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Comparative Politics - More important: Program Rep or Region/Language Fit


Kosmosis707

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Hi everyone,

 

I'm in the process of gathering information for postgraduate programs for Fall 2015 and am finding myself with many more questions than I anticipated!  I am an American student who received his BA degree in Political Science from Berkeley, focusing my coursework on Chinese and Southeast Asian politics.  I have decided I would like to continue my studies at a non-American university, preferable in the UK or Australia, primarily because I find that my region of interest (Southeast Asia, specifically Myanmar) is better represented in the programs in these countries. 

 

So far, I have discovered that Australian National University (ANU) and SOAS in London are the best options for studying Myanmar.  SOAS has language study through the 2nd year while ANU seems to have only one year of study, but both universities have ongoing research on Myanmar.  That being said, I have an overarching fascination with identity and nationalism in general and would hate to completely get lost in only one specific country for the rest of my life.  In addition, I have read some very negative things about SOAS' recent academic reputation outside of language and the arts. 

 

I guess my question is:  should I be so narrow in my program search to find the perfect fit for the region I want to research?  Or would it be more advantageous to find a more reputable comparative politics program (like LSE for instance) and not worry so much about my regional or language specialization?

 

Sorry if this is a bit jumbled and confusing.  Your help is very appreciated!

 

Oh yes! I forgot to mention that my intent is to get a MSc or MRes first and then apply to research programs.

Edited by Barttramer
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I would recommend you look for programs that are good for Southeast Asian studies instead of focusing on programs that have a focus on Myanmar. The reason is that Myanmar is a bit of a obscure country that not that many people heavily research. Confining your choices to those programs is kind of depleting your pool. 

 

Also, you may want to consider doing programs such as a MA in Southeast Asian Studies as a launchpad for learning Burmese and getting methodology requirements towards a research program. Many people effectively use these types of programs to launch into Ph.D. programs in political science. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

1) If you eventually want a job in the US, then you want an American PhD.  It's very challenging for PhDs from Europe or Australia to compete on the American job market for a variety of reasons.

 

2) You don't need an advisor who studies the same country as you.  For some of the most heavily studied countries, there are considerable country-specific literatures/debates and networks (e.g., China), but for most countries, including Myanmar you'll be trying to plug into broader questions in comparative politics.  It's probably not even necessary to have a Southeast Asia expert on your committee, although it would certainly be nice to have one.

 

"Program rep" or general quality is much more important than having someone who studies "your" country (and of course many people change their interests in grad school).  Similarly, having some language courses available at your university is convenient, but there are other ways to learn.  

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Basically what alphazeta has said is correct.

 

Earning a foreign PhD makes sense if you are comfortable with building a career wholly outside the US and have located potential supervisors that could boost your work/career.  If your future plans include a career/life in the US, stay in the US for your doctorate.  

 

Stay away from ANU.  The university's Politics and International Relations department is...a disaster.  Several of the best quit in disgust due to a toxic work atmosphere negatively reinforced by the chain of command up to the very top.   UQ or UMelb would be better options for overall ranking, while Griffiths has a strong Asia programme.  I'd be hesitant to recommend SOAS based on the commentary of friends who did graduate work there.  

 

Disclaimer: I chose the "go abroad" route for Chinese foreign affairs.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I did the MSc in Comp Pol at the LSE, and would definitely recommend it. I didn't take any of the courses on Southeast Asia as its not an area of interest for me, but those who I know who did take it were very happy with it. Regarding fit vs Rep, it depends. If you want to go back to the US for a PhD, I would recommend the LSE. Most UK master's programs don't carry much weight in the US, but it seems like the LSE program is pretty well respected. If you wanted to stick in the UK, I would think either would be a fine choice, but keep in mind there is (almost?) no funding for non-EU students in the UK outside of Oxbridge and LSE. 

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  • 1 month later...

I'm doing an MA at SOAS in Southeast Asian Studies, focusing on Burmese language and Southeast Asian politics. SOAS faculty is renowned, courses are challenging, and classmates are excellent at stimulating conversation. Burmese language training is rigorous--you'll be able to read and write in 8 days. I recommend it for anyone who wants to focus on Burma, because the Burma folks at SOAS know everyone in the game and can point you in the right direction. 

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You should look into the University of Washington. Mary Callahan at the Jackson School of International Studies is an excellent scholar who works on Burmese politics. I believe she studied under Benedict Anderson in Cornell's government department.

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rwillh11 - Thank you for the information on LSE.  I submitted my application to the MSc in Comparative Politics yesterday.  The focus on Nationalism and Ethnic Politics seems to fit my Poli Sci interest areas perfectly.  I feel that the lack of regional focus won't be too detrimental compared to the level of education I would receive at LSE.

 

Burmaphile - This is great information for me to have and great timing!  This morning, I received an offer from the SOAS for an MRes in Politics with Burmese.   I will have to see how my other applications pan out before making any commitments.

 

Qeta - Thank you also for the information on U of Washington.  I had heard that they do have a very solid reputation for Southeast Asian Studies. 

 

I have also received an offer from Australian National University for a Master in Asia Pacific Studies.  If anyone has any information on the ANU program, that would be great.  Thanks again everyone.

Edited by Barttramer
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