Afife Khoury

MSc International Development: Public Policy and Management

Why did you choose to study at The University of Manchester?

Alexandra Afife Khoury Miguel

I am originally Palestinian, born in El Salvador. After finishing my undergraduate degree in Nicaragua, I went on to apply the acquired knowledge through different job opportunities (both in the private sector and development field). All along keeping in mind that I would resume my studies in the medium term. Since I had a previous studying-abroad experience, I understood the richness behind learning in a different environment and education system, engaging with different customs and traditions, networking with students from different parts of the world, and the bounties and challenges that come with living abroad. With this idea in mind, I researched scholarship options that would help me in achieving this vision. I came across with the Chevening Scholarship program and applied. Simultaneously, I investigated about diverse available programs in UK universities based on my aspirations: learning more about development via a program that focused on public policy. After reading about a diverse number of courses in numerous universities, I concluded that the international development programme with a focus on public policy and management graduate programme at the University of Manchester was an excellent fit. Especially because the program would allow me to delve into and acquire experience regarding development studies. Moreover, in 2015, the University of Manchester’s Global Development Institute (formerly known as IDPM) was third in rank in the QS World University Rankings, which made the program even more appealing, as I understood that through this program I would have a chance to learn from knowledgeable professors and would be getting a quality education.

Why did you choose your particular course? 

Since the beginning of my journey in the development arena, and even prior to that, I have always felt the call and commitment to shape my career in a way that I can be of as much service as possible to the field and in doing so, impacting the lives of those that are most vulnerable. Thus, I have intentionally directed my skill set and knowledge acquirement towards achieving that objective. In this sense, the curricula of the MSc. International Development, Public Policy and Management programme focused on learning about development through the policy realm: formulating, analysing, implementing, and managing policies. As it is known, the implementation of relevant and good policies is key in positively affecting context and society. Plus, the program was flexible enough for me to build and complement my postgraduate journey around policy making by taking courses related to specific interests, i.e. planning and managing development, political analysis of development policy, globalisation trade and development, WASH, amongst others.

What have you been up to since graduating?  

After I graduated from my postgraduate program I returned to El Salvador:

  • A couple of months later I began working at the Pan American Foundation (PADF), a non-governmental organization created in 1962 by the OAS, public and private sector to assist vulnerable and excluded populations in the Americas. The organization focuses on sustainable economic and social progress, strengthening communities and civil society, promoting democratic participation and inclusion, and preparing for and responding to natural disasters and other humanitarian crises. My position was as the Regional Grants and Contracts Officer (for the Central American and Mexico Human Rights and Democracy Project). My responsibilities included following through with proposal reviewing process and designation of funds through sub-awards for the implementation of projects on various areas (child protection, persons with a disability, LGBTQ+, indigenous communities, women rights, environmental protection, amongst others) in Central America and Mexico; liaising with the different offices in Central America and Mexico, as well as with DC Headquarters; and overall grant fund overseeing and accountability.
  • One year later (2018), I travelled to Palestine and Jordan where I worked with a non-governmental organization (Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation) that focuses in assisting vulnerable Palestinian populations, particularly children and the elderly, as well as in the implementation of an annual program for diaspora youth program (encouraging diaspora Palestinians to learn about their heritage by travelling home and learning about their motherland), which I participated in 2013. I also had the chance to learn Arabic, which was a very important part of learning more and coming closer to my heritage.
  • Lastly (since 2019) I have been working in humanitarian assistance in Latin America, mostly focusing on food security and health projects.

Has your qualification helped you in your career? 

Yes, at all levels. Firstly, it has added significantly to my curriculum, especially when job searching, as organizations require postgraduate studies for the positions I have applied to. Having achieved this qualification from a renowned institution, such as the GDI and UoM, just makes it even more exceptional. However, most importantly, I would have to say that the skills I acquired through the course have allowed me to be prepared for the challenges I have come across performing the different jobs I have engaged in. For instance, understanding quantitative research and its importance in developing and implementing sound policies has been of great use; being more strategic in managing projects, so as to ensure timely and accurate completion as well as being able to critically and carefully analyse documentation and situations that have guided me to better decision making.

