One downside to life at Imperial is the lack of variety of students you meet. You won’t find any undergraduates studying full degrees in English Literature, Languages, Law, History or any other excuse to spend three years writing essays.
We’re all here at this “technical” university to study our very technical subjects. But you’ll find many with an avid interest in non-technical subjects like politics, history or philosophy, who love talking about it, sharing their ideas and following recent developments. Around South Kensington there is still plenty to feed your appetite for intellectual discussion on these issues.
There is the PPS (Political Philosophy Society), the newly formed Philosophy Soc, not to mention MUN (Model United Nations), History and Debating. Students active in the Conservative and Labour parties have even set up their own societies, and the numerous religious societies may delve into some politics in their events at times. Whether it’s weekly discussion circles or just one-off events, these societies are at the core of political discussion and debate happening in South Kensington campus.
For a more academic route there is a Politics course offered by the Humanities Department for credit or non-credit, as well as history and philosophy related courses too. And lastly there is this, the Politics pages of Felix.
Read alongside the Business, Arts & Culture and other sections, it’s your weekly dose of stuff beyond just numbers, equations, chemical reactions, charts and all other features of knowledge in the realms of science, engineering and medicine. Because frankly, life is not always about these things, although it may seem like it come exam time.
Beyond Imperial, it is certainly possible to pursue a career in politics after graduating. In Britain, Margaret Thatcher graduated with a BSc in Chemistry of all subjects, before becoming known as the Iron Lady for her government’s hard-line conservative policies in the Cold War era.
There is a host of other current government leaders who have risen to the top after an initial education in a science or engineering discipline. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, studied civil engineering and has a PhD from Iran University of Science & Technology. Before the Berlin Wall came down Angela Merkel, current German Chancellor, was a Physicist. Hu Jintao, President of China, was trained as an engineer at Tsinghua University, Beijing - often referred to as China’s MIT – as are many leading individuals in the Chinese Communist Party.
Asian or ‘Eastern’ countries tend to have more technocrats, politicians who have come from a technical background or education, as opposed to ‘Western’ nations whose politicians tend to be filled from the ranks of law, business and history graduates. It naturally begs the question, is there a different style to the way they govern?
The stereotype is that people from a technical background may be more rigid in their thinking, relying on quantitative data to justify their arguments or splitting everything into a problem-analysis-solution, but of course none of this can completely generalised.
Whilst holding office, technocrats may place more importance on engineering and industry when deciding policy. China is an oft-cited example of a nation focussed on science & technology development, devoting significant portions of government spending on R&D (Research & Development), and likewise are South Korea and Japan, for example.
Or, they are perhaps more reasonable or trusting towards expert advice from scientific bodies about their policies. In the UK there is sometimes controversy when the government ‘ignores’ advice, such as the case of illegal drugs and Professor David Nutt from Imperial College in October 2009.
On the other hand, technocrats may not necessarily draw heavily on their training as scientists or engineers, and perhaps other factors influence them more such as the culture of the organisations and people around them. After all, only a true hardcore reductionist would view society as nothing more than one big system with input and output variables to control.
We hope the Politics section of Felix can be a great forum for discussion and debate on political issues of all kinds. To use a cliche, Felix is by students for students, so your contributions can be sent anytime to firstname.lastname@example.org. From there, the editorial team will lay it out and get it published for you.
Only with contributions from students like you, who are interested enough to read to the end of this article, can this section be successful.