Felipe Guth studied the MA in Governance, Development and Public Policy at IDS. Here he tells us what it was like.
Watch a short video excerpt of Felipe’s interview or read the full transcript below.
Why did you choose this degree?
Before I came to IDS, I spent ten years working in the Brazilian Development Bank. I chose this course because when I was working in Brazil, I felt that, many times, we were making policy decisions and implementation with little method and sometimes I felt that we couldn’t have the impact that we wished for. And I wanted to learn how to do it better. And that’s the main reason why I came here.
When deciding where to study, what factors guided your decision?
I decided to come to IDS for many reasons. Well, it helped a lot the fact that it’s ranked number one in Development Studies, of course. But I also felt very attracted by the fact that most Fellows here have a lot of field experience. I had previous academic experience and I wanted to be in touch with researchers that had more practical experience, who knew the practical struggles that a policymaker faces on a daily basis. That was very important to me. And also, I was attracted to Brighton, which is a lovely city, and I wanted to spend some time here.
I remember once a tutor that had done her PhD in another very prestigious university told us that that university was really good and the teachers were very rigorous, but if you want to change the world, IDS is the place where you should be. And I think she’s right.
So what did you think when you first arrived?
When I first arrived here, I was a bit lost to be honest. But I was really amazed by having this experience of being surrounded by people of so many different places, with so many different backgrounds. I remember on the first day we had a seminar with Robert Chambers and he put us in a big map of the world and we could see people from all over the globe and for me, it was amazing, to just know how things work in so many different places. For example, I could learn how bureaucracy works in Chile, in Puerto Rico, in India. And this kind of experience, I couldn’t have in Brazil. And that was very enriching, very interesting for me.
Is there anything about the course or IDS that surprised you?
I didn’t know that it would be so fun to be here. When I was planning to do a master’s, I was very serious about it. I wanted to study, and I wanted to just improve my skills. I think I was underestimating the life experience that you can take from a master’s like this. I had so much fun with my colleagues and I learned so much from talks in the corridor. I think everybody that’s coming here should definitely try to engage as much as possible with the Fellows and don’t be afraid of reaching out, they’re very accessible. And also try to have fun with the friends that you’re going to make here. We should study hard and party hard and also be part of panto [IDS’s pantomime production], which is incredibly fun.
I was also amazed about how it deconstructed my certainties. Before the course, there were some things that I had very strong opinions about. Every time we discussed these subjects in class my assumptions were challenged, but in a very constructive way. It’s not that they simply taught us a different view, but they made me much more cautious about what I think I know.
What, if anything, do you think makes IDS different from studying at a more traditional university?
I think IDS is different from other traditional universities because of a more loose atmosphere. I think most Fellows are very accessible, which I know is not a reality of most places. Also there is a sense of companionship in among our colleagues and among Fellows. I mean, we can tell that they actually care about our level of learning. They’re not only teaching us, for example, public policy or democracy-related knowledge, but also how to write, how to look for a job, how to use social media in an engaging way, how to do good research. I think that’s the most important thing I’ve learned here; we’re not just learning the subjects of our modules. They actually teach us how to do good research. And you can apply this in many different fields. So I think that that’s a skill that you can carry for life and apply in many different places.
What aspects of the course excited you, or did you particularly enjoy?
I enjoyed the seminars where we had the opportunity to just talk with more freedom and learn from our peers as well. We could not only discuss the topics and the readings, but how that related to our previous experiences. This kind of application of that new-acquired knowledge to actual experiences of all of my colleagues was very insightful. I liked that a lot.
For those who are unfamiliar with what a seminar is, how would you describe it?
Okay. The IDS seminar is a moment where a group of students is guided by a tutor in an open discussion about the readings of the week. It’s a very good moment to just check if your understanding of that reading or that concept is the same as everybody else’s. That’s the main idea. It’s also a moment where you can learn a bit about the readings that you haven’t read yet. So sometimes it happens about that you don’t read everything. And that’s the moment where you can see if that reading is worth reading later. So it was very useful in the sense!
What was the subject of your dissertation?
I wrote my dissertation about primary education in Brazil. But what I did was to apply the theory of embedded autonomy, which was first created to analyse how governments promoted industrial development in a state-led way. It’s a very interesting theory and I thought it could be applied not only for industrial development, but also for social development. So I tried to apply this theory in the Brazilian primary education system context.
What is your strongest memory of IDS?
One of my strongest memories in IDS is going through the study space and chatting with my friends there. Everybody was reading something, learning about something different. And I remember arriving there and having little conversations about what everybody was doing. We had this very good feeling of everybody learning together – it was really a comfortable feeling, you know, that you were not alone in this process, which was sometimes quite hard. And this companionship feeling was really good.
What are you doing now?
After I graduated, I started working in a policy consultancy company here in Brighton. We do policy evaluation for the British government, the European Commission, governments of developing countries and multilateral institutions.
What impact has studying at IDS had on your career path?
I think the first impact is to open some doors in a more broad, global market. My whole past was limited to Brazil and to my Brazilian experience. And after this time here, I think that people from all over the world know that, okay, if this person has gone through this course in IDS, he has some basic knowledge and skills that are useful in other fields.