PhD student travels to the annual conference of the NZPSA in Auckland

University of Leeds PhD student Daniel Mann travelled to New Zealand recently as part of the PSA exchanger programme. Here's how he got on... 

This past November and December 2014, I had the opportunity to go to the New Zealand PSA’s annual conference at the University of Auckland thanks to the PSA’s exchanger programme, and it goes without saying that it was an absolutely unforgettable experience both personally and professionally. As a PhD student, I am a political scientist by background; however I’m currently based in Social Policy, and it was not only good to ‘come home’ to a political science conference, but also great to get an insight into a field which is most certainly ‘world famous in New Zealand’ – NZ politics – which was a major component of this conference. New Zealand, for those who do not know, has a political system almost identical to that of the UK, with one major difference: it is one of the few first-world nations to have both a unicameral parliament and a mixed-member-proportional system, in which one votes for both a party and a candidate.

The conference itself comprised panels ranging from political theory to Chinese politics. Especially interesting were the panels in political marketing organized by Jennifer Lees-Marshment. Of particular note was the work she does bringing practitioners together with academics, something which was clearly a benefit in studying the recent general election in New Zealand this past September. Other particularly interesting panels were ones on social and public policy with the eminent Frank Castles, a fellow Leodiensian (i.e. someone from Leeds – ed.), currently at ANU in Canberra and also Professor Emeritus at Edinburgh.

As anyone who has ever travelled to New Zealand can attest, it is an extremely long way from just about anywhere, and upon arrival, despite having had quite a nice flight from Hong Kong on Air New Zealand, I wound up sleeping for about 18 hours straight – and that’s only coming from Hong Kong – where I had stopped over for a few days on the way to avoid precisely this sort of thing!