The first-year PhD cohort at the LSE’s Department of Social Policy includes students in the Social Policy and the Demography/Population Studies programmes. At a recent seminar, they discussed why they chose this programmes, and the pros and cons of being in a multidisciplinary department. The conversation generated six posts that will be posted on the Social Policy Blog over the coming weeks, which together demonstrate the wide variety of research topics the department accommodates, and the intellectual, practical, and personal factors that contribute to choosing to study here. This may prove useful for future students who might be deciding whether a research degree at LSE’s Social Policy department might be right for them, too.
In conversation with Eliz Wong.
What are you studying?
I’m a first year PhD student in the Department of Social Policy
What is your background?
I completed an MPhil in Multi-Disciplinary Gender Studies at the University of Cambridge on a full scholarship from the Women Foundation Hong Kong in 2017, prior to which I received an MPhil (2016) and an honours bachelor’s degree (2014) in Sociology from The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Before joining the PhD programme, I worked as a researcher for the Sexualities Research Programme at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where I focused on LGBTQ+ politics and policies in Hong Kong and Mainland China.
Did you apply to other schools?
Yes. I applied for several schools in the UK and received 3 PhD offers with full scholarships. I decided to choose the Social Policy Department at LSE because it is my best choice.
Why did you choose the Social Policy department?
In general, my research examines laws, policies and cultural norms related to sexual orientation and gender identity, discrimination, gender, sexualities and family. In my PhD thesis, I am exploring the impact of family planning and eldercare policies on LGB Chinese. I have also engaged with different research related to LGBTQ+ policies and public opinion.
As a scholar, I seek to conduct rigorous research which can induce social change. Previous experience researching controversial public policy debates, includes legislation anti-discrimination on sexual orientation in Hong Kong, helped me realise the crucial role that good systematic research can have in providing a comprehensive understanding of social issues and a more solid ground for problem-solving and policy advocacy. Controversial public debates are often times clouded with emotions and personal viewpoints, while empirical research can path the way for rational dialogue with different stakeholders. It can inform policy debates and engage stakeholders across various sectors.
The Department of Social Policy at LSE can provide me strong multi-disciplinary research training. The specialization of families and sexualities, inequalities, NGOs and civil society development in the Department is highly relevant to my research; perhaps more importantly, my supervisor, Dr Timothy Hildebrandt, is a well-established expert in the field of Chinese civil society and LGBT policies. His expertise matches with my research and I am sure I can learn so much from him.
How is the experience so far? What are the pros and cons?
My experience is very good. I feel supported by my supervisors and the Department. Also, LSE has provided me numerous opportunities to join seminars and events related to global issues. Also, the PhD Academy provides us a lot of trainings on both academic and practical skills. I particularly enjoy the one-to-one couching, which aims to address our academic challenges, e.g. goal setting, time management and career planning.
Also, living in London is fascinating. I have many opportunities to connect with excellent scholars at LSE and other institutions. I am so honoured to be invited as a panel speaker in seminars organised by University of Westminster, LSE and Queer East Film Festival to share my work on LGBTQ+ rights in the Greater China region. Moreover, there are a lot of amazing events organised by different NGOs. These are great opportunities for me to understand various social issues with different perspectives.
Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the Social Policy Blog, nor of the London School of Economics.