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April 2015

Humanities students visit Downing Street

(17 April 2015)

Following Alex Aiken’s guest lecture at the University in November 2014, the Careers Service collaborated with Alex, Executive Director for Government Communications, and his team to create the ‘Behind the Black Door Competition’.

The communications challenge saw students from across the University apply, with 25 students being selected to take part – forming five teams. All 10 of the winners were from Humanities – including eight from the School of Social Sciences.

The competition day was run by Humanities Career Manager Paul Gratrick, alongside Graham Keating and Natalie Walsh from the Careers Service. Students were given two hours to prepare a five minute pitch on the topic of ‘How to engage a student audience with the Government’s healthy living campaigns’. The pitches were delivered to a panel of judges made up of Alex Aiken, Andrew Westwood, the University’s Associate Vice-President for Public Affairs, Vicky Foster-Lloyd, the University’s Head of Sport and Active Lifestyles, and Alan Ferns, the University’s Director of Communications and Marketing.

After much deliberation the judges decided to award two teams as winners. Their prize was a visit to the Cabinet Office and No.10 Downing Street, including several meetings with senior civil servants from across Government departments, including Public Health England and the Ministry of Defence. The day spent in Whitehall was a fantastic opportunity for students to get ‘Behind the Black Door’ and to learn about how government communications and marketing works, from the people who deliver the work.

Alex Aiken said:"We were delighted to host the winning teams from the University communications challenge competition. I hope that the day gave them an experience of modern government, from the challenges of defending the realm to tackling public health problems."

Jeanmiguel Uva, one of the winners from the School of Social Sciences, said: "The visit to Whitehall and 10 Downing Street has definitely been one of the most rewarding and interesting experiences I've had at University. As a Politics student, this was a great experience because it gave me a good insight into how government and civil service works and enabled me to know the place I would love to work in."


The winners:

David Ashaolu 

PPE, Second Year

School of Social Sciences

Philippa Blunden   


English Literature and American Studies, Final Year

School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

Frances Cosby                  

BA Social Science, Second Year

School of Social Sciences

Kuan-Yu Hou                     

Management, First Year

Manchester Business School

Joelle Jefferis                   

Social Anthropology, Final Year

School of Social Sciences

Yusuf Molade                   

Economic and Social Studies, Final Year

School of Social Sciences

Jeanmiguel Uva               


Politics and International Relations, First Year

School of Social Sciences

Mia Vamrak Strand        


Politics and International Relations

School of Social Sciences

Robert Varley                   


BA Social Sciences, Final Year

School of Social Sciences

Jessica Waugh                  


Politics and International Relations, Final Year

School of Social Sciences