Were there any specific modules or lecturers who particularly inspired you?

Yes, Antonio Savoia and Subhasish Dey.

Prof. Savoia was a mentor during my postgraduate journey. His passionate teaching, but above all, his devotion in guaranteeing a full and pleasant learning experience were incredibly valued. For those of us who were professionals in different fields of study other than economics, the Research Skills for Economic Development course was a first encounter with econometrics and quantitative methods, and thus a firm challenge, but Prof. Savoia was very conscious of the diversity in his classroom and tried to engage us as best he could, ensuring that he got his message across and that we understood the class material, as well as providing alternative spaces that would help in filling any gaps. He was very encouraging, inspiring in his teachings and a key part in the success of our course completion.

Subhashish Dey was my dissertation supervisor as well as an amazing support throughout the whole program. He was extremely dependable, excellent at explaining, as well as wholesome professional and tutor.

Was your degree funded by a scholarship or donor?

Yes, the Foreign Commonwealth’s Chevening Scholarship Program. This program has provided me with one of the most inspiring and fulfilling experiences in my life. Not only did this give me the opportunity to complete my postgraduate studies at a prestigious university with top notch convenors, but it also gave me the chance to be part of an esteemed network of professionals. This network of professionals (from both, the scholarship program and UoM) allowed me to build solid bonds with amazing people and friends whom I am still in touch with. This opportunity was so overarching that I even met a very special person whom I look forward to sharing my life with.

What is your best memory from your time at Manchester? 

/ I have too many good memories from my time at Manchester. I just loved the whole experience: the university, the challenges the course posed, the city, the cultural offer, the numerous activities one could engage in as a student, volunteering at the Food Bank, life at the halls and life outside the halls, the friends I made, the contacts I established and the list could go on. It would be too difficult to choose one good memory. However, two things that appreciate at a personal level and that I certainly enjoyed significantly during my studies at the University of Manchester were, on the one hand, the intellectual challenge the whole program involved. As a professional with an International Relations and Political Science background, plunging into the economic development field for the first time through this course, took my analysis and learning capacities to another level. It pushed me to creatively explore different alternatives in problem solving as well as those that would help me to keep the pace that the course required. On the other hand, despite the academic demands of the programme, I also had the chance to take part in outside-the-classroom activities. This included volunteering at the Manchester Central Food Bank, as well as participating (as part of a team) in SEED’s “Big Block of Socially Responsible Cheese” Competition and receiving funds for a proposal focused on an end of year food/goods drive to support the Manchester Central Food Bank and Oxfam. At the end of the programme, I also volunteered as Student Ambassador, which was a very rewarding experience, in terms of giving back to the University by assisting with orientation of incoming students.

Do you have any tips or advice for current or prospective students?  

Tips for current students:

  • Make the most of your time at the University. Learn as much as you can at the academic level and make use of the spaces provided by the Uni (i.e. tutoring, workshops, lectures, libraries, office hours, etc.), but also make sure that you engage in extracurricular activities (social, sports, volunteering, etc.) that will make the experience wholesome.
  • Before reaching the end of the course, I encourage you to start thinking about what comes next. If you plan to plunge back into the business world, make sure that you start this process with enough time in advance. Also reach out to Uni services that will help you in developing a better CV and cover letter, as well as giving you tips for the job searching process. This, I believe, will shorten the gap between graduation and your first key position.

Tips for prospective students:

  • Studying at Manchester (UoM) is an excellent opportunity because it not only tends for a diversity of interests through the wide range of courses it offers, but the University is a well-known academic institution at the forefront of research, with amazing facilities, renowned academic staff, recognised alumni network and diversity, both at the staff and student level.
  • I encourage you to consider living at any of the university halls. This gives you the opportunity to meet interesting people, participate in events held by the halls and just enjoy that very relevant part of the student life and the studying abroad experience.