Professor Yusaku Horiuchi. Image by Belinda Thompson.

Students given winning edge

30 July 2013

ANU PhD students have been getting one-on-one input into the formative design stages of their work from one of the world’s leading experts in political science.

As part of a postgraduate training program, for the past three weeks, Dartmouth College Associate Professor Yusaku Horiuchi has spent the past three weeks working with Crawford School and School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR) PhD students in public policy, political science, and international relations to help translate their ideas into solid research design and methodology.

After eight years of teaching at ANU, the decision to come back to teach the specifically–designed intensive course was easy, Horiuchi said.

“Academia is very globally competitive now. PhDs from the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries are applying for academic jobs in Australia,” Horiuchi said.

“In the United States, PhD students are very, very well trained. They complete two to three years of coursework and major exams, written and oral, before they move into fieldwork or more research training.

“In order to be globally competitive, our PhD students also need proper training. I am aware that we don’t have the time in Australia to replicate the US model. But this introduction course – the Postgraduate Training in Politics and Policy (PTPP) program – will be, we believe, a kick-start the further learning: If they want to learn more, they have the basic knowledge to start.”

“As long as PhD students know theories and methods and how to use them, given their in-depth understandings of interesting issues and topics in specific countries and regions, I strongly believe that they can make an important contribution to the broader literature, rather than just a contribution to their specific area.”

Prior to joining Dartmouth, Horiuchi was a faculty member of the Crawford School of eight years and the Research Director at Crawford School in 2009-2011. With Paul ‘t Hart (previously at SPIR, now at Universiteit Utrecht; also an adjunct professor at Crawford School) he spent three years designing and trialling the PTPP program. With Keith Dowding at SPIR, Horiuchi then formalised the program in 2010.

“It has been a very successful collaboration among political scientists and public policy researchers in two colleges, and was perhaps the first cross-college collaboration specifically targeted for PhD students,” Horiuchi said.

“Before this program was introduced, students came to the university, agreed with a potential supervisor on the topic and what they wanted to discuss and there was no coursework.

“Another very important objective of the program is to encourage students to get to know each other; the students sharing time together in class will be important assets for them in the future. “

“I truly appreciate the invitation by Crawford School, and arrangements made by my long-term collaborator and friend, Alison Cumming Thom, to teach sessions in the program and to meet with many PhD students. I enjoyed teaching and class interactions, as well individual consultations with students; everyone from the course had a one-on-one meeting.”

PhD students Jo Spratt and Ben Ascione said the course had been valuable for their research.

“In the context of all the countries students are from and all the topics we are studying, there is an international focus, so having someone with Yusaku’s depth of experience in international political science is just fabulous,” Spratt said.

“While Yusaku’s approach might not fit 100 per cent with my research, knowing about other approaches was very useful. We are pretty spoiled here at ANU, but Yusaku has unique experience,” Ascione said.

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