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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


Cathy Leech

Cathy Leech
Cathy Leech
Rugby, England
Doing Now
Conference Producer (London)

My name is Cathy Leech. I came to Edinburgh to do the IEP course directly after my five-year undergraduate degree in French and Spanish at Glasgow University. During that time I had spent a year teaching English in Spain, three months as an Erasmus student in Paris and three months as an intern at an international development NGO in Brussels.

Why did you decide to do the IEP degree?

As a languages graduate who wanted a career related to politics or public policy, I felt that I needed a Masters to boost my chances of getting the kind of job I wanted. Also, I had been passionate about international politics for years without ever having studied it formally, so I wanted a chance to do that and give myself the option of applying for a PhD afterwards if I wanted to.

What were your best memories?

I made some amazing friends during the year I spent in Edinburgh, so my best memories are of getting to know them. 2008-9 was an absolutely incredible time to be surrounded by people who were intelligent, articulate and passionate about international politics: the world was in financial meltdown, conflict exploded in Gaza and Sri Lanka, Obama got elected... in fact my best memory was probably staying up all night to watch the American election results and then debating what it meant for the world at the next day's tutorial with several other equally sleep-deprived students.

What is it that you do now and did the degree help in your career path?

I now work as a conference producer, which involves conducting in-depth research into current trends and issues in a particular area (which can range from banking regulation to high-speed rail to renewable energy) and producing the conference programme. It's very stimulating work, and very rewarding when you see the final event. What I learnt about the EU institutions on the IEP course has been particularly relevant as it has provided a solid basis for understanding EU regulation, a key part of many of the conferences the company produces. The optional courses I took on international political economy and energy policy have also proven hugely relevant for my current job. After the MSc I also worked for a year at the Centre for Economic Policy Research coordinating EU-funded research projects. The competition for both positions was so high that I don't think I would have stood out from the crowd enough to even get an interview without the Masters.

How did you like Edinburgh as a city?

Edinburgh is just stunningly beautiful. I would walk from my lovely tenement flat to the campus in the morning through the Meadows with a view of Arthur's Seat - you can't get much more inspiring than that. It also has far more going on culturally than most cities of fewer than half a million inhabitants, and is surprisingly international. IEP is a very intense course and I did spend a lot of time in the library, but when I wasn't studying I never felt short of things to do - and of course there's some of the world's most beautiful countryside to explore if ever you fancy a daytrip.