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Queen Mary Students Complete ‘Virtual’ Parliamentary Placements

Another group of Queen Mary politics students have had the chance to work with an MP as part of their degree programme. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, for the first time ever, the placements have been held entirely online.

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Houses of Parliament. Credit: Pixabay
Houses of Parliament. Credit: Pixabay

Final year students at the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London have the opportunity to undertake a placement with an MP as an integral part of their studies.

The module gives students a view of British parliamentary politics from the inside and they undertake their placements between January and April.

To prepare for the experience, students will usually have first taken our separate Parliamentary Studies module. This is designed to give a solid academic and practical understanding of how Westminster works, and is taught in collaboration with the Houses of Parliament.

Since 2014 Queen Mary’s parliamentary placement students have worked for parliamentarians from all the main parties. This year’s cohort worked with Conservative, Labour and Scottish National Party MPs.

How do the placements work?

Students spend two days per week working for the parliamentarian. Traditionally, placements took place either at Westminster or in constituency offices. This year, just like many other parliamentary staffers, the students joined their placements online.

Students who take the parliamentary placement module at Queen Mary receive credits towards their degree. They are assessed by completing a reflective journal of their day-to-day experiences and putting together a portfolio of the work they have done.

The placement opportunity is intensive and often demanding, but provides experience and useful skills for students interested in a career in politics or politically related fields. Responsibilities vary from producing research briefings for MPs, writing newsletters and supporting with administrative tasks.

Academic rigour combined with practical knowledge

Reem Mohiaddin worked for a Labour MP. She said: “The placement provided an opportunity for me to apply the knowledge gained from my degree to the real world. Being introduced to the UK parliamentary system beforehand, through the earlier Parliamentary Studies module, made things more straightforward and less stressful. This opportunity also allowed me to develop as a person.”

Alice Routledge worked for a Scottish National Party MP. She said: “Parliamentary Studies was a brilliant introduction to the literature and theory behind parliament. I would have been lost without the knowledge it prepared me with for the placement. The internship itself was an unparalleled learning experience as things move quickly within an MP’s office.”

Callum Murphy worked for a Conservative MP. He said: “The opportunity has given me a real insight into parliament that working for an MP requires. After the placement I landed my first job working for an MP, and I am able to use the experience my studies gave me to help me in my new role and future ones.”

Employability and skills development

Harjinder Chauhan worked for a Labour MP. He said: “I really enjoyed the internship and it has done my confidence wonders as I have developed my research and writing skills. The internship changed my perceptions about Westminster being dominated by Oxbridge graduates.”

Imogen Ainslie worked for a Conservative MP. She said: “I had to push myself to succeed in learning all of the information whilst working from home. I built up an independence and resilience that I did not have before. In sum, this has been an invaluable experience.”

Sarah Fatih worked for a Labour MP. She said: “Working with an MP is an unpredictable and exciting experience. This placement has been an excellent opportunity for me to gain invaluable experience in the parliamentary process and apply my skills. There is an incredibly rewarding feeling working in the heart of democracy and as a result I was lucky enough to go through a lot of personal development.”

Alexander O’Riordan worked for a Labour MP. He said: “It has been fascinating to see the processes and procedures of parliament played out in real life, and to enter the placement with a prior understanding of parliament. With the skills I have learnt, I feel better prepared for future career opportunities and the placement has encouraged me to pursue parliamentary work after graduation.”

Highly recommended

Ria Begum worked for a Labour MP. She said: “I really enjoyed this internship and it’s really helped with my confidence and having more faith in myself – as imposter syndrome kicked in when I first started! It has given me a good overview of how my studies can be applied to the work place. I would definitely recommend everyone apply for this.”

Chloe Bailey, who worked for a Labour MP, said: “Without this placement through Queen Mary I would never have been able to gain such valuable work experience. I would definitely recommend this scheme to everyone.”

Looking forward to next year

Elliot Colburn, the Conservative MP for Carshalton and Wallington in south London, hosted the placement for Callum Murphy. Mr Colburn said: “It was an absolute pleasure to have Callum with us during his placement. His depth and breadth of policy knowledge was matched only by his friendly and engaged approach, and constituents and colleagues alike provided great feedback on the work he undertook and the projects he led on. We look forward to working with the Queen Mary parliamentary placement scheme again next year.”

Dr Daniel Gover, Lecturer in British Politics, and organiser of the placements, said: “We are extremely proud of all our students, and hope that these placements will equip them well for their future careers. Many of them have commented that the placement module gave them opportunities they would not otherwise have had to put their academic learning into practice and experience parliamentary work from the inside.

“We are looking forward to running the scheme ‘in person’ again as soon as circumstances permit.”

More information

Any MP who is interested in offering a placement should email Dr Daniel Gover from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations.

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