled through domestic political institutions, with a particular focus on the politics of West European security. He is currently researching the effects of national party systems and domestic institutions on the development of liberal international order, the relationship between political ideology and mainstream International Relations theory, and the applicability of the ‘horseshoe model’ of partisanship in foreign policy issues.
Did you have any particular preconceptions of Oxford or College?
I suppose so; I was previously at St Anthony’s and it was one of the newer graduate colleges and there always seemed to me to be a disconnect between the graduate side of Oxford and the older colleges, mostly specialising in undergraduate education. I guess my preconception was that Univ was going to be very traditional, far more so than St Anthony’s, but that wasn’t the case at all – Univ was very, very progressive.
Any particular influences from your time at Univ?
Most of the graduate level teaching was done by the department for the DPhil, but that said I spent most of my time at Univ talking to the political scientists, which would include Sir Ivor, Karolina Milewicz, Marc Stears – that was the main intellectual community that I was spending time with. I think what was quite nice was that Univ was well linked with the department of politics; it’s a very interlinked environment. It’s Oxford working at its best…
Can you tell us more about what you are doing now?
I’m pursuing an academic career that combines twin strands of research and of teaching. For the last year I have been working as a lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church; whilst I was focusing on teaching there I have now moved to University College London where I’m working more on the research side. That tends to be the side that most academics are keen to get involved in because you have more ability to determine what you have to research. I enjoy teaching, I really love it, but the ability to set your own research agenda is very exciting and, more cynically, better for career advancement.
How did it feel to be asked to be part of this project?
It’s really flattering to know that the College still takes an interest in what I’m doing and it’s really good to have the opportunity to come back to Oxford, get myself back in the bubble for a day, and be in this beautiful environment.
What do you think the gallery project can help to achieve?
It’s really good to establish connections between past and present students; it’s good for current students to understand what kinds of opportunities there are available and waiting for them and to see the sorts of career paths that might be waiting for them. Sometimes they might have an idea of what it is they want to do, but not necessarily any idea as to how to go about it. If you can showcase what leavers are doing a few years further along it gives a good idea of what can be done. It’s also good to address the balance between the most successful alumni who graduated longer ago and that gap in the middle – what do I look like perhaps three years out of Univ?