“I couldn’t do my government role without my Social Policy degree,” says Jude.
Jude Bradley, 26, graduated from the University of Salford with a BSc in Social Policy in 2009. Originally from Derry in Northern Ireland, Jude now lives in London where she works as a policy officer at the College of Emergency Medicine. Her job takes her around the country, and she frequently has high-level policy meetings with government dignitaries including the secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt.
Jude explains how her degree in Social Policy helped to shape her career and get her where she is today.
“I came to Salford in the second year of my degree,” she explains. “I’d started my degree in Belfast, but I wasn’t happy with the content. I did some research, and the modules on offer at the University of Salford were much more suited to my interests, and the university had a great reputation in health and social care.”
“I’d had an idea I wanted to work in health and the development of services – the policy side of it rather than as a practitioner - but at the age of 17 I didn’t really know where to go with it. The content being offered at Salford was really varied, it didn’t focus just on health, it focused on families, government initiatives, welfare programmes; it provided a much broader base. As time went on, I found myself naturally focusing on the health aspect of each module.”
While the course content helped Jude to hone her interests, extra-curricular activities proved very useful for learning valuable skills that would help with future employability.
“One of the things I loved about the course was we were really encouraged to participate in team and group work outside of the learning environment,” she says. “We’d pick a topic or issue and present a policy on the issue, and discuss the policy context and related research.”
“This was brilliant experience for setting me up in the workplace. In politics, people are obviously very opinionated and it’s the same in the field of policy, so it was great to be able to work with other people who had different views to mine. As well as really helping to shape my learning, the ability to listen to other people and their points of view and putting my arguments across at the same time has been invaluable to me as a skill.”
As well as encouraging students to develop career skills, the lecturers on the Social Policy team took an active interest in student welfare.
“The whole team is outstanding in that regard,” says Jude. “I still keep in contact with all of them five years after I’ve graduated, which shows just how much I value them as people. They were incredibly supportive, very approachable and completely open minded – I could talk to them about anything. I can’t speak highly enough of them, it made it much easier for me to learn knowing that they were there for me. It was very much a family atmosphere, and not at all an ‘us and them’ situation. There’s a real sense of community within the whole department, throughout the learning delivery and way beyond.”
Jude enjoyed the atmosphere at the university so much that she now goes back at least twice a year to teach the aspects of the Social Policy course she now specialises in.
“I progressed onto my Masters at Salford after the degree, so I was in close contact with the lecturers,” she explains. “I specialised in public health for my Masters and wrote my thesis on men’s mental health. Due to my research experience in this area, one of the senior lecturers approached me and said, why don’t you teach this aspect of the Social Policy course? I’ve been doing that since 2011, and I love it.”
When she’s not back at the university, Jude is working in high-level policy and decision making at the College of Emergency Medicine. She credits her Social Policy degree and the support of her lecturers for giving her the skills and confidence to take on such a responsible position so soon after graduating.
“My course definitely prepared me for this, in so many ways,” she says. “The course content is very relevant in terms of the situations you’re faced with on a daily basis in real life, and it gave me the ability to stand up and be confident and to articulate myself: they really help you develop those skills at Salford.”
“I work in London and it was a big move for me to go first from Belfast to Manchester, and then down to London, but my course gave me the confidence and the ability to do that.”
After completing her Masters at the University of Salford, Jude took an internship with the Epilepsy Society in Buckinghamshire, a role which helped her put the skills she had learnt into practice. Since taking on her current role of policy officer with the College of Emergency Medicine, the extent to which the university prepared her for a career has been brought sharply into focus.
“We represent all of the accident and emergency doctors in the NHS and our goal is to improve conditions for patients and staff through policy,” she explains. “My job is to support all the work that goes on in the college, all the events and consultations and the internal committee work. I’m also responsible for Northern Ireland policy so that involves a lot of travelling and meeting ministers. I’m working with very high level stakeholders, including the Department of Health and I am constantly using critical thinking, analysis and other basic skills I learnt on the Social Policy course.
“They’re essential. Critical analysis is the most valuable skill I have, I can pick up a document and digest it, analyse the impact the information within it will have, and then articulate it to other people. When we were learning skills like this at university I wondered when I would ever need them, but I couldn’t do my job without them.
“Without learning how to research, reference, critically analyse and present findings, there’s a big gap in your understanding of how the policy process works. You have to be constantly thinking about the impact of what you’re doing, and constantly analysing why you’re doing things. Something as basic as learning how to reference correctly has saved me a huge amount of time; I use it every time I publish a report.”
Although Jude is enjoying a successful career in her chosen field, she has ambitious plans for her future.
“I’m currently in the process of publishing a paper on men’s mental health in an academic journal. As much as I enjoy working in policy, my long term goal is to carry out the research that influences policy and how it’s developed. For example the topic of my Master’s thesis and the journal paper is masculinity, how it affects men’s mental health and the policies that need to be developed around it.”
“There are lots of opportunities for research in Canada and America, so I’m hoping to go there for a year soon. I want to be able to say this is the research, and these are the policies we need.”