During the BA in Political Science and World Politics our students have the opportunity to participate in two placements: one that last two weeks in the third year and a longer internship, of four weeks, in the fourth year.
Students get to choose where they do their internship on the basis of their own professional interests. The most popular organisations are listed below:
• Public authorities: The Legislative Assembly of Saint-Petersburg; The Foreign Relationships, the Social Policy and the Educational Comities of the Government of Saint-Petersburg; The Chancellery of Ombudsman in Saint-Petersburg; The Chancellery of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Saint-Petersburg
• Not-for-profit and non-governmental organisations: The Humanitarian and Political Studies Centre ‘Strategiya’; The Association for Cooperation with the States of the Baltic Sea Region ‘Norden’; the Regional Branch of All-Russian Organization ‘Delovaya Rossiya’; The Anti-corruption Research and Response Centre ‘Transparency International’; the ‘Human Rights Resource Centre’; and the ‘Institute of Information Freedom’
• Political parties
• Governmental and non-governmental educational institutions: HSE, the North-West Institute of Management of the Russian Presidential Academy; The European University in Saint-Petersburg; The Saint-Petersburg State University
• Independent research centers and think tanks: The Centre for Independent Sociological Research; the Sociological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences; the Centre for German and European Studies at Saint-Petersburg State University; the International Centre for Social and Economic Research ‘Leontief Centre’
Every year new partners join this list. Sometimes this happens on the initiative of the students.
The main purpose of the third-year placement is for students to gain practical experience of applying their new knowledge and skills from the BA degree. This placement is for just two weeks. In this time, students visit their chosen organisation, become acquainted with the way it works (the organisational structure, management and decision-making style, areas of activity) and perform various tasks for the employees of this organisation. What tasks they carry out varies widely. A student may be allowed to organise an interesting event with other employees. They may be assigned to do some desk-research. Whatever tasks they end up doing, it is essential for them to reflect on their experience and analyse what they have learned from their placement in a written report. This report, along with an internship diary and a supervisors’ assessment, will be used to provide the student with a grade for this placement.
The choice of where the student goes on their internship in the fourth year has to be justified with reference to the topic of their BA dissertation. During the internship, students should be gathering and processing empirical material for this dissertation and working on preparing a first draft of this paper. The internship lasts four weeks, from the end of March to the end of April, and comes before the pre-defense of the dissertation, where each student has to present the empirical part of the work, prepared during the internship.
That said, the purpose of the internship is much broader than only the collection of empirical material for the BA dissertation. This is an important preparation for later professional life. It is hard to imagine a successful manager, scientist or journalist, who does not have practical skills, which were first-honed during an internship.
Among the professional skills that students acquire from the internship, are:
• Communication skills – especially from participation in project teamwork, consultations, telephone negotiations
• Organisational skills – from participation in and preparation for meetings, conferences; from drafting business correspondence, preparing and managing inquiries and appeals to public authorities
• Research skills – from gathering information such as relevant statistics, published literature, details about laws and regulations; from monitoring the media, developing in-house databases; from gathering primary date through expert interviews, surveys and ethnographic observation
• Analytical skills – especially when it comes to making sense of all the information gathered, identifying and clarifying research problems, aims and objectives
• Writing skills – all students will work on preparing drafts of their BA dissertation. But those who work in governmental organisations, for example, will also acquire specialist writing skills in drafting notes, memos and reports for the public record
By the time it comes to choosing their placement, third year students may already know their BA research question and what they need to do in terms of gathering empirical material for their dissertation. In that case, they are advised to choose the same organisation where they hope to do their internship the following year. But the research process is not always so easy to plan. And the placements can be considered as an opportunity to try out something new, regardless of whether or not the tasks they perform are directly related to the topic of their BA dissertation.
The internship is a different matter. This placement is entirely geared towards the completion of the dissertation. Where student’s end up going in the fourth year, will be determined, in the first instance, by the student’s research question and topic. But it is not entirely down to them. Since students also have to cope with the tasks of a particular organisation, they may have to also possess certain aptitudes detailed by the organisations we work with.
These organisations are, typically, very satisfied with the professionalism and intelligence of our students, which is why they continue to work with us. Many supervisors have remarked on the first-rate analytical and organisational skills of the interns from our BA programme. The students themselves have noted how beneficial this placement scheme has been for their own academic and professional development.