Beth Kay studied MSc Inequalities and Social Science

Beth Kay

Please tell us a bit about yourself. 

I was born and raised in Leeds where I took A-Levels in Geography, Economics and Psychology. In 2014 I moved to Scotland to study an undergraduate degree in Human Geography at the University of Edinburgh. Moving back to my home city, I am currently studying MSc Inequalities and Social Science at the University of Leeds. Alongside the masters I work part time in a cinema and I’m a volunteer support worker at Growing Points charity, offering employment support to refugees.

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

Studying Geography, I was constantly encouraged to challenge my way of viewing the social world and critique the processes and structures that sustain inequality in society. I greatly valued the learning experience I had gained from my undergraduate degree – studying the likes of environmental justice, contemporary feminist debates, and health geographies – I was introduced to new theories and debates, but I felt as though I had only scratched the surface. The MSc Inequalities and Social Science programme offered a chance to further examine the causes, consequences and interventions of different forms of inequality, while also offering the chance to develop practical skills in SPSS, ArcGIS and secondary data analysis. I was also particularly drawn towards the Applied Project (offered as an alternative to an independent dissertation), where I have had the valuable opportunity of conducting research in partnership with a non-academic, third-sector organisation. This has been a great opportunity to contribute to policy development addressing equal opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers in the voluntary sector. I was able to present a summary of my research findings through a service of recommendations, delivering an online seminar to various volunteer organisations in Leeds and beyond.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

The social sciences generally, and inequalities research specifically, is extremely tangible, poignant and has very real lived implications. This course has allowed me to engage with social policy debates and learn how to develop and analyse policies that serve to perpetuate, or seek to ameliorate, contemporary inequalities. I have had the chance to specialise in racial institutional violence, wealth and wellbeing inequalities among lone-parents, and barriers for refugees and asylum seekers. Driven by an ideological desire for equality and fairness, this degree has equipped me with some practical skills to put into practice.

What do you think of your course so far – what aspects of the course have you enjoyed the most or are looking forward to the most?

The flexibility and choice of optional modules is commendable of this course – I was able to try something completely new by undertaking a module in the School of Law, in disability human rights. The teaching on this degree programme has also been incredibly diverse, offering a breadth of perspectives including lecturers from a range of nationalities, ethnicities, and persons with disabilities. Each element of this degree has been challenging and rewarding, providing a good balance between social theory, contextual examples and practical analytical techniques. I’ve particularly enjoyed learning to work with large scale secondary data sets such as crime rates, demographic voting data, and national census surveys.

What would you say about the learning facilities at the University of Leeds?

I’ve appreciated the many different spaces to work on campus, from the main libraries, 24hr computer clusters, and the Social Science building. The post-graduate floor in Edward Boyle was particularly useful, with plenty of space for group or independent work.

How do you find the student support from the School?

My year completing the degree has been quite turbulent, with long periods of UCU strikes and cancellations, disruption, and unexpected shift to remote learning due to Covid-19. We have been kept up-to-date with information where possible and accommodations have been made for students.

What do you think about Leeds as a city?

Leeds is small enough to really get familiar with and feel at home, while big enough to host so many great pubs, restaurants, galleries, parks, music venues and events. I cycle everywhere and Leeds is great for that, especially down the River Aire canal. The rural outskirts and neighbouring towns are a refreshing break from city life. Whatever your niche or interests, Leeds has you covered.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

Have a close look at the compulsory and optional modules available to you. If you’re coming from a humanities undergraduate background – like myself and many of my course friends – the GIS and SPSS modules are very challenging and time consuming if you’re not familiar with quantitative data analysis software. It’s a fantastic opportunity to develop and practice these skills, but prepare yourself for it to feel quite overwhelming at first. Overall, I have absolutely loved doing this degree and learnt so much.

What do you plan to do once you’ve finished your course? What are you career aspirations?

I’m currently applying for jobs in policy, projects tackling educational inequality, roles at Citizens Advice, and various positions in the third sector. I’d also like to continue working in refugee and asylum seeker support.