Faten joined POST through the UK Research and Innovation Policy Internship scheme. While typically fellows spend their time at POST and assist with the production of POSTnotes, often they may be seconded to another body within Parliament. Faten was lucky enough to spend her time at Parliament with the International Development Committee. Today she is a senior specialist at the Scrutiny Unit.

The POST experience

“My first week was great: meeting my new colleagues, attending committee meetings, and gaining first-hand insights about the work of Parliament. I also went straight in asking to be assigned a substantial piece of work, to make the most out of my time with the committee.”

Ask and you shall receive. Faten managed an evidence session on the Department for International Development (DfID)’s Annual Report and Accounts, where the Permanent Secretary and Senior Officials come once a year to give evidence to the committee members.

Her tasks included:

  • conducting research
  • writing a brief for the members with background information and suggested questions on a variety of policy and expenditure areas
  • briefing the MPs verbally before the session on crucial areas of questioning
  • attending the session to be on hand to advise the committee Chair where needed
  • dealing with any follow ups after the session
  • preparing short one-page briefings throughout on a variety of topics related to the committee’s work including on health, children in armed conflict, and science and technology in development.

Faten looks back at her time at the committee fondly.

“It was great. It was collegiate, informative, and rewarding. My contact at POST was also there if I needed advice or direction on anything. I felt well looked after.”

She particularly enjoyed learning about committee operations first-hand.

“I worked in international development for a long while before doing my fellowship and learnt about the UK system through research and colleagues. [However] learning by doing took the knowledge to the next level for me.”

But perhaps most enjoyable (and surprising) for Faten, was the social element at Parliament.

“I was touched by how warm and helpful people were. The prospect of doing a fellowship in Parliament can be daunting for students and academics who haven’t engaged with Parliament before, and often is even for those who have engaged.”

It turns out that Parliament is, “like any other workplace where people get on with their daily business.”

Life after POST

After her fellowship Faten went back to finish her PhD. At the same time, she was applying for jobs in academia and elsewhere. One of the roles she applied for was that of Committee Specialist at the House of Commons.

“It was effectively the role I did during my fellowship,” she says. The Committee seemed to agree because she got the job.

Undeniably, the fellowship helped Faten gain insights that were invaluable to applying for the Committee Specialist role. It helped her expand her network, adding useful contacts from within and beyond Parliament, and it changed her profile in comparison to her peers.

But she also found it really useful taking a break from working on her research.

“It can be tiring and alienating working by yourself on a PhD project for 3–4 years. My supervisor and department at university were very encouraging towards doing the fellowship and were very proud that I did.”

Advice for POST fellows

When it comes to advice for prospective fellows, Faten just says that it doesn’t matter what discipline you’re coming from. Just give it a go.

“I did comparative literature for my MA, and combined it with medical/health humanities for my PhD. Colleagues in comparative literature tended to think that policy fellowships are not for them as it’s not clear how their research might fit.”

Faten discovered that it’s not about the research discipline one comes from but about the skills they’ve developed, which so happens to be what POST advisers look for in prospective fellows.

“The skills required to do a fellowship within POST or with a parliamentary committee are ones that any good researcher, regardless of discipline, has. These include analytical skills, the ability to write clearly, and the ability to explain complex ideas clearly.”

So, don’t be afraid, go for it.

Faten says, “you never know, you may even encounter something that will change the direction of your research, or your life!”

POST Fellowship Spotlights

A series of interviews with previous POST fellows exploring the POST experience, life after the fellowship, and advice to new fellows.