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Global Development Institute

Saujanya Patel

MSc Management and Information Systems: Change and Development (Distance Learning)

Where are you from, and how did you end up studying at the University of Manchester?

I’m from Auckland, New Zealand, and I chose the University of Manchester because it has a good, strong reputation. And it offered the particular programme that I wanted to do, in a way that suited the fact that I was working full time and couldn’t really commit to full time study by any measure.

 

So you’re living and working in London full time at the moment?

Yes.

 

Does the course you chose to do complement the work you’re already doing?

It does. I work as a Systems Administrator for the University of London, primarily in the IT department there. Information Systems and Management builds around that.

 

And the distance learning course was something that appealed to you because you wanted to do it at the same time?

Yes, basically I wanted to do something - which wasn’t necessarily going to be feasible unless I had something that could work outside of working hours. Because it was all distance-based study, and primarily because there weren’t any fixed tutorials or lectures. There were sessions that were organised but were fairly flexible, so it worked for me in terms of wanting to do the study and being able to fit it into my life.

 

Has the course helped you in your current role? Do you anticipate that it will help you with future prospects and job opportunities?

Hopefully, yes. Certainly, one of the things that I learnt through the modules and the actual dissertation process I guess was, one: an appreciation for the research process, which I’d touched on when I did an undergraduate degree, but not really. In terms of my work at the University of London - it’s in quite a transitional phase right now, and just applying some context and understanding as to what they’re doing around that has been really helped by this particular programme.

 

In what way?

Certainly organisational change has been a huge thing for the IT department, because it’s merging with two other departments to form this new business unit. And in terms of also trying to understand the way organisations function, and why they don’t necessarily function as effectively as they might be able to - purely through decision-making, and the way information flows within organisations, and how that leads to decisions and actions, that sort of stuff.

 

What were your tutors like to work with?

Overall the vast majority of tutors have been really good across the programme. Generally fairly available, quite encouraging, quite engaging - and challenging sometimes.

 

Why did you choose your dissertation topic: “An Exploratory Study in Information Security Awareness Set within Ghana and New Zealand”?

Primarily because information security is a really hot topic right now - zeitgeist as it were. You can look at modern economies and think, ok well everyone’s fairly used to technology - e-transactions, e-business, social media etcetera. We spend a lot of time asking people to be really secure with information in their practises, but there’s very limited research out there about how that plays out in a developing country.

Given that technology is now fairly global, and that as long as you have a smartphone you can access a lot of these things, is there the same level of awareness around good practise - not sharing passwords, those sorts of things - and understanding what the risks are for citizens in those contexts? It was trying to look at a comparative model of two similar populations - one in Ghana, in Accra, that primarily went to an IT university there, and then the University of Auckland. Those two sites were really chosen because I had links back to the University of Auckland, so it was a way to get students to actually participate, and then Ghana because I knew a few people through work who had direct relations at that institutions. Then, using other social media to get students to participate in the research, and doing some statistical analysis between what they measured on various questions.

 

What were some of your key findings?

I guess some of the surprising ones - well, not entirely unsurprising I guess - is that in general the Ghana population showed a high level of awareness, but it’s highly likely - but you can’t necessarily test it - that it’s because the department and the University is focused on IT, so there’s obviously a huge amount of education that goes into that. In general, it was quite interesting to understand that, actually, Auckland students by comparison had lower levels of awareness, and felt that the risks were lower to them.

And I guess there’s a thing there around what those risks, and what those potential repercussions are. In Ghana, if you lose access to information or data - those ramifications can be a lot harder, whereas in Auckland, if you’re from a wealthier population then, you know what - if the power goes out or whatever it is it’s not as important.

 

Was your degree funded by a scholarship or donor? What impact has this had on you?

The University of London was good enough to fund part of the study that I was doing, and the rest was self-funded.

 

Are there no similar courses at the University of London? Why was Manchester the obvious choice for you?

There is one that’s similar, but it doesn’t have the same focus in international development. The other part of it is that in terms of brands, the University of London doesn’t really exist in and of itself. It’s a federative body with a whole lot of brands underneath, including Queen Mary and King’s College and all these other places, which are really good. But obviously accessing those is also quite expensive, comparatively. The University of Manchester was actually a good price point, and has a good, strong reputation as well.

 

What’s something you enjoyed the most about doing the course?

As challenging and as stressful as it was, the dissertation. You spend a lot of late nights in the office and wee hours and going home at 3am - all of that sort of stuff, but just the process of understanding what it’s like to write a dissertation, and start thinking of things in that kind of way, was really good if I’m honest. It’s a weird feeling once you’ve submitted, because there’s almost like this jolt, this catharsis where you finish but you realise your brain has been running at this really high level, and really pushing boundaries that it hasn’t necessarily being doing for quite some time, and now it’s just sort of stopped.

I have to say, I was quite scared of writing a dissertation, because it feels like a big, overwhelming production, but once you actually start going through it it’s broken down into far more manageable bits, and far more achievable bits. And actually having a good supervisor makes a huge difference. I was really fortunate that I had PJ Wall, who’s based over in Dublin, but was just always available to me, so that was really good.

 

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

Certainly investigate the modules and the courses and the teachers, and definitely try and do it. Even though I was a bit tentative about starting, because it had been quite a long time since I’d done formal study, it was really good.