Charles Lawley

International Development: Politics, Governance & Development Policy

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

Charles Lawley

I’m from Derbyshire, I chose to study at The University of Manchester because I regretted my undergraduate degree, I did it at a University that did not have the reputation that The University of Manchester has and does not have the academic pedigree. It helped that the University was local and I was doing the course part time to fit in with my work and I work in Greater Manchester.

Why did you choose your particular course?

I have worked in international development and humanitarian aid for a number of years and wanted to improve my ability to my perform in my role and to advance within sector. This course factored in two passions of my – international development and politics. As it could be done part time and was beneficial to role, I received support from my employer. The Uganda trip was also very special.

What have you done since graduation?

As I was in full time work (and had been for 10 years since leaving University the first time) my career was already in progress, because of this course (but not since graduation) I have secured my role as Head of Advocacy & Public Relations at Syria Relief, the UK’s largest Syria-focused NGO. Prior to that I was Communications Manager at Good Things Foundation.

Has your qualification helped you in your career? 

I have much more programmatic and theoretic knowledge and, whilst I was qualified and experienced to perform the Communications/PR side of my role beforehand, this has enabled me to perform my advocacy duties better. I have published numerous advocacy reports and am helping lead multi-organisational advocacy efforts on Syria.

Where then any specific modules or lecturers who particularly inspired you?

Tom Lavers in particular was not just a very interested academic but as my tutor helped me balance academic life with working full time and family life and was very understanding, flexible and supportive. Tim Jacoby, my dissertation supervisor, was very knowledgeable and supportive, but also honest. Chris Lyon is another very helpful and very promising academic.

What is your best memory from your time at Manchester?

I enjoyed every aspect of the course – I found it engaging, doing the work was never a chore. Manchester itself is such a wonderful institution, the architect, the atmosphere. As I was in my 30s for most of the course with a wife and family, I was very jealous of those who could enjoy the social aspects of the university also.

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

The best advice I can give is to people who are considering doing a part time degree whilst doing full time work (and possibly with home/family commitments)

  1. Be disciplined with your time – try and form a routine, make sure you set aside regular time to study. My days went like this. Travel to work, work, get home, family time, kids to bed, two hours of studying, leisure time, bed time. Not everyone’s day can be like this, but make sure there are near daily 1-2 hour slots you dedicate to university. This way the work won’t get on top of you and you will always do the reading.
  2. Make sure you are passionate about your subject – you have to want to learn about your topic, if you’re juggling commitments, your university life should not feel like a commitment, it should feel like a treat. If your studying feels like it is just another one of your chores, you’re going to end up not making the most of the degree and the wonderful opportunity it can bring you.
  3. Make sure your work is on board – before applying, make sure your work are happy with you doing it and are supportive of you. If it helps you perform your role or your career within the organisation, make this case. Make sure work know you’ll be out of the office to attend lectures at different times in the week and that you will (more than) make up for the work missed. You can’t let your work slip during your course or your boss’ support will evaporate. If you don’t perform at work, work will want you to stop. Some organisations may sponsor your course.
  4. Make sure your family is on board – if you have a partner or children, make sure they are happy with you doing this too, as the majority of the time you will spend studying will eat into times you would spend with them. If your degree will help your career and give you and your family a better quality of life, make this case.
  5. Be honest with others about your time constraints – 99% of your colleagues on your course will be doing this full time and not have the same commitments that you do and your course tutors may forget about your personal situation, don’t be embarrassed that you cannot dedicate most of your life to this course. You won’t be able to meet at 7pm to discuss a project, ask people that any meetings that need you to be on campus happen within an hour two of your lectures and seminars. Ask course leaders to be put into seminar groups that happen close to lecture times, so you do not spend too long out of the office and on campus. I managed to arrange it so I was only out of the office one morning and one afternoon a week.