As regular readers of my blog and followers of my life might remember, about a year ago I completed a Masters in Politics at the University of Essex. I’d started the Masters partly on a whim, figuring that it would be good to take advantage of having one of the leading politics departments in the country on my doorstep, but as I went on with it I discovered that I really enjoyed being a student again, particularly in getting to research new areas and explore political systems.

While the Masters came to an end last year, I decided that I didn’t want that to be the end of my studies and decided to look into the prospects of doing a PhD, picking up some of the threads I’d found while researching my Masters dissertation and going further in exploring them. Luckily for me, it turns out that other people think that’s an area worth exploring too, and so from the end of September I’ll be a PhD student (and graduate teaching assistant) in the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary, University of London. (I’m not leaving Colchester, though, so I’ll also be a commuter…)

My research proposal has the title ‘centre parties and the structure of competition’. My plan is to look at centre parties in various electoral systems and look at how the structure of competition within a political system (an idea originally developed by the late Peter Mair) relates to them. I’m aware that no PhD research proposal tends to survive intact from its first meeting with your supervisor, so the details will likely change over the coming months and years, but I’ll be looking at questions like what defines centre parties (and the Duverger/Sartori question of whether they exist at all), how they interact with parties and party blocks to left and right, and what factors lead some to be successful while others aren’t.

The Finnish doctoral hat and sword.

The Finnish doctoral hat and sword.

However it develops, I’m sure it will lead to many interesting points that I’ll be sharing either here or elsewhere, and hopefully in three or so years time I’ll be able to enter a room and get a ‘Hi, Dr Nick‘ response. Because what’s three years of study worth if you can’t get a weak Simpsons joke out of it at the end? It’s either that or transfer to Finland so I can work towards my doctoral hat and sword